1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Chihuahua (state)
CHIHUAHUA, a northern frontier state of Mexico, bounded N. and N.E. by the United States (New Mexico and Texas), E. by Coahuila, S. by Durango, and W. by Sinaloa and Sonora. Pop. (1895) 260,008; (1900) 327,784. Area, 87,802 sq. m. The surface of the state is in great part an elevated plateau, sloping gently toward the Rio Grande. The western side, however, is much broken by the Sierra Madre and its spurs, which form elevated valleys of great fertility. An arid sandy plain extending from the Rio Grande inland for 300 to 350 m. is quite destitute of vegetation where irrigation is not used. There is little rainfall in this region and the climate is hot and dry. The more elevated plateaus and valleys have the heavier rainfall, but the average for the state is barely 39 in.; an impermeable clay substratum prevents its absorption by the soil, and the bare surface carries it off in torrents. The great Bolsón de Mapimí depression, in the S.E. part of the state, was once considered to be an unreclaimable desert, but experiments with irrigation have shown its soil to be highly fertile, and the conversion of the narrow valleys of the sierras on the west into irrigation reservoirs promises to reclaim a considerable part of its area. The only river of consequence is the Conchos, which flows north and north-east into the Rio Grande across the whole length of the state. In the north there are several small streams flowing northward into lakes. Agriculture has made little progress in Chihuahua, and the scarcity of water will always be a serious obstacle to its development outside the districts where irrigation is practicable. The climate and soil are favourable to the production of wheat, Indian corn, beans, indigo, cotton and grapes, from which wine and brandy are made. The principal grape-producing district is in the vicinity of Ciudad Juárez. Stock-raising is an important industry in the mountainous districts of the west, where there is excellent pasturage for the greater part of the year. The principal industry of the state, however, is mining—its mineral resources including gold, silver, copper, mercury, lead and coal. The silver mines of Chihuahua are among the richest in Mexico, and include the famous mining districts of Batopilas, Chihuahuilla, Cosihuiriachic, Jesús María, Parral, and Santa Eulalia or Chihuahua el Viejo. There are more than one hundred of these mines, and the total annual yield at the end of the 19th century was estimated at $4,500,000. The state is traversed from north to south by the Mexican Central railway, and there are short branches to some of the mining districts.
Chihuahua originally formed part of the province of Nueva Viscaya, with Durango as the capital. In 1777 the northern provinces, known as the Provincias Internas, were separated from the viceroyalty, and in 1786 the provinces were reorganized as intendencias, but Chihuahua was not separated from Durango until 1823. An effort was made to overthrow Spanish authority in 1810, but its leader Hidalgo and two of his lieutenants were captured and executed, after which the province remained passive until the end of the struggle. The people of the state have been active partizans in most of the revolutionary outbreaks in Mexico, and in the war of 1862–66 Chihuahua was loyal to Juárez. The principal towns are the capital Chihuahua, El Parral, 120 m. S.S.E. of the state capital, in a rich mining district (pop. 14,748 in 1900), Ciudad Juárez and Jimenez, 120 m. S.E. of Chihuahua (pop. 5881 in 1900).