Mexico // The north //

La Tierra del Cine

The region around Durango is heavily marketed to domestic tourists as the La Tierra del Cine, the “land of cinema”, in honour of the vast number of film units that once came to the area to take advantage of its remarkably constant, clear, high-altitude light, its desert and mountain scenery. Westerns were the speciality, and although only half a dozen movies have been shot here over the last decade (Luc Besson’s Bandidas in 2004 was the last major one), you can still see the permanent sets at Villa del Oeste and Chupaderos.

Villa del Oeste

Villa del Oeste, 12km north of Durango, is a kind of small theme park comprising the hundred-metre-long street of “Bandido”, which looks straight out of the Wild West until you realize the saloons and shops have been refashioned into a themed restaurant, music hall and a bar and grill. During the week it’s fairly quiet, but on weekends there’s a kitschy but enjoyable show featuring gun-slinging cowboys and cabaret girls.

Set Cinematográfico de Chupaderos

The original Durango movie set – where films were shot starting in 1954 with Robert Wagner’s White Feather – lies 2km north of Villa del Oeste in the dusty village of CHUPADEROS, preserved since 2012 as the Set Cinematográfico de Chupaderos. Villagers had pretty much taken over the faux Wild West main street, but thanks to government funds it now offers elaborate cowboy shows by professional actors.