Wednesday, September 30, 2009


You must go to Guanajuato! 
Guanajuato is an old mining town with a lot of character; it was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1988.  It was founded in 1559 due to all the silver and gold deposits and it became one of the world's richest silver mining towns.  The silver barons  of Guanajuato used that wealth to build many mansions, churches and theaters.

{la Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Guanajuato}

{Templo de San Diego}

{Teatro Juarez , built between 1973 and 1903}

Walking around the city center you will see all the opulent colonial and baroque buildings, tree-filled plazas and the brightly colored houses are crammed onto the steep slope of a ravine.

{beautiful colonial building in el centro}

{University of Guanajuato}

{Jardin de la Union, surrounded by a "wall" of laurel trees}

{Plazuela San Fernando}

The "roads" to get to these houses are called cellejones, tiny streets, but really they are just alleys, not accessible to cars. 

The "main roads" (used by cars) twist around the hills and plunge into tunnels, which were once rivers.
It was too cool.   Again, I found myself saying, "I could live here."
We picked the Hotel Molina del Rey to sleep, which is a short stroll to the center.

It was quiet, yet convenient to the action, had a friendly staff, a lush courtyard, wireless internet access, and my favorite ceiling. It makes an ordinary room extraordinary. Not bad for $30.
There is a funicular, or incline railway right behind the Teatro Juarez that takes you up to El Pipila monument overlooking the whole city.
This view is what really made me fall in love.  Just look at it!  This picture doesn't do it justice.  It can't capture all the colors of the houses, the shadows of the sun on the mountains or all the little alleys meandering through the city, but let me tell you, it was spectacular.
Here is El Pipila statue high above the city. It honors the war hero who lit a Spanish fortress on fire enabling Mexico to win the first battle in the war for independence back in 1810. Below sits a tourist and his guide book.
When I read about the Museo de las Momias (mummy museum) I was interested. I know that Mexico has an obsession with death, and this is just one bizarre example. Although I thought it grotesque, I found myself laughing due to some of the facial expressions of the mummies.

The laughing ended when I saw a baby mummy. pobrecito!  That made me sad.  Do you want to see it? ok

Think of something positive.  That is a cute blue sweater, isn't it?  I wonder if her mom knit that.

One great place we ate, which was recommended in Lonely Planet, (I second the recommendation) is called Clave Azul, a very atmospheric cantina hidden on a callejon off the Plazuelo San Fernando.   We were there for a few hours.  They serve botanas (tapas-like) for FREE from 1-5pm when you are ordering drinks, and surprise, we were! Their micheladas were so good and cheap! 
There was also a band playing the whole time.  They were really good and said they were students at the university. Ernesto gave them 100 pesos ($8) in "the hat" and they were so grateful, and kept asking us for requests, like we were the only ones there. 
ps.  I love the accordion.  
**side note for my brother Tim and his son Tyler: there was a guy playing the flute in the band - you know what I'm talking about.

This band member was not from the university, but I love his classic outfit and the beautiful building.
We had heard about the Callejon del Beso (Alley of the Kiss).  As the story goes, a young girl from a "good family" falls in love with a common miner.  They were forbidden to see each other, so the miner rented the room across the alley from the girl.  Since the balconies are so close they were able to see each other...and presumably kiss, hence the name.  Ay love!

{the alley}
{me on the balcony of "the kiss" blowing a kiss to Neto}
Well we were in a mining town, so we had to go to a mine, right?  We visited both Valenciana y Boca Mina.
At Valenciana we were able to climb down and see all of the big equiptment.   Even though it was old and not running, I could tell that the working conditions would be horrible down there.
Neto pretended he was running the show.
We were the only ones there that morning and the guy was really thorough in explaining what each of these machines did.  There was a lot of new Spanish vocabulary for me.

This drilling shaft at Valenciana went so deep that it took 20 seconds to hear a rock that was thrown in.
Over at Boca Mina San Ramon we were able to descend 60 meters (197feet)  into the mine shaft, this is not for the claustrophobic. 
What is cool about San Ramon, is that they kept the "museum" part, but restored the outside buildings and now hold parties and weddings here.  Its beautiful.  (I'm sure the mine workers didn't get to enjoy this)
Close to both mines, high above the city is the Templo La Valenciana.  A beautiful baroque style church made of pale pink stone and adorned with elaborate carvings.  (known as one of the best examples of baroque architecture in Latin America)
The inside is just as lavish with  gold gold gold.
There are 2 stories of how it came to be built back in the mid 1700's.  Here quoted from the site WhatGuanajuato.  I like to include some meaningful history on VIVACINDY sometimes. 
"There are two theories as to the construction of the church so close to the mines. The first is that the Spaniard who founded the mine made a personal vow to San Cayetano that he was construct a church honoring the saint if the silver mine - perhaps with the Cayetano's helpful intervention - made him rich. It did, and so up went the church. The second story tells the tale of the mine's silver baron who had the lavish church built to in an attempt to make some moral ammends for having sat in the lap of luxury while exploiting the laborers who worked the mines."

Ever since seeing the movie Frida, starring Selma Hayek  [about Frida Kahlo, a famous mexican painter and her husband Diego Rivera, also a famous painter] I am loving both of there work.  Diego Rivera was born in Guanajuato and his childhood home is now a museum. 
Maybe you recognize this painting of his called "nude with calla lilies"?  It's pretty famous.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, you must see this fabulous city.  It hard to pick favorites, but I would definitely call it a repeater! 

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