Day 3: Colonial City of Guanajuato

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The Trip

We all slept in late since we got in late and we were "pretty" drunk. The good news was that we finally managed to get the waiter to bring us water in addition to our cocktails so none of us were really hungover. Our destination for the day was the colonial city of Guanajuato. Below is an except from the Wikipedia page on Guanajuato, complete with their links:

Guanajuato is a state in the central highlands of Mexico . It shares its name with its capital city, Guanajuato . Guanajuato means "place of frogs" in the local indigenous language. The local Tarascan Indians believed that the frog represented the god of wisdom. A rock formation outside of Guanajuato, looks like frogs. "Las Ranas" is the way to reference anyone from this state as frogs are their state animal. Guanajuato is the home state of former Mexican president Vicente Fox Quesada , and famous Mexican artist Diego Rivera and singer-songwriter Jose Alfredo Jimenez

After central Mexico and the Gulf of Mexico coast, Guanajuato was one of the first areas of Mexico colonized by the Spanish , in the 1520s , for its rich silver deposits. Guanajuato's colonial architecture is very well preserved along with over 35 old churches in its capital alone, and is very European in nature.

Today, Guanajuato's mines are still among the richest-producing silver mines in the world (historically one of the largest). The state also produces tin , gold , copper , lead , mercury , and opals . Guanajuato also leads the nation in shoe production and various farm products such as lettuce and potatoes. The state's main export products are motor vehicles and autoparts, footwear, leather goods, chemicals, electric machinery and materials, fruits and vegetables.

In addition to the state capital city of Guanajuato, the state includes the cities of San Luis de la Paz , Acámbaro , Celaya , León , Salamanca , Irapuato , San Miguel de Allende , Salvatierra —the first city of Guanajuato, Cortazar , Tarimoro , and Dolores Hidalgo , the cradle of Mexican independence.

The first battle in Mexico's war for independence resulted in a march from Dolores Hidalgo upon the capital of the state and the subsequent burning of the granary which held all the Iberian-born Spaniards (approximately 500 men, women and children), by peasants of pure Amerindian or mixed ( Mestizo ) descent who had been put to work in very harsh conditions.

The state of Guanajuato borders the states of San Luis Potosí , Querétaro , Michoacán and Jalisco . It means hills of the frogs. It has an area of 30,589 square kilometers (11,810.5 sq mi). In the 2005 census, the state had a population of 4,893,812 people. The literacy rate stands at about 88 percent.

Guanajuato is located in the geographic center of Mexico, about three and half-hours from Mexico City, and its capital city is one of Mexico's most famous tourist spots. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and city planners must abide by strict rules when building and refurbishing buildings in order to maintain their colonial integrity. The city is situated in the Veeder mountains at over 2,000 meters (6,562 ft) above sea level and the buildings climb up the side of the mountains surrounding the city center. The buildings are colorful and there are many historical buildings such as the Reyna and several haciendas-ranches or manor houses-that have been preserved as museums, public gardens and hotels.

The town of Guanajuato has been depicted in various works of art. Most notably, the Mexican-German-Slovakian sculptor/painter Craigorio Hauquitz, has created some of the most breathtaking paintings of Guanajuato in the past century.

Every October, Guanajuato hosts the annual International Cervantes Culture Festival, which is centered in the capital city. The festival features high-level performers and artists from around the world, as well as from many regions of Mexico, in addition to the (often overlooked) traditional presentation of plays by Miguel de Cervantes .

From the opulence of the previous day to the day-to-day reality of life in Mexico.

From Celaya, we took the scenic route past San Miguel Allende to Guanajuato. Along the way, we passed this large flood control dam that prevents flooding in Celaya downstream. Sorry about the chain link in the photo, but there was no way to get around the fence and I was insufficiently motivated to climb over just for a photo.

The area around the dam had a large number of these unique cactus.

Interesting patterns on the hillside. These could be cattle paths or due to slumpage of the soil.

Headed into town from the rancho.

Roberto made a wrong turn somewhere along the way and we ended up high on the hillside above Guanajuato. In the end, it was a good thing since we got this commanding view of the city. Note that these houses are packed in there like cord wood. Just to the left of center is the old colonial headquarters (the large rectangular building). The large tube structure to the left is the central market.

A slightly different view of the city from the cliff. The large structure in the center is the university.

I don't know why I find cobblestone streets cool, but I do. All the streets were paved in this manner.

The whole city's road system is based on a bunch of tunnels that run under the city. Space is at a premium, so tunnels are the preferred solution. Even parking is underground. Some of these tunnels are very old, dating back to the colonial days.

Roberto dropped us off in the tunnel and we hiked out into the main plaza. On my right, I spotted this building with an intricate facade.

Unbeknownst to us, there was a major mountain bike race the day we went to Guanajuato. When we came out of the tunnels, we were nearly mowed down by the racers. They ran right down the middle of these narrow steets!

The tunnel exit was right next to the Teatro Juarez.

The main plaza was very beautiful and was ringed by many well groomed trees. The fountain added a nice ambiance. Across from the plaza was the Posada de Santa Fe hotel where we had lunch.

After a great lunch, we headed out to explore the city. Here, we stupidly walk down the middle of the race course without knowing that they would be headed at our backs at Mach 3. The finish line is under the inflatable arch.

One of many beautiful churches in the area. Since it was close, we decided to check it out.

The inside reminded me of churches in Europe: intricate, colorful and busy.

The organ was hidden above the entry way. Above, the pipes of the organ are visible.

From the steps of the church, the statue on the hill was visible.

No doubt a recent addition to the city, this funicular ran on tracks up the side of the hill to shops and stores high on the hillside.

Guanajuato is what I call a vertical city. There are stairs, ramps and climbs everywhere. And, the city is clean.

The exterior of the church that we just visited. The statue was ornate and old.

Stairs that descend to the underworld of the tunnel system.

We passed by several really nice hotels. This is the entry way to one of them. Note the nice stone arches and tile work.

An auto entrance to the underworld. The streets are very narrow. My unimog would be very unhappy here due to both width and height.

Another fine colonial structure.

We finally got to the main market. The inside was too dark to photograph, so I had to settle for exterior shots. These indian women are selling various kinds of bread.

An exterior shot of the central market. The building is huge and many stories high in the center. The entire interior is open and is filled with vendor stalls and meat markets which produced some interesting comments from the women in our group. Most frequently heard was "eeew!" .

Since space is at a premium, houses are packed like sardines. In many areas, access is on foot only. High on the hillside, roofs serve as parking areas.

The narrow streets are interesting. This one is very steep which must produce interesting runoff when it rains.

This street was so narrow that it barely fit a Suburban.

Another church with a service in progress.

Nice heels.

Another very narrow street open only to pedestrians.

Another service in progress.

The bright colors and narrow streets were unique. Note the cafe on the bridge.

A parting shot of Guanojuato. The Teatro Juarez is on the right with the cool circular fire escape.

I had no expectation of what we would encounter in Guanajuato. I was totally blown away by what I saw. I have not traveled the world extensively, but I can say that this is the coolest city I have ever visited. Kathleen and I would like to go back, but if we do, we will stay in a hotel near the plaza and stay several days so we can explore. Sadly, since we were schedule constrained, we did not get a chance to see any of the musuems or other cultural attractions. Nor did we see any of the surrounding areas, only downtown. Now we have something to look forward to.

Tomorrow, we would leave very early and return to San Diego. We had to get up at 0430 to make the connections so we were pretty beat when we got home.

Thanks again to Roberto and Adriana for hosting us on this great trip.


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