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Guanajuato – The City

IMG_0170Someone asked me about Guanajuato yesterday.  I am happy to share this memory.

During your stay in San Miguel de Allende, do yourself a favor and take a side trip to Guanajuato, this jewel of a city about 1 1/2 hours away.  While there eat at Las Mercedes. You’ll love it.

 

Having not been to the city of Guanajuato in over 30 years, the first thing I did when invited to go shoot a television segment in nearby San Miguel de Allende in the state of Guanajuato. was to call Cohesion the state’s PR company for whom I’d done some work .  I asked for help in getting a guide and  transportation , first to have breakfast with ex-President Vicente Fox at San Cristobal, his ranch/hotel./restaurant/Presidential library where we would continue the conversation we had started on an airplane two days earlier, and then go on to Guanajuato for a city tour.

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The first stop was the impressive Monumento al El Pipila.   The view is spectacular. The gigantic mustard and brick red cathedral is front and center.  The silver mines that have made this town rich are in the back, and the white buildings of the University shimmer and glow.Guanajuato is at your feet.  It occurred to me that the scene captured here would make a great  jigsaw puzzle!

El Pipila was a  hero of the War of Independence which was launched by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla a few miles away in what is now, Dolores Hidalgo, when he gave the grito, or call for Independence on September,16, 1810.With the insurgents on the move the landed and mine-rich Spanish gentry sought refuge in a huge grainery , now known as the Alhóndiga de Granaditas , with thick walls and a heavy wooden door which was to be their downfall.  The story is that El Pípila, a tall well-built indigenous miner put a large flat stone on his back and went down the mountain armed with all sorts of flammable materials, set fire to the door, and those Spaniards not overcome by smoke, exited the building and were promptly shot.It’s not clear to me  what happened to the women and children but they must have lived.  Practically everyone in this area claims to be of Spanish blood!  We do know that the hero lived to the ripe old age of 83.

IMG_0185The city has not changed much. Oh, the walkways s are smoother and the Centro Historico, the historic district, is closed to automobile traffic for easy strolling. The shopping is great, and the streets are full of beautiful and interesting young (and old) people. There is an air of sophistication mixed with a throwback hippie, maybe even beatnik, feeling.. It looks more like Spain than the rest of Mexico. The Zocalo with its manicured tress and pretty kiosk where the state band, visiting musicians, and the roving minstrels or troubadours play almost on a daily basis is inviting.

IMG_0188Guanajuato is a major cultural center.  The Festival Cervantino takes place every year during the month of October.  This year there are 178 events scheduled ranging from concerts of Beethoven sonatas, to Vicente Fernandez’s farewell concert, lectures, poetry readings, and exhibitions held in some of the spectacular buildings to be found all over the city, such as the grand Teatro Juarez, , the iconoclastic Quijote museum Templo de la Valenciana,etc..  You name it!   You can find the program and buy tickets through Ticketmaster.

IMG_0165Teatro Juarez

IMG_0166Two lions guard the theater

IMG_0180The Quixote museum

 

I was not there at night this time but everyone reports that night is day here, and there are street dances, callejonadas or strolls through the many alleys and narrow streets following an estudiantina, a troupe of troubadours, playing their particular brand of music.  My friend Lazaro, music critic for the Reforma newspaper in Mexico City  is there now to report on performances and is himself giving presentations and lectures.  I will ask him for some night shots but, in the mean time here are some photographs I took of some of the charming  street scenes of the Centro Historico during my brief visit this time.  There is so much to see and do in Guanajuato so please click on the links for full information on the possibilities.

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But I will be back!  This is definitely the place where I will rent my next vacation home.  I loved it more than ever! And they have some good restaurants now.  See article on Las Mercedes for one.