Guanajuato

2018 Dan and Lisa Goy December 2018

 By Dan and Lisa Goy  from the December 2018 Edition

March 20 – 23 (Days 74-77) 

Guanajuato, Guanajuato, MX

Today Dolores Hidalgo is known primarily for its ceramics industry, started by Father Hidalgo, which provides income to well over half the city’s population. The inexpensive and massproduced output of the town is marketed throughout Latin America and the United States. We all bought our fair share on our visit, a great selection at fantastic prices. Our purchases included a sink for a bathroom and a ceramic water decanter on a metal stand. There were dozens of stores on the one street, really amazing to behold. 

After some grocery shopping at a conveniently located Super Ley we backtracked to San Miguel and took Hwy 45D to Guanajuato led, by Mike and Kelly. The drive was longer than it should have been. In hindsight, we could have taken a much shorter route. However, the gang was just following a track laid .

We had now been on the road 74 days and I was getting a little cranky and, I must say, some of the interaction with Carlos was less than satisfactory. We asked about the laundry and his response was immediate, “I have a guy from town that does it, pickup and delivery, $35 pesos per kilo”. Very expensive, I thought, as we have been paying $9-$15 per kilo, but this would be convenient. As it turns out, the only person doing pickup and delivery was his daughter. Carlos was adding the extra $20 or so pesos per kilo.

We also asked about a guide for a first look around Guanajuato. The original price was $250 per person, everyone agreed, then $305 with an English-speaking guide and a driver, again the gang agreed. The next day, the guide and an auto for 5 show up (really just 3). We jammed into the car and headed to the office to pick up a bigger Van that comfortably fits all of us. 

Gabriel was a great guide, lots of info, very flexible, compelling personal story about his time in the US and subsequent deportation. It was a good day overall, we all enjoyed it and the Mummy Museo was a real highlight (and a little creepy). However there was a snafu with the final payment. We were not to pay the guide, but Carlos, and yes the price was changing again. 

In the end I added a little extra which I paid directly to Gabriel as he deserved it. My last complaint is about the Wi-Fi. When we arrived, he tells us he has it but Telmex is doing a rebuild and it is off and on. He is sincere and convincing (why do I always believe these guys about their Wi-Fi). Four days later, it is apparent Carlos is full of it. There is no Wi-Fi, probably never was. Why not just say, “Sorry, no Wi-Fi”. Enough complaining


Heading into Guanajuato

We enjoyed our time in Guanajuato, lots of walking and shopping. The Mercado designed by Gustav Eiffel was particularly cool. This guy really got around Mexico. Our bus ride into, and out of, town was exciting. At one point we thought maybe Bobby Unser was driving. I have to say, the tunnels were amazing and were everything and more than I had heard about them, simply a maze. Lisa and I had a patio lunch somewhere in town. We also visited the Diego Rivera Museo, which was well worth the stop. 

Our last day, we went and filled up with water and just hung out. Mike and Kelly, Roland and Janice did go into town in the evening for dinner, Lisa and I stayed back and enjoyed the light show put on by Mother Nature, spectacular. Sorry folks one last complaint about Carlos. He sold us on a $150 pesos per person


turned to the Bugamville RV Park operated by Carlos Morales with our 1st 45-day mainland Mexico RV Caravan Tour. We decided to give him another chance. The price he quoted in October 2017 for camping remains the same at $350 pesos per RV, although this is a considerable increase from our stay in 2016 at $280 pesos per RV. Carlos now has Wi-Fi that works, limited to the office area and we have found the power to be low, 108V for a high, 94V at the low end. The quoted bus tour price has increased from $320 pesos to $350 pesos per person, about the rate of inflation. Laundry is now $40 pesos per kilo, picked up and delivered. We may return in 2020 with our next 45-day tour, or do transport from San Miguel de Allende. The jury is still out.

Guanajuato is both a city and municipality in central Mexico and the capital of the state of the same name. It is part of the The city is home to the Mummy Museum, containing naturally mummified bodies found in the municipal cemetery between the mid-19th and 20th centuries. It is also home to the Festival Internacional Cervantino, which invites artists and performers from all over the world, as well as from Mexico. Guanajuato was the site of the first battle of the Mexican War of Independence, between insurgent and royalist troops at the Alhóndiga de Granaditas, and was named a World Heritage Site in 1988.

History – Pre-Hispanic period

The first known inhabitants of the area were the Otomi, who were then displaced by the Chichimeca. There was P’urhépecha presence as well. The oldest known name for the area is “Mo-oti,” which means “place of metals.” Later, it was called “Paxtitlán” by the Aztecs, which means “place of straw.” The current name of Guanajuato comes from P’urhépecha “Quanax huato,” which means “hilly place of frogs.” Mining had been done in this area long before the Spanish arrived. Late in the pre-Hispanic period, the Aztecs had a presence here, specifically to look for metals to make ornamental objects for their political and religious elite. Some stories from this time state that the area was so rich in minerals that nuggets of gold could be picked up from the ground.

Colonial era

The Spanish found deposits of gold here in the 1540s and soon they sent soldiers and built forts. In 1548, the outpost was formally established with the name of Real de Minas de Guanajuato by Viceroy Don Antonio de Mendoza. Despite Chichimeca attacks, the population of the area grew rapidly with the arrival of Spanish and Creole adventurers and indigenous and mestizo laborers. It was soon declared a town with the name of Santa Fe Real de Minas de Guanajuato and Preafán de Rivera as the first mayor. Its first church was consecrated in 1555, and it was named “alcadía mayor” in 1574.

Initially, the city was divided into four barrios, or neighborhoods, called Marfil/Santiago, Tepetapa, Santa Ana and Santa Fe. The last is considered the oldest and is in the current colonia of Pastita. This city was split by a small river that served as a main thoroughfare. The oldest neighborhoods are Rayas y Mellado, Cata, La Valenciana, and Pastita, named after the mines found there. The very first mineral vein discovered, called San Bernabé, attracted attention not only in New Spain, but in Spain itself. The discovery brought thousands of adventurers to the area, which led to discovery of other deposits, such as at the Rayas mine. The San Bernabé find produced until 1928, when it tapped out. Today, the remains of this mine are found in the small village of La Luz, just outside of the city proper.

In 1679, by decree of viceroy of Fray Payo Enriquez de Rivera, the name was changed to Ciudad de Santa Fe y Real de Minas de Guanajuato (Very Noble and Loyal City of Santa Fe y Real de Minas de Guanajuato). It received an escutcheon in the same year, which is still in use. The city’s coat of arms is of a gold background with an image of a woman in the center referring to the Holy Faith (Santa Fe). It contains other images such as a seashell supported by two laurel branches, blue ribbon and marble columns. It is topped with the royal crown of Castille and acanthus leaves.

In 1741, the city received the title of “The Most Noble and Loyal City of Santa Fe de Minas de Guanajuato” and became an “intendencia” (province) in 1790, because of the abundance of riches coming from its mines. In the 18th century, it was the world’s leading silver extraction center, making it the richest city in Mexico for much of the early colonial period. The production of the La Valenciana mine alone affected the world economy and made the counts of Valencianas one of the most powerful families in New Spain. The city was one of the richest and most opulent in New Spain in the 18th century. This wealth is manifested in its civil and religious architecture. 

The colonial architecture includes some of the best Baroque and Churrigueresque examples in the New World—such as the Valenciana, Cata, and La Compañía (Jesuit) Churches, and the Basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato. Most constructions from this time are of pink or green sandstone. In the churches, the Baroque altars were gilded with gold from local mines. These structures have influenced later buildings throughout central Mexico. According to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the La Compañía and La Valenciana churches are considered among the most beautiful examples of Baroque architecture in Central and South America.

Independence

By the end of the 18th century, the lower classes were poor and oppressed, despite the great wealth coming out of the mines. One event foreshadowing the Mexican War of Independence was a revolt carried out in the city, attacking the Caja duction) to protest the high taxes. One year later, there were large protests against the expulsion of the Jesuits.

Instead, royalist troops and many of the elite made their stand at the Alhóndigas de Granaditas granary, an imposing building with few windows and thick walls. After entering the city unopposed, Hidalgo decided to attack the granary. This was the first battle against Spanish troops in the war and is popularly called the ‘Siege of the Alhóndiga’. 

The insurgents were unable to take the building as royalist gunfire kept them from approaching the only entrance. Then, a poor miner by the name of Juan José de los Reyes Martínez, better known as El Pípila, strapped a large flat stone onto his back for protection. Crawling, he carried a flask of tar and a torch. When he reached the wooden doors of the main entrance, he smeared it with the tar and set it on fire. This allowed the insurgents to enter and take the building. This action is commemorated by a colossal statue of El Pípila on a hill overlooking the city.

After Independence, the province of Guanajuato was made a state, and the city was made its capital in 1824. However, fighting in the state and the rest of the country continued as Liberals, who wanted a Federalist government, fought with Conservatives, who wanted a centralized government under a monarch or dictator. Power in the city and state changed hands between the two factions during much of the 19th century, taking its toll on mining. The city was the provisional capital of the country in 1858, as Liberal president Benito Juárez fought Conservative rebels. In 1863, the French took the city during the French Intervention in Mexico, receiving a visit from the installed Emperor Maximiliano I and his wife, Carlota. French occupation ended in 1868, when General Florencio Antillón captured it on 26 January.

Mining reactivated around the 1870s, due to foreign investments encouraged by the Porfirio Díaz government. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this renewed economic activity spurred projects such as the Juárez Theater, the Esperanza Dam, Monumento a la Paz, the Hidalgo Monument and the State Government Palace. Flooding had been a serious problem through most of the city’s history, due to the area’s steep compact hillsides. In 1760 and 1780, two major floods nearly wiped it out. This spurred construction of large ditches and tunnels to contain and divert overflows during the rainy season. These eventually crisscrossed a large part of the city. Dam construction in the 1960s brought the flooding under control, and many of the ditches and tunnels were converted into underground roadways.

The first Festival Internacional Cervantino was held in 1972. The historic city center was declared a World Heritage Site in 1988.

Lay out and transportation

The city was split by a small river that serves as a main thoroughfare. Because of the extremely hilly terrain, only one main road enters and another ones leaves. The main street into the city, called Belaunzarán, now runs for three km underground and follows the original course of the Guanajuato River. Unlike the regular layouts of many other Spanish and Mexican cities, the streets of Guanajuato follow the extreme irregularity of the terrain, with small alleyways, plazas and, in some cases steep staircases up hillsides. 

Most are paved with square cut stone, with only a limited number that are passable to cars. Most of the passageways are really alleys with a limited amount open space in the way of very small plazas, which gives the city a more European flavor than other Mexican cities.

A number of these alleys have no names and some have whimsical names such as “Sal si puedes” (Exit if you can). Another famous alley is the Callejón Oacutén, through which Ignacio Allende and Miguel Hidalgo entered, with their army, in 1810. One alley near the State Government Palace is called the Callejón de la Condesa (Alley of the Countess). The name comes from the lady of one of the mansions who lived there in the very late 18th and very early 19th centuries. Ashamed of her husband’s bad reputation with other women, before and after the marriage, the Countess began to enter and leave her home through the back door into this alley to avoid the glances of the townspeople.

The most famous alley is the Callejón del Beso. Located on the slopes of the Cerro del Gallo hill, in a neighbourhood that dates back to the 18th century, it is only 168 cm (66 in) wide in places with balconies that nearly touch each other. Folklore states that couples who kiss on the third step (painted in red) are guaranteed seven years of happiness together. 

The name, which means Alley of the Kiss, comes from a legend of two young lovers who come to a tragic end: Doña Carmen and Don Luis. Doña Carmen’s father forbade the courting of his daughter by the young Luis, threatening to send Carmen to a convent if she left the house to see him. Carmen’s balcony reached over this alley and nearly touched the balcony of the neighboring house. Luis found out who owned it and arranged access. One evening, while the two were on these balconies, Carmen’s father discovered them as Luis held Carmen’s hand between his own. Enraged, Carmen’s father stabbed her, leaving the shocked Luis holding the hand of his beloved as it grew cold and lifeless, giving it one final kiss. 

The narrow streets and alleys have given rise to a pastime called “callejoneadas.” These are roving parties, traditionally held by the students of the University of Guanajuato with live musicians. Today, there are callejoneadas arranged for tourists as well.

Juarez Street is one of the few through streets on the surface. It is filled with stores and restaurants and has a constant flow of people and traffic. The other through streets of town are either partially or fully underground, following the old drainage ditches and tunnels dug during colonial times. Originally, they were used for flood control, but modern dams have controlled flooding and left them dry, so they have been turned into thoroughfares in a city with little surface area. The most important of these roads is Miguel Hidalgo or Belaunzarán, which carried the runoff from the river that used to divide the city in two. Guanajuato’s version of the La Llorona story has the woman wandering the tunnels, some of which had rivers or streams running through them. Former mine site  

The streets and alleys of the city are filled with mostly colonial era buildings, restaurants, bars, cafes with terraces and small plazas. Buildings have been constructed of sandstone in pink and green, adobe and other stone, filling the streets with shades of pink, green, ochre and red. Most of these plazas are in front of, or to the side of, the many churches, such as the Plaza San Fernando, Plaza San Roque, Plaza de la Valenciana, Plaza de Los Angeles, and Plaza de Mexiamora. Exceptions to these are the Jardín Reforma and the Jardín Unión.

The Mines

The mines that made Guanajuato rich are inside, and just outside, of the city proper. A number of these mines gave rise to small communities with their own churches; these still exist with other institutions such as museums. The best-known mines gave their names to a number of the city’s oldest neighborhoods such as Cata, Rayas y Mellado, La Pastita, San Luisito and Valenciana. Some of these mines are open to the public for tours. The first significant mine was called San Bernabé, which brought thousands of adventurers to Guanajuato, and led to the discovery of other mineral deposits. This mine functioned from the 16th century until 1928. The remains of this mine can still be found in the small village of La Luz, just outside the city.

The most important of these mining complexes is the La Valenciana mine, on the northern edge of the city. It began operations in 1774 and, until the early 19th century, it was one of the most productive silver mines in the world, accounting for two thirds of the world’s production at its peak. It produced 80% of all silver mined in the state of Guanajuato and one sixth of all Mexico. For over 250 years, it produced about 30% of the world’s silver. The mine continues operations today, although production is much diminished, with one ton of rock is still extracted every six minutes. The largest shaft descends for 450 meters and about 10,000 miners have worked it over its history.

The mine made its owners, the Counts of Valenciana, extremely wealthy and powerful. The first Count of Valenciana, Antonio de Obregón y Alcocer had the San Cayetano Church (also known as the La Valenciana Church) built near the entrance of this mine. Dedicated to Saint Cajetan, it was built between 1765 and 1788. The church has a Churrigueresque portal, which has been compared to the Mexico City Cathedral and the La Santísima Church, both in Mexico City. The interior conserves a number of gilded altarpieces and a pulpit that is encrusted with ivory and precious hardwoods. The interior also contains graffito work and paintings from the 19th century.

Near the Valenciana Mine is the Guadalupe Mine, established in the 16th century. This complex was built with extremely large and thick stone walls supported by buttresses, giving it the look of a medieval fortress. The mine is no longer in operation, but the complex has been undergoing redevelopment as a resort with a hotel, spa, golf course and more. 

The Cata mine is one of the early mines, and a city neighborhood is named after it. The mine is near the Don Quijote Plaza, and began operations in 1558, with peak production in the first quarter of the 18th century. It was owned by the Marquis of San Clemente. The center of the neighborhood is the Señor de Villaseca Church, more commonly called the Cata Church. This church was built in the 17th century in Mexican Baroque, or Churrigueresque style, similar to that of the Valenciana Church. The church holds a valued crucifix called the Señor del Villaseca and is registered as a Mexican Federal Historic Monument.

The Bocamina de San Ramón mine is one of the city’s early mines, with the deposit found by some travelers in the early 16th century. In 1548, its mother lode was found. Today, the mine is a tourist attraction in which visitors can descend into the earth through the old shafts. The complex has a patio area, a gallery of minerals and a bar called El Petardo, which once was the gunpowder storage room.

The Rayas mine gave rise to one of the city’s original neighborhoods, after having been found in 1550 by Juan Rayas. The mine’s apogee occurred in the 18th century, giving its owner, José de Sardineta y Legaspi the titles of Viscount of Sardineta and Marquis of Rayas. Today it is found on a section of the Carretera Panorámica (Panoramic Highway) that circles the city. The complex walls are tall and are held up by stone buttresses. It has one of the longest mine shafts in the world, which extends into the earth for 425 meters.

The Castle of Santa Cecilia is a majestic medieval style construction built on a former 17th century mining hacienda.

The current building functions as a hotel.

The Mummies

The city’s most famous tourist attraction is the Mummies of Guanajuato, which are in their own museum, on the side of the municipal cemetery in the Tepetapa neighborhood. The Mummy Museum contains a collection of specimens that mummified naturally in the adjoining cemetery. Authorities began exhuming bodies in 1870, when a new law required residents to pay a tax for perpetual burial. If survivors didn’t pay the tax, they exhumed the body. 

If the body was mummified, they stored it in a building above ground and people began paying to see them in the late 1800s. The burial tax was abolished in 1958. At first, the mummies were displayed in a poorly lit tunnel that visitors entered with a torch or candle. Visitors were allowed to touch the mummies with some even breaking off pieces for souvenirs or to verify the body was real. The modern museum opened in 1970 with proper lighting and ventilation, and the mummies protected behind glass.

The collection contains 111 mummies, mostly women, with some men and about 20 children, but only 59 of these are on display. It is considered the largest collection of mummies in the Western Hemisphere. Almost all of the people were commoners and came from backgrounds such as miners and farmers. The mummies were disinterred from the municipal cemetery between 1870 and 1958, and were people who died between 1850 and 1950. 

The first of the documented mummies, which has been on display in one form or another since the 1870s, is that of a French doctor named Remigio Leroy. He can be seen at the current museum. Of the children in the collection, one can see evidence of a practice where deceased Catholic children were dressed as angels, if girls, or as saints, if boys, to indicate their purity and assured entrance into heaven. Several are babies, including one considered the smallest mummy in the world. 

Two of these small bodies were partially embalmed by taking out internal organs and replacing the cavities with packing material. One was a fetus, which probably miscarried at about 24 weeks, and the other is a newborn male infant. This embalming process may have enhanced the natural mummification process but was not the cause. It is not known why these had been embalmed, nor are their years of death exactly known. There is a mummy of a woman who died in childbirth or miscarriage (a dried placenta is attached to her) but it is not known if she is the mother of either of these mummified children. 

Although only one out of every 100 bodies interred in the cemetery became naturally mummified, the concentration of this phenomenon has led to theories about how they have come about. Some believe that they are the result of people who had been buried alive, after mistakenly declared dead. These people, according to belief, died of desperation and asphyxiation and as a sign of their pain, convert into mummies. 

More commonly, it is likely the result of Guanajuato’s altitude or the abundance of minerals in the soil. However, all the mummified remains were found in the cemeteries above ground cement crypts, not in underground graves. Researchers believe the phenomenon is due to the warm, dry climate of the area, which dried out the bodies rapidly.

One of the main reasons for the mummies’ fame in Mexico is the 1972 film El Santo contra las momias de Guanajuato, which featured Mexico’s most famous lucha libre wrestler, El Santo, as well as two others called Blue Demon and Mil Máscaras. In this movie, the mummies are reanimated by a wrestler known as “Satán” and El Santo fights to defeat them. It was filmed in the Guanajuato cemetery and has since become a cult classic.

A mayor of the city, Dr. Eduardo Hicks, initiated the Guanajuato Mummy Research Project in 2007 to increase knowledge and awareness of the specimens. They have since been extensively studied in Mexico and the United States. The study has found evidence of medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, extreme anemia, lung damage from smoke inhalation and tuberculosis. 

Castillo Santa Cecilia

Some of the research looked into the folklore surrounding a number of the mummies such as the man with a misshapen face thought to have been caused by a mortal blow, a woman who was supposedly hanged by her husband and a woman who is thought to have been buried alive. No scientific evidence has been found to support the last two stories. 

Without records, it is not possible to know exactly when some mummies died. Carbon 14 cannot help because it has a margin of error of 50 years and it is already known that the mummies died between 1850 and 1950. In 2009, 36 of the mummies were displayed for the first time outside of Mexico, at the Detroit Science Center in the United States, as part of a tour to last until 2012. They have been the focus of a National Geographic documentary series called “The Mummy Road Show,” which covered 18 of the mummies.

Festival Cervantino

The Festival Internacional Cervantino is an annual cultural event, mostly held in the city of Guanajuato, which sponsors a large number of artistic and cultural events with artists invited from Mexico and other parts of the world. The event is named in honor of Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quijote. The festival began in 1972, as short plays performed by University of Guanajuato students, based on the works of Cervantes. In 2010, special guests included the state of Querétaro and the country of Colombia. The 2010 edition of the festival included performers such as Tangokineses from Argentina, Cumbia Cienaguera from Colombia. In total there were 424 events over 26 days.

The festival hosts events such as opera, theater productions, film showings, art exhibitions, academic conferences and talks, concerts and dance recitals. The performances occur in 70 venues over most of the month of October. Events are held throughout the city, with some in other locations such as Mexico City, Guadalajara and San Miguel de Allende. The most important venue in Guanajuato for the festival is the Juárez Theater, which is on the Jardín de la Unión (Union Garden). 

Other important venues in the city are the Teatro Principal, the Cervantes Theater and facilities of the University of Guanajuato. Events are also held in area churches, plazas and even on the streets. The Festival International Cervantino Callejero is a parallel event sponsored by the Centro Libre de Experimentación Teatral y Artistica (CLETA). In 2010, this event featured 300 performances with social themes. This annual event was begun in 1975, in part inspired by The Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover.

Landmarks

The center of the modern city is the Plaza de la Paz (Plaza of Peace), also known as the Plaza Mayor (Main Plaza). Since the colonial period, the richest of the city’s families built their main homes here, along with government buildings and the parish church, now a basilica. This plaza is a garden with a sculpture of a woman representing peace; its placement here in the late 19th century caused the official name to change to Plaza de la Paz. Today, the plaza is surrounded by the basilica, other churches, government and commercial buildings, many of which were once mansions. 

Still remaining around the plaza are mansions that belonged to local nobility such as the Counts of Rul, Count of Galvez, and the Count de los Chico. The Rul house was constructed at the end of the 18th century by architect Francisco Eduardo Tresguerras. It is noted for its inner courtyard, with architectural features from ancient Greece. Alexander von Humboldt stayed here in 1803. Later, the house became known as the Palacio de Otero. The Casa Real de Ensaye is a Baroque mansion that, on its façade, bears the first noble coat of arms granted in Guanajuato.

The main church is the Basilica Colegiata de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato, built between 1671 and 1696. Overall, the church is a sober Mexican Baroque in style but there are popular elements from donations made by the area’s miners, and other elements that demonstrate the influence of several of the city’s rich mining nobility. The Marquis of San Clemente and Pedro Lascuráin de Retana were the current building’s first patrons. 

Later, the Counts of Valenciana left their influence as well with the donation of a clock for one of the towers and the acquisition of relics related to a saint and martyr named Faustina obtained from the Pope. These relics are in the main altar. The main portal is made of pink sandstone with “estipite” or inverted truncated pyramidal columns. The focus of the main altar is the image of Our Lady of Guanajuato (Nuestra Señora de Guanjuato), who is the patroness of the city. She was donated to the city by Carlos I, and his son Felipe II, in 1557. In 1696, the church gained minor basilica status and full basilica status in 1957.

Dan and Lisa at the Guanajuato lookout

The Legislative Palace, or state government building, was the site of the Aduana, or Casas Consistoriales (customs house), in the colonial period. The current building was constructed by Cecilio Luis Long, in a European style popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and inaugurated in 1903. The façade has a Neoclassical portal in sandstone of colors typical of the Guanajuato area. It contains the legislative chamber called the Sala de Sesiones, decorated with 19th- and 20thcentury paintings and somber furniture.

Diego, Dan and Frida

Alhóndiga de Granaditas

The Alhóndiga de Granaditas is a large building covering an entire block, and originally built to store enough grain to feed the city for a year, to protect the population against famines such as those that occurred in 1783, due to crop failure. This gave the building its name, which roughly translates to “house of grain.” The building is two floors high, nearly windowless, with a very large courtyard in its interior. Construction began in 1798, under an architect named Durán y Villaseñor and terminated under José del Mazo.


The Alhóndiga only served its original function for eight months after it was built. The main reason for its importance today is that it was the site of the first battle of the Mexican War of Independence between insurgents and royalist troops on 28 September 1810. When Miguel Hidalgo, Ignacio Allende and the insurgent army approached the city, royalist troops under Lieutenant Riaño, and the city’s elite, took refuge in the building, along with millions of pesos of silver and other loot. 

The insurgents quickly surrounded the building, but the building proved difficult to penetrate due to the lack of openings and royalist gunfire. The battle remained a stalemate until a miner from San Miguel de Allende devised a way to approach the building’s main entrance. Juan José de los Reyes Martínez, a miner, AKA El Pípila, who joined the insurgent army as it passed through his hometown. 

After the battle, it was used as barracks, a tenement and tobacco warehouse. From 1864 to 1949, it was used as the state penitentiary. In 1949, the building was converted into the Museo Regional de Guanajuato, documenting the history of the area and its role in Mexican national history, from the preHispanic period to the present, divided among fourteen halls on the upper floor. 

On the ground floor there are large mascarons of José Mariano Jiménez, Vicente Guerrero, Ignacio Allende and Ignacio Aldama. The main hall has mascarons of Miguel Hidalgo and José María Morelos y Pavón who “guard” the national coat of arms. 

In front of this sits an eternal flame that is renewed each 28 September. The main stairwell contains mural work by José Chávez Morado that alludes to Independence. It houses a large collection of ceramics from western parts of Mesoamerica, especially from Chupícuaro. It contains works by Guanajuato artist Hermeneguildo Bustos and photographer Romualdo García. 

There are displays related to the building itself, in its construction, its original function as a granary and its role in one of the first battles of the War of Independence. The large courtyard within the Alhóndiga is a traditional place to celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day with the reenactment of Miguel Hidalgo’s

“El Grito de Dolores.” It is one of the sites for a number of the

Diego Rivera mural

Diego Rivera Museum

events of the Festival Cervantino. The museum was restored in 2010 for the Bicentennial by the INAH at a cost of 5.7 million pesos as part of similar museums in Dolores Hidalgo and San Miguel de Allende to form the Ruta de Independencia (Independence Route). The work was the first renovation of the building in 20 years.

University of Guanajuato

The University began as a Jesuit school for children in the 1st half of the 18th century. The school was established and sponsored by Josefa Teresa de Busto y Moya, sister of the Marquis of San Clemente, who obtained permission from the Spanish Crown in 1732 and established the institution in her home. 

Although she provided a significant donation and solicited donations from other wealthy families in the city, credit for the establishment of the school is most often given to Jesuits. Over time, the school grew and began to offer high school and professional level studies. The school has had several names, including Real Colegio de la Purísima Concepción (1767), Colegio del Estado (1828), Colegio Nacional de Guanajuato (1867), with its current name adopted in 1945. The Colegio del Estado name was prompted the fact that the institution became property of the state in 1828. In 1945, it gained university status. Today the institution serves approximately 30,000 students at the high school, bachelor and graduate levels. In addition to the main campus in the city, there are nine others in other parts of Guanajuato state. The university hosts a number of the events of the Festival Cervantino, with its famous stairway acting as seating. The best known facility of the institution is the main building in Guanajuato city, which was built in neoclassical style in green stone. It houses the dean’s office, administrative offices and a number of the institution’s departments. 

The main building is recognized by its long staircase with 113 steps, which empties onto the Callejon del Estudiante. Under the main roof is a 16th-century chapel that was sponsored by Vasco de Quiroga for indigenous mine workers. It’s called the Templo de los Hospitales (Temple of the Hospitals). It received the image of the Virgin of the Rosary, now called the Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato.

Eiffel-built structure – large market

The Museo de Historia Natural Alfredo Dugés is on the ground floor of the University of Guanajuato’s main building. It contains a national-level collection of fossils, plants and animals. The importance of this collection comes from its state of conservation and its age. The collection was gathered by Alfredo Dugés and donated to the university.

Other Plazas and Churches

The city is dotted with a large number of small plazas that were built along with the churches that usually gave them their names. One of the best-known plazas or open spaces is the Jardín de la Unión, on the south side of the San Diego Church. The garden is filled with carefully pruned Indian laurels and, in addition to the church, is surrounded by small cafes, restaurants, and the Juarez Theater. It occupies a triangular space that originally was the church atrium. 

Public art

In 1883, wrought iron benches and a kiosk were installed. Today, concerts are held in this kiosk on occasion. It is popular with wandering student musicians performing callejoneadas and functions as the atrium of the San Diego Church. This church is a Churrigueresque façade and the interior has paintings from the 18th century, neoclassical altarpieces and a crucifix called the Cristo de Burgos, which was donated to the church by the Count of Valenciana. 

The current church was built between 1780 and 1784, by the Count of Valenciana, when the original was destroyed by a flood. In the 19th century, its original gilded altarpieces were replaced with the current neoclassical ones. The monastery, which was also destroyed, was never rebuilt, but the site is now home to the San Diego Museum. It was created to rescue and display the cultural inheritance of the city, describing its development and changes from its beginnings to the present day. It also contains a computer simulation of what the original monastery looked like. 

Located next to the University, the Temple of the Company of

Jesus or Oratorio de San Felipe, was built in 1746 by José Joaquín Sardaneta y Legazpi. It was completed in 1767, the same year that the Jesuits were expelled from New Spain. The new church remained abandoned until 1804, when the order was allowed to return and reclaim it. The order then worked to renovate the church, replacing Baroque elements for neoclassical ones, which were then in fashion. 

Streetscape

It has a façade with narrow estipite columns in Churrigueresque style, but its more unique aspect is a colossal cupola with three levels, which was added in the 19th century by architect Vicente Heredia. The temple includes a collection of 180 paintings that were recently studied and restored. Some of these paintings are displayed in the church complex, while the rest are kept in a pinacotheca created for the purpose. The main altar and the paintings are by Miguel Cabrera.

Dating from 1726, the oldest plaza still in existence is the Plaza de Baratillo, located in front of the San Roque Church, surrounded by very old houses. The name comes from a weekly market once held on Sundays. This market specialized in low prices (baratillo means “very cheap”). In the center is a fountain brought from Florence, Italy. This fountain once provided area residents with potable water from the Olla Dam. Today, it is purely ornamental. 

There is a stone cross, which indicates the ground was once used as a cemetery. Starting in the 1950s, this plaza was used for short, one-act plays called Entremeses Cervantinos, which later developed into the Festival Cervantino. The plaza is still used for these plays, as well as for events associated with the annual event. The San Roque Church dates from 1726. It has a sober Baroque façade and contains an important collection of colonial era paintings.

Other important churches include the Temple of Guadalupe from the 18th century in sober Baroque, the Pardo Church from the 18th century with a façade covered with sculpted plants. The San Francisco Church on Sopeña Street faces a plaza with the same name. It has a Baroque façade of pink stone, with a green tint, a staircase with wrought iron railings and a small fountain. 

Emiliano Zapata

The Belén Church was built in the 18th century by the Count of Valenciana with a modest façade. It is across from the Hidalgo Market and on the street leading to the Alhóndiga de Granaditas. The Mellado Church was part of the Merced Monastery. The cloister area is now in ruins but the church remains and is dedicated to the veneration of Our Lady of Mercy. The original Baroque altarpieces were replaced with Neoclassical ones in the 19th century. The Jardín Reforma or Reforma Square was originally a market, built in 1861. When the Hidalgo Market opened, most vendors moved out. In 1923, the site was renovated into a garden with a central fountain and Indian laurel, eucalyptus and cypress trees. The Jardín Reforma has an arched entryway with a series of thin columns.

The Plaza de Quijote is at the old San Antonio bridge and to the side of the San Diego Church. The plaza was created to honor the 400th anniversary of the first edition of Don Quijote of La Mancha in 1605.

Other Landmarks

The Juarez Theater is located across from the San Diego Church in the city center. It is one of the main venues of the Festival Cervantino. It is considered one of the most beautiful theaters in the country, according to Mexico Desconocido. It is in neoclassical style, with a façade containing nine sculptures depicting the Muses of Greek mythology. 

The south façade of the Juárez Theater has a lintel with the word “Tragedia” on it and on the north façade. The matching lintel reads “Comedia.” It is one of the main venues of the Festival Cervantino. The interior has an eclectic design and is richly decorated. The vestibule or foyer (also called the Smoking Room) has columns and garlands. The auditorium is Mauresque with Arabesque detail throughout. The curtain contains an image of Constantinople. The theater was built from 1872 to 1903 by Antonio Rivas Mercado, who designed the Angel of Independence monument in Mexico City, and inaugurated with the opera Aida by Giuseppe Verdi with President Diaz in attendance. It is the only theater in the country that has conserved its original furnishings.

Former government building

On the side of the Juarez Theater, there is the Rincón del Arte. Next to this is a cable car that rises up to the Pípila Monument on San Miguel Hill. The monument honors the insurgent who managed to torch the main entrance of the Alhóndiga de Granaditas. The monument consists of a giant statue of Pípila raising a torch over his head. Around the monument, there is an esplanade and overlook with permits a panoramic view of nearly the entire city.

The Teatro Principal was built at the city’s height when the wealth of the mines attracted entertainers. It was the first theater in the city, built in neoclassical style, and one of the few places where people of different social strata could enter. The theater closed periodically during its early history due to sociopolitical upheavals. After the Mexican Revolution, it was converted into a movie theater. Shortly after this, it suffered a fire and closed for 30 years. Today, it is reconstructed and run by the University of Guanajuato as one of the main venues of the Festival Cervantino. 

Unlike other theaters in the city, which were stage theaters converted into movie houses at one point or another, the Teatro Cervantes was a movie house that was converted into a stage theater. It is used for puppet shows, dance recitals, experimental theater and conferences.

The Mercado Hidalgo was built by Ernesto Brunel in 1910, over what was the site of the old Gavira bullring. It was inaugurated by President Porfirio Díaz to celebrate Mexico’s Centennial of Independence. The roof has a cupula with a clock tower. The clock has four faces and the interior of the market is a giant metallic nave. The market sells typical candies of the region such as “charamuscas,” which is often shaped as a charro or mummy and wrapped in wax paper. The upper floor of the market contains a large number of crafts and souvenir shops containing products such as baskets, knit items, ceramics, leathercrafts and more. The ground floor has many everyday items such as fresh and packaged food, household goods, wickerwork and hardware.

The Museo del Pueblo de Guanajuato was created to exhibit the best of the artwork of the city. It contains an important collection of religious arte from the 17th to 19th centuries. It contains collections of works by Olga Costa and José Chávez Morado. This includes three murals by Chávez Morado, set up as altars. These murals depict the end of the colonial period and the War of Independence.

The Museo Diego Rivera was the house where the painter was born and spent his early childhood. The first floor is dedicated to furniture and other items from the late 19th century. The floors above contain a large collection of paintings, about 100 of which are Rivera’s early and little known works. It has workshops for arts, literary events, film showings and other cultural activities.

Very near the Jardín Union on Luis González Obregón Street is the Casa de Gobierno, were Benito Juárez made the city the temporary capital of Mexico. Next to the Casa de Gobierno is
um contains visual representations of the character, including some created by notable artists such as Pedro Coronel, José Guadalupe Posada and Salvador Dalí.

The Museo de Arte Olga Costa y José Chávez Morado is in the Pastita neighborhood, installed in a building in the former Guadalupe Hacienda. This was the home of the two artists who donated the structure and their personal art collection to the The Christ the King Monument was constructed on the top of Cubilete Mountain in 1923 by architect Nicolás Mariscal Piña and sculptor Fidias Elizondo. The sculpture stands 20 meters tall and shows Christ with his arms extended, flanked by two angels who hold a crown of thorns and a royal crown. The sculpture weighs 250 metric tons. From the plaza, one can see the entire Bajío Valley.

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Dan and Lisa Goy

Dan and Lisa Goy, owners of Baja Amigos RV Caravan Tours, have been making Mexico their second home for more than 30 years and love to introduce Mexico to newcomers.
Dan and Lisa Goy

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