Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Month in Mexico - Guanajuato and Dolores Hidalgo

           Guanajuato from the El Pipila Viewpoint
In the 18th century, the gods used a shoehorn to nestle Guanajuato (gwah-nah-WAH-toh) between mountains containing more silver than any place else in the world.  And today, these verdant hills, flower-bedecked streets, underground roads, leafy plazas, world-class museums, and prestigious university create a feast for the eyes and nourishment for the intellect. This UNESCO World Heritage city, where 60% of the slender streets are pedestrian only, invites you to amble slowly to savor the delights it offers.

Antonio, our guide for the day, led David and me to the first treat, the Diego Rivera Museum.  Rivera, one of Mexico's most famous muralists and artist Frida Kahlo's lover, lived in a five-story house on Calle Pocitos for the first nine years of his life.  

                Rivera's Dining Room
The first floor of his home has been refurbished with antiques typical of the period.  The remaining floors contain approximately one hundred of Rivera's paintings, sketches and watercolors. 



The Don Quixote Iconographic Museum stands as testimony to the enduring literary figure created by Miguel Cervantes.  Here Don Quixote, accompanied by his faithful servant, Sancho Panza, finds adventure as he attempts to stamp out the evil and injustice in   the world. 
              Don Quixote Museum
Astride his horse, Rocinante, Quixote is depicted tilting at windmills by Salvador Dali, Picasso, Pedro Coronel and 700 other artists.  The pieces in a variety of media--painting, stained glass, sculpture, wood carvings and bronze--are displayed in rooms surrounding a three-story courtyard.
Balconies Where Lovers Stood to Vow Eternal Devotion
Guanajuato's literary tradition is evident in its legends, too.  In a story reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, two lovers from different social classes professed their love from their almost-touching balconies on one of the narrow streets.  This is one of the few romances that depended on the geography of a city to reach its tragic conclusion.
                Dolores Hidalgo Church 
We finished our tour, leaving behind Guanajuato's literary and artistic treasures, and turning to history in Dolores Hidalgo.  Here, on the steps of the local church, Father Hidalgo, father of the Mexican Revolution, issued the Grito, the country's cry for independence from Spain in 1810.

A clock beside the church's front door tracks the time until Mexico will rejoice in its bicentennial celebration of this famous day. On September 16. the Grito will be read once again.  Not as a cry for freedom this time, but as an affirmation of the country's hard-won independence.

Driving back to San Miguel de Allende in Antonio's air-conditioned van, David and I congratulated ourselves for having seen most of Mexico's treasures.  But Antonio corrected us.  He said there are 210,000 registered archaeological sites in Mexico; sixty in San Miguel de Allende alone!  

That night, as David and I sat on our terrace listening to the murmur of the fountain, we realized that we have barely scratched the surface of Mexico's history and culture.  We're already planning our next trip.
          Pedestrian Entrance to Underground Road


Practicalities - 
I do not like organized tours that herd tourists around for a week or two, rousing the group at 6:00 a.m. and allowing them exactly fifty minutes for each site on the itinerary, but I do believe in hiring a guide to see inaccessible places when David and I travel independently.

When we mentioned to the waiter at El Pegaso Restaurant that we wanted a guide for Guanajuato, Antonio appeared at our table in two minutes.  Unlike the $30 an hour guide the Tourist Bureau had mentioned, who also rapidly appeared before us in a few seconds, Antonio asked $65 US per person for a nine-hour tour. 

He promised to drive us to Guanajuato, and, later Dolores Hidalgo, take us to two museums (He would pay the admission fees.), drive through the underground tunnel system, and pretty much tell us everything there was to know about these wonderful places.  


He did all of that, answered every one of our questions, stopped at a Talavera pottery store I remembered in Dolores, and even went out of his way to drive by the Santuario de Atotonilco, another World Heritage site.

David and I highly recommend him.  On the day we first met Antonio, another couple in El Pegaso Restaurant had said Antonio was the best.  Now we know they were right.  

Here's how to reach him.  Aventuras San Miguel, Antonio Canales 
e-mail:  aventurasma@yahoo.com  
tel:  (415) 152-6406        cell: 044-415-153-5489  

3 comments:

  1. We have a mutual friend here in Tucson, Diane Bailey Haug...she had first told me about your blog. just decided to look at it again; very pleased you have a nice post here about Guanajuato. I will be returning there this summer (will be my third trip) and this year for almost 5 months. I am in love with this city... sherrie posternak

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  2. Hi Sherrie,

    Thanks for writing. I know why you fell in love with Guanajuato; it's one of my favorite cities, too, andI envy your being able to spend five months there.

    Tell Diane hello for me and have a great summer south of the border!

    Dru

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  3. It was nice to read your post.thank you for sharing such a nice information about Guanajuato's special month. I am sure other readers will also like it.

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