GUANAJUATO (Juan a ho-a-toe)… is about 4 hours drive northeast of here in the neighbouring State of Guanajuato and is the capitol of the state.
We first glimpsed it twenty years ago for only a few hours and promised ourselves we would come back. It one of the most beautiful cities in Mexico and has a vibrant culture due to the University and it’s many young people, it’s historical position as the site of the first battle in the War of Independence and the Cervantes Festival held each October.The city was named a World Heritage Site in 1988.
In the photo taken above you can see the white building which is the University, the yellow colored Basilica and the the tiny tree lined triangular Jardin or central Plaza. That is about the only flat land in the city. The rest all climbs the steep hillsides as narrow streets or even just walking alleyways.
First the “setting”. It started as a ravine in the mountains with a fast moving river running through it. In the 1500’s silver (and other minerals) was discovered and the La Valenciana mine accounted for two-thirds of the world’s silver production at the height of its production. It was the richest city in Mexico for much of the colonial period and as a result many fine buildings and homes were built.
However the river would flood and so it was channeled underground and roads built on top. These in turn were arched over and other levels of streets built atop those.This makes for a labyrinth of underground roads leading to all parts of the city. On emerges from twisting winding tunnels into daylight not knowing exactly where one is. The tunnels which are difficult to photograph you can see here.
Above-Entrance to a tunnel that cuts through the mountain to emerge in other neighborhoods. Below where tunnels emerge a limbo world between the upper and lower levels with houses that have medieval looking overhangs.
Below-the central area Plaza de Paz near the Basilica.
The Basilica of our Lady of Guanajuato was began in 1671 and financed by the rich mine owners.
Below the roof of San Roque Church.
Below– Sidewalk cafes line the many walking streets where auto traffic is mostly segregated away from foot traffic.
Above and below-Beautiful late nineteenth century buildings.
The city is also famous for being the birthplace of Diego Rivera– Mexico’s most famous (along with Frida Kahlo) artist. Below– his family home which was just a few doors down from our hotel (Meson de las Poetes).
Below– I could have just been imagining but I could swear ….
It is a very colour-full city. Nothing muted or subtle.
Below- Narrow alleys open up into many delightful small plazas surrounded by cafes and restaurants.
Below-The Campanario Bridge. The restaurant pictured below straddles the alley below on a bridge. The result of early flooding whereby the front door was raised up.
Below– Where the War of Independence began.
In 1810 the Alhóndiga de Granaditas became a fortress for Spanish troops and loyalist leaders and the site of the first major victory over the Spanish. Under the command of Miguel Hidalgo, a local miner by the name of Jose de los Reyes Martinez, nicknamed El Pipila, tied a large stone to his back to deflect bullets and breached the Spanish defenses by burning down the fortress doors. Hidalgo’s troops were victorious, and a statue and monument to honor El Pipila was erected on a hillside overlooking Guanajuato. Unfortunately after Pipla burned down the door and opened the Alhondiga to the rebels, they massacred the Spaniards inside, men, women and children. It was one of the main atrocities that caused New Spain-born Spaniards to back off from supporting Hidalgo, leading to his downfall.
..to be continued. Part Two continues.
You can also see black and white photos of Guanajuato here.
You can also see a you tube video about the town here.
PLEASE CONTINUE TO REVISIT MY PHOTO BLOG AS IT IS ALWAYS CHANGING.