Tourist´s guide to Guanajuato, Mexico

Guanaguato

This is my last post this year and my cup of life is fulleth over.

The year 2017 has been quite eventful and I am hoping it is more so in the NewYear.

In the New Year Wishing you all…..

Hang on to the truth coz truth always prevails

Choose to be happy and happiness will envelop you

Forgive and forget coz forgiving is Divine

Learn to empathize as kindness is strength

Pick healthy foods and activities

Fall a few times but get up again more stronger

Travel coz you have nothing to lose and a world to see

Wish every person you meet,  a good day

And love unconditionally!!

The City of Guanajuato , The Crown Jewel of Mexico’s colonial cities, was named after Frogs. It was the shape of the mountains that reminded the indigenous tribals of frogs.

Guanajuato Land of Frogs

Yesterday’s fun-filled nocturnal wandering made me curious to know what was in store today. When we first reached Guanajuato by bus, we were approached by a guide who led us to his tourist ‘information booths that were selling tickets for guided tours in Vans. At $150 pesos, it was a good and easy way to see the city. The tour guide only spoke Spanish and all the tourists except me were Mexican and I just went along. Ready on the dot, as usual, I was waiting for the Van which picks you up from your hotel. The guide came and led us to the Van which was parked a little further away. We picked up other tourists and set out for El Pipila.

El Pipila

El Pipila View

Our first stop was the statue of El Pipila which stands high above Guanajuato and celebrates the hero of the city. His bravery achieved the first victory of the Mexican independence struggle and he has become a folk hero. The adjoining viewpoint is awesome giving a panoramic view of the multicoloured buildings of the city. The Basilica, University and a couple of other churches can be seen prominently with their baroque architecture. The 20-meter-high statue of El Pipila was constructed in 1953 and is made of pink sandstone. The monument shows El Pipila with the flame held in his right hand high above Guanajuato. The bucket of tar and stone shield are strapped to his back with him in a slightly hunched position. The statue and viewpoint are Guanajuato’s must-visit tourist spots. I took a few pics and videos and moved on. There was a man dressed as a witch and another standing like a statue painted in Gold.

20171125_120200-ANIMATION

The guide was telling us about the next place which was the Casa de Los Lamentos, or “House of Laments.” I stay away from eerie places and even horror movies and this was a kitschy museum that needs some daring. It is supposed to be Mejía’s bloody residence, the house has been subject to tales of haunting by succeeding tenants. Reports of lamenting wails and the cries of Mejía’s victims have lent the house its graphic name. Inside there are scenes depicting Mejía surrounded by skulls, chains, and tools of black magic which give a morbid reception. Once his wife died he could not get over her death and tried every which way to connect with her. He resorted to black magic and consulted a witch, who instructed him in bizarre, ghastly rituals of human sacrifice to get back his lost Constanza. The local legend re-counts that Mejía suffered from psychosis in the wake of his wife’s death and it is unknown how many murders Mejía went on to commit, but human remains were revealed in the house’s basement, along with Satanic imagery. Mejía eventually killed himself, taking the knowledge of how many lives he truly claimed to the grave.

The tour van took us to the Museo Ex-Hacienda del Cochero built in the late 1600s. It was a quaint cottage from outside and the guides here were in monk’s robes. There was a female guide who led us into the dungeon to see the contraptions the Spanish Inquisition used to torture infidels, native, political rebels and anybody else that needed torture. I had heard and read of iron maidens, chastity belts, guillotine and garrottes but now I got to see them for real. Hanging cages, the rack, and even a person’s remains that had been walled up alive. The guide elucidated that some of the mummified remains were distinguishable as witches because of the red skirt and artifacts they were buried with and the lights were dimmed to give a ghoulish chill. Each place we went to had a ticket of approximately 35 pesos.

Food in Guanajuato

Our guide must have felt that all this was too ghastly, and he took us to an artefact store selling precious gems and jewellery. I picked up a small frog stuffed with minerals. The first settlers saw that a cliff was shaped like a frog and the name Guanajuato comes from its pure Pecha name Quarap-huata, “Hilly Place of Frogs”.  You can see frog sculptures and souvenirs everywhere. Next, we were taken to a regional sweet shop. I went busily clicking the rainbow coloured Obleas and other sweets which looked like the chikki we get back home.

I feel so ignorant after visiting the Museo de las Momias de Guanajuato. I always thought that all the mummies of the world are only in Egypt. Imagine my astonishment when I am led to a museum of Mummies in Guanajuato. Mummies can be found in locations of extreme cold, very dry regions, and bogs where bodies will naturally mummify, sometimes found thousands of years later.

Mommias of Gunajuato

The Guanajuato mummies had to wait a few hundred years and were evicted from where they were found. From 1865 to 1958, the town of Guanajuato required that relatives pay a grave tax for their dad. If they failed to do so for three years in a row, their deceased loved ones were dug up and evicted. Bizzarely, due to the extremely dry conditions of the soil, the corpses often came up as well-preserved mummies. (The first to be dug up and found mummified was one Dr Remigio Leroy on June 9, 1865.) The cemetery kept these strange mummified corpses underground in a vault — under the cemetery grounds itself —  in case the relatives came around with the money wanting a re-burial. By 1894, the vault had racked up enough mummified bodies to rebrand itself as a museum. They are housed in glass museum cases. Since they were formed naturally, the mummies are more gruesome-looking than your typical Egyptian mummy. The rows of glass cases with the naked men and women were grisly. With gaunt and twisted faces, often covered in the tattered rags they were buried in, the mummies stand, lean, and recline in glass cases throughout the museum. The macabre feeling of horror and disgust was masked by an awe for natures mummification.

World´s smallest mummy

The most outrageous was the pregnant mummy and her shrunken child, “the world’s smallest mummy,” which is no bigger than a few inches. A common local legend is that the mummification is a divine punishment for acts committed while alive so much like our very own Indian karma, isn’t it?Basically, it was horrifying. The clothes had been cut off most of the mummies to cut down on the stink–although most still had their shoes on. There was an inexplicable section of infant corpses and the mother and child buried together after dying in childbirth which I couldn’t film or even look at.

A gift shop in the museum actually sells sugar skulls and effigies of the mummies, as well as grotesque postcards featuring pictures of the mummies.

Valencia Mine

Next, we were taken to “Bocamina San Cayetano of the Valenciana Mine, It is the oldest mine in Guanajuato. The Valenciana mine tour has a ticket of 30 pesos. The entrance courtyard had a massive stone equipment in the centre. One room had hundreds of locks hanging from the ceiling. You can descend back 450 years in the history of Spanish colonial silver and other precious minerals mining in the new world. Ex-miners take you 120 feet below the surface to give you a glimpse of what it was like in the 1600’s but unfortunately, I couldn’t go down to the mine as the steps were too many and too steep. I took pictures with the frogs and put my hand in the mouth of the metal crocodile. Many tools of the miners are showcased in the rooms and a drinks bar was doing a brisk business in the campus.

It was 3 pm by the time our van dropped me off and I realised I was ravenous. I had a subway veg and set off back to the room.

In the evening after taking a quick nap I decided to walk around. The best way to see Guanajuato is to walk and get lost in the baffling streets, walkways and hidden alleys. You could stumble upon a charming restaurant, boutique or roadside musicians. The colours of the buildings are bright and cheerful, just like I like them. Rest assured you may never get lost as you’ll come out in the centre of town eventually. My eyes couldn’t get enough of all the sights and sounds of the city. It was a Saturday night and the Plaza was buzzing with tourists. There was an art competition which was open to all artists and there were participants from all over the country. This was street art at its best and the artists had been drawing through the night. There were cash prizes and most of the artists were students and they were competing for the moolah.

IMG_4978-ANIMATIONtion @guanajuato

Evening marathon

Street food, street vendors, women selling handmade stuff and a blind old man selling candy with a crown on his head and had a placard asking you to take the candy and place the money in his bowl are few of the sights you may witness. I even saw a marathon taking place in the busy promenade but so well controlled by the cops and the public was enciuraging the participants. They were wearing Led lights on their shoes or wrists as it was late evening.

Teatro Juarez

Teatro Juarez

I could hear chants of once more once more coming from the Teatro Juarez. It is an architectural marvel and many things were brought to Mexico from other countries. There was a free live music band playing on the steps where an orchestra was creating a great atmosphere. A couple was dancing the Jarabe Tapatio which was energetic and full of life. The encores just wouldn’t stop, and the band complied.

Cathedral of Virgin Mary

There are numerous churches and cathedrals in and around the city. The vibrant yellow Basilica of the Lady of Guanajuato dominates the main plaza where the statue of the Virgin Mary dates to the 8th century. It was just opposite my hotel window and I left the best for the last. The facade is mannerist-baroque in style and the statue of the Virgin of Guanajuato, the city’s patron, was a gift from King Carlos V of Spain in 1557. I asked the bell-ringer how many times he rang the bell and he replied that he rang it whenever the spirit moved him. To my good fortune, I witnessed bride and groom leaving the Basilica the previous night and the next morning I saw several babies being baptised.

It was time to go to the bus station and I dragged myself away from all the pageantry that envelopes the streets of Guanajuato and headed back to the urban Guadalajara. Guanajuato is not just architectural or historical but is an entertaining and lively city with a great nightlife and a liberal atmosphere. Despite all this, it is surprising that Guanajuato is not as famous in the US or elsewhere on the travel map.

I fell in love with the city and I hope I could share a slice of my joy with you all.

Here is amazing Guanajuato in a Capsule….

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