A Quick Update

In 2010, we moved back to the small town in Colorado that I never stopped missing while we lived in Mexico. Now I sometimes miss Mexico, but I wouldn't travel as freely as we did when we were there, camping out in remote areas and so forth.

Mexico today is in a period of change, and in many ways it is more dangerous now. That said, I have plenty of American friends who still live there very happily, just taking a few more precautions than they did in the past.

Just to say!

Rosana

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Guanajuato was for centuries one of the richest cities in Mexico, as countless wealth poured out of its silver mines. This was before Mexico had gained its independence, and much of the wealth went to Spain — perhaps part of the reason that Guanajuato played an important part in the story of Mexican independence.

Enough wealth stayed in Guanajuato to make this one of the most beautiful small cities in Mexico. It’s often called the most European of Mexican cities. Ornate cathedrals and theaters, and palatial mansions, still exist today. The city was declared a World Heritage site by the United Nations, and this has led to some strict limits on what can be built in the historic central area.

Its residents have a lot of pride in Guanajuato. One day, as we were walking down a steep street, a dump truck came laboring up the one-lane road ahead of us, with two or three cars behind it. Oblivious to the traffic behind him, the driver ground his truck to a halt and called out to us in English, “Hello, my friends! How are you? You like my city?” We answered that indeed we did, and traffic resumed.

There are neither neon lights nor traffic lights in Guanajuato, and the traffic is handled in an unusual way. Since the area under the city had been mined extensively over the centuries, old tunnels existed and they have been turned into underground streets. Newer tunnels have been added in recent years, and more are planned, so much of the cross-town traffic doesn’t have to go through downtown. This has allowed many of the downtown streets to become pedestrian-only.

In addition, many of the routes up and down the steep hillsides are narrow walkways, complete with steps. Many steps. This is a city for people who like to walk.

The population is around 75,000. It’s sometimes reported as close to twice that much, a number which includes the surrounding region. Some 20,000 students at the prestigious University of Guanajuato add to the character of this unique city. At 6,700 feet, it enjoys a nice climate year-round.

Guanajuato draws tourists from Mexico, Europe, the United States, Canada, and other countries. Quite a few foreigners live here but it’s not an expat center like nearby San Miguel de Allende, only an hour or so away. One day in the downtown area, I walked past a couple of foreign young men, and one of them was saying with a British accent, “It’s a tourist town here.” I laughed to myself, knowing that mainly the tourists stay right in the area we were in.

Things to do include

  • Visiting museums: There’s the birthplace of artist Diego Rivera with some of his art, the Don Quixote museum, the museum of the city of Guanajuato, the historic Alhondiga, the gruesome but popular Museum of the Mummies, and more. There are also several fine old churches.
  • Exploring the city: on foot, taking the tram up to the statue of the freedom fighter Pipila, or driving the Panoramic Highway which circles around the city high above it. The pretty suburb Marfil can be visited, too.
  • Shopping in the ornate Mercado in some of the many chic or funky shops.
  • Enjoying good food in all price ranges. Since there are many students here, there are many inexpensive yet tasty cafes. Our favorite budget restaurant is the art-filled Truco 7, where we recently had a delicious four-course afternoon lunch for 70 pesos (about $6.50 US)… that was the total before tip for both of us. The photo shows a few of the hundreds of paintings and photos on the walls. At the higher end of the scale, try the restaurants and outdoor cafes around the Jardin de la Union, Guanajuato’s main plaza.
  • People-watching… there’s a never-ending and fascinating variety of activity. Click for a slide show of people walking along a sidewalk in Guanajuato. It’s 15 photos my husband made from one spot.
  • Stroll around downtown behind black-robed singing students on Friday nights. You can buy a ticket at one of the tourist kiosks, which entitles you to a funny-shaped bottle of wine when you start out near the Jardin, but you can also just join in. It’s all very jolly. We saw one of these groups one evening when we had something else to do, and it was very enticing. Almost everyone in that group was Mexican and pretty young. It would be a fun way to meet people. Guanajuato also offers quite a variety of musical events, from orchestral to jazz to whatever, and quite a lot of theater.
  • For two to three weeks in October, attend Guanajuato’s annual Cervantino, or International Cervantes Festival, in honor of that great Spanish writer but consisting of every kind of performance you can imagine: plays, opera, dance, readings, and more by performers from all over the world. (Make reservations months in advance for this.)

There is truly a lot to do and see around Guanajuato. Its lively and interesting ambiance are one of the reasons it’s one of our very favorite places in Mexico.

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