Published: April 28th 2008April 28th 2008
Last weekend we took a trip with the program to a small city in the state of Guanajuato. Being the capital city, it was also named Guanajuato. It was about three hours on a cushy charter bus, then we stopped off at our hotel at the top of a huge hill. I got in a couple hours of sleep before our three and a half hour tour started. This city has amazing history and architecture. Tons of tourists, I felt like I was in Disneyland, but it made sense, considering all the attractions. The city was originally found by the P´urepeca Indians, as their empire spread. They cherished the region for its numerous varieties of clay. The original P´urepeca name meant "Land Where the Mountains Look Like Frogs", changed to Guanajuato by the Spaniards who couldn´t pronounce the original name (which I can´t spell). When the Spanish arrived, they found in the mountains veins of silver, which they followed to deposits, which they then mined. The region was wealthy for a while due to these silver booms, and built their large, beautiful buildings accordingly. All of the streets are cobblestone, and there are many small callejones (allies), which are only for pedestrians. Most of the visible streets contain no cars, because they run through plazas and are too narrow to accomodate traffic. The cars, however, dive underground in order to traverse the city.
Originally, the city was build near a large river, that would frequently flood from the water coming down from the mountains. After many years of restoring the city by building on top of the flooded remains, the people built underground tunnels to serve as sewers to carry the water out. The main underground street was the original river bed. Eventually, however, they decided to build a dam to divert the river. In the rainy seasons, these tunnels still carry out potential flood water, but they mainly serve as roads and tourist attractions (I almost got hit by several cars while gawking at the amazing architecture of these arced tunnels).
The buildings are equally as beautiful, built from sandstone that, because of the different metal deposits, comes in a variety of colors. There are many museums, such as one dedicated to the legendary figure from Spain, Don Quijote, and one dedicated to the history of the Mexican revolution, which involved a march route that ran through Guanajuato. Here also is situated the birthplace of Diego Rivera, the famous muralist. His birthplace is an enormous house, which he and his family had to leave very early in his life, but now it contains antique furniture from his era, some of which really belonged to his family, along with hundreds of his works. I never realized how diverse an artist he was. He was involved in many styles, and became proficient in whatever he tried.
There is another museum on top of a hill dedicated to mummies. There was a cementary located in the city that at one point they wanted to move to another location, so they dug up all the bodies, only to find that a lot of them hadn´t decomposed, but been preserved. This may have been due to the dry conditions and the anaerobic conditions in their tombs. If the family of the dead could not pay for them to be relocated, however, the city became in charge of the bodies, which they put into a museum. Pretty interesting. A little creepy, but not so much after studying so much anatomy. They were just leftover shells.
Saturday night most of the group went down into town to find a place to dance, but I was tired so a friend and I just walked around to see what the city was like at night. We ended up finding a small plaza where there was a Lucha Libre fight going on, Mexico´s version of WWF. It was really fake, but the acrobatics were cool, and it was funny to see how much the crowd got into it, throwing things at the fighters and cheering and yelling. We´ve been learning about this cultural phenomenon in class, so it was interesting to see it for real.
Overall, one of the coolest cities I´ve visited. However, I couldn´t be more excited about going to the beach on a self-planned trip, without teachers and tour and schedules, and just relaxing for a few days. Until next time, take care, and much love to everyone.