The first stop of my week-long trip outside of Guadalajara is the wonderful town of Guanajuato. Its history dates back to 1559, when it was founded after huge gold and silver deposits were found in the surrounding area. In the Mexican War of Independence in 1810, the town played an important role as the site of the first battle against Spanish troops, who barricaded themselves inside the public granary, before suffering a devastating defeat at the hands of the rebel army.
Wandering through Guanajuato's cobblestoned lanes and alleys, which wind and twist themselves around the hillsides, I can't help but notice the decidely revolutionary feel emanating from every nook and cranny, be it from statues of important revolutionaries, commemorative plaques reminding passers-by of crucial moments, or the faces of the people, proud and reticent, seemingly ready to rise when faced with insurmountable injustice. The colonial buildings in the Centro Histórico are lavish and well-manicured. Beautiful churches, theatres and mansions are reminders of the great wealth that was amassed in the adjacent mines. Most of all, though, Guanajuato has a very artsy feel. It might be the brightly coloured houses hugging the hillsides, the multitude of galleries and artesanías shops or
the painted tiles used as street signs or house numbers. However, what I like most of all are the many plazas, some of which are grand and spacious, others small and intimate. There's even a word for the latter - plazuelas. How charming! The plazas are where the locals congregate, chat, grab a bite or set up makeshift food stalls.
I find a gem of a little guesthouse, tucked into a corner of a small callejón up a hill next to the Teatro Principal. The welcoming owner shows me the rooms, the communal kitchen and points me up to the rooftop terrace, where I watch the sunset after checking in. Outside, the town centre is brimming with Mexican tourists. Flocks of little kids are running around, brandishing all kinds of plastic or inflatable toys, while their parents are munching on tostadas and cups of steamed corn drenched in mayonnaise and chili.
Guanajuato is also where México's most famous muralist, Diego Rivera, was born. Unfortunately, I fail to see his boyhood home, now a museum, due to silly opening hours. Instead, I walk and explore. Around every corner I find a great view, breathtaking architecture, a quaint plaza, or
Monumento al Pípila
El Pípila is the nickname of a local hero from the War of Independence
something completely unexpected, such as the mariachi big band playing an enchanting song before announcing they're gonna be roaming the streets, and everyone is invited to join them.
I hike up to the statue of El Pípila, the local miner who risked his life to torch the door of the Alhóndiga - where the Spanish troops were hiding - in the early stages of the War of Independence. The vista across town is great, but I decide to continue up the mountains looming behind the giant statue. I grab a cup of diced pineapple to keep me going as I'm roasting in the merciless sun. Further up, the tourist crowds thin out until I'm the only one hiking. I scramble up a slightly precipitous path lined with treacherous rock debris. After about half an hour, I reach the top, from where one can overlook the whole town and its surroundings. There's no denying that México is a rather noisy country, but the silence up here is deafening. These are the moments that I enjoy the most. Travelling for me always involves a lot of hardship, much of which I'd be happy to do without, but just a few minutes
up a mountain in solitude and tranquility already makes it worth it. I have no idea how this country manages to make me feel so completely at ease, but if I stay much longer, I might not be able to let go anymore.
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