A Glimpse of Guanajuato

4 Jul

My latest trip included a visit to a historic city in Mexico called Guanajuato. As you roam through the streets of this beautiful place, you notice not only the incredible colonial architecture (churches, theaters, government buildings, markets), but also several references to frogs. After fruitlessly asking cab drivers (tip: cabs are the least expensive and most effective way to get around) and locals for the meaning of these frogs, I finally asked a well-versed tour guide, who explained that in the indigenous language, the word Guanajuato means a place full of frogs .

One of the many ceramic frogs seen around town

The city is especially known for two things — mummies and mines. While making my way to the mummy museum, I was picturing decorated tombs and artifacts. Not as glamorous as the Egyptian equivalent we are used to seeing in the Metropolitan Museum, but along those lines. However, the mummy museum was like nothing I could have ever imagined. Guanajuato’s soil is rich with minerals, and so some bodies were mummified naturally and placed around the walls of the museum — with no decorative tombs or artwork to mitigate the sinister feeling you have walking in.

Hallway at the mummy museum

Adding to the eerie feeling, the faces of the mummies gave the impression people died in pain (but I learned their jaws dropped post-mortem). I cautiously continued through the hallways, only to find mummified fetuses and small children as well.

The continuation of the exhibit was the museum of torture, where you could see several instruments used for those purposes—at this point, however, my stomach was turning and I had to go out for some fresh air. While outside, I saw several school kids on a field trip making their way into the museum. This made me think about how Mexican culture has a closer relationship with death and how this museum is important to the local economy, since it is one of the main tourist attractions and the people of Guanajuato depend largely on tourism for income.

Our next stop was the San Ramon mine. Our tour guide was extremely thorough — he started his explanations above ground and ended them 18 meters into the ground. While we were down there, the air already seemed heavy and hot and we were barely inside the mine. This particular mine, by the way, ran almost 350 meters deep when it was active.

Inside the San Ramon mine

Although the mines and mummies are the main reasons tourists come to this city, the most incredible parts of Guanajuato for me were the extensive underground tunnels. Originally built to run the river underneath the city, today they are amazing tunnels that I was driven through in taxi cabs. The narrow tunnels are made of rock and form an intricate underground maze — I was glad I had experienced drivers to guide me through them!

At night, Guanajuato comes alive with several bars, rooftop parties and clubs located near a famous theater, Teatro Juarez. Since everybody is incredibly warm and welcoming, and with plenty tequila-based concoctions, Guanajuato will definitely be a good time for whoever decides to venture through its streets.

Quick Tips:

Eat: Chilaquiles, enchiladas, tacos, sopa azteca

Drink: Micheladas, Vampiros, Palomas

Stay: Hotel Real de Minas, Hotel Misión Guanajuato

Fly: Leon/Guanajuato, Del Bajio (BJX) – Airport

-Flávia

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One Response to “A Glimpse of Guanajuato”

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  1. Beaches and Mussels (no, this is not a typo!) « The Daisy Chain - September 17, 2012

    […] you know, I took some time off in July and went to Guanajuato, Mexico (read this entry here)! During this trip, I also visited […]

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