A historic walk through Guanajuato, México
January 1, 1970
by Alejandra Gutierrez
If you are looking for a place to travel full of history, colorful streets and so many things to do: The city is your perfect place.
Guanajuato is a city in the state of Guanajuato. I believe that’s one of the reasons this city is so famous; you hear the name once, then the second time it has to get stuck in your head. Even though this city is not the capital of this beautiful state, it is definitely a city you have to visit when you come to Mexico. It is situated in the north center of Mexico and it borders with Jalisco, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosí, Querétaro, and Michoacán, which are some other main states in the country. Because of its location, the weather can go from sunny and hot, to chilly in the same day, but I consider it never gets too hot. You can always walk around its beautiful streets without feeling like you’re going to pass out because of the heat.
To start off, you should know a little bit of its historical context because it is what makes visiting this city such a complete and wonderful experience for everyone, especially for history and art lovers. The city, back in the 1540s, was very important for the Spanish people because they found a lot of deposits of gold. About 270 hundred years later, on September 15, 1810, Mexican Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla gave the Grito de Independencia, in front of the Alhondiga de Granaditaswhich was the first battle against Spanish troops. Then, 50 years later, there was the French intervention because of the gold, but the Mexican fought against it. Finally, in 1870 the mining was reactivated, and a lot of new projects were started, projects that now a day are the must-see locations of this city.
Since I am a literature student, I was very excited to visit this city because everyone told me it was full of museums, art and even better, references to famous writers. I did a 5-hour road trip with all my family last spring break and it was a wonderful experience, the only problem was that there was a lot of people because those days were Días Santos, when every catholic person does the pilgrimage, and since Guanajuato is a city with a lot of churches and religious culture everyone wants to walk to those churches. You may think it’s not that big of a problem, but let me tell you, Guanajuato has some of the tiniest aisles I’ve walked through.
You can sense the feeling of arriving in Guanajuato being kilometers away. Everything becomes historical, the streets are not of pavement anymore, and all the walls are built of bricks. If you plan on arriving in Guanajuato in a car, like me, you have to pay attention the first minute you enter the city because the streets look so much alike that you can get lost very easy.
The ideal thing you should do is park your car near downtown and start walking everywhere from there.
While walking you’re going to see a lot of small stores, coffee shops, restaurants, and even people on the sidewalk selling all kind of stuff. I recommend you to first see every little craft and choose what to buy once you’ve been through every store and salesman.
Even on the streets, there are a lot of different artists: there are musicians, some in bands other ones playing solo, actors representing historical characters, mimes, men painted standing still; for the kids, you will find clowns doing special shows, people selling balloons, and others, playing with balloons and balls to entertain the children.
Must see locations
This was the spot I was most eager to visit because it has been the venue for years of a famous art festival called Festival Cervantino. This theatre was built in XIX century and has been in use since then. From the outside, you can its spectacular architecture. As you can see in the picture, the 6 columns in front of the entrance resemble to a Greek template that is always surrounded by columns.
Once you’re inside the theatre, you are taken to a unique experience as if you were inside a European cinema: horseshoe shape, four orders of boxes and general settings. I didn’t consider the decoration as totally European because it has some details that resemble some oriental influence.
Everything you want to know about this theatre will be told by the expert in charge of giving the tour, which only cost 50 pesos, but if you have your student ID, it will be free. From my point of view, this is one of the most important places to visit. You will love the feeling of being a high society woman enjoying fancy theatre plays.
Legislative Palace of Guanajuato
Another spot really cool to visit is the Legislative Palace of Guanajuato. The time I was there, it was closed, but we were really intrigued to see it, that I don’t really remember how we convinced the guard that was in the principle entrance that he let us in. The place is perfect, is really clean, the dark colors with a professional but kind of secret vibe, the wood is impeccable and the feeling of being inside one of the places where important meetings take place was really pleasant.
Iconographic Museum of Quixote
Because there are so many things to do in Guanajuato, choosing which museums you are going to visit can be a really complicated decision. Since I love literature, I went to the Iconographic Museum of Quixote, it’s full of art pieces about El Quixote or works of arts referring to the literature work.
Here you can find books, chessboards, sculptures, paintings and writing related to the famous character in the novel. I enjoyed so much every work of art because of my fandom of the classic novels, but maybe if you are not that of a big fan, it’s not a very important place to visit. You can enjoy some works from the outside of the museum, or in the open space where people go in to buy something.
Memory and Tolerance Museum
Another museum I appreciated visiting was the Memory and Tolerance Museum in which you could scenes from mid-XIX century, recreating how people were tortured. It is a very interesting experience because you can really get the insight of those actions. The museum is dark, cold and even feels kinds of creepy and lonely. It can be very interesting for the whole family because it becomes an interactive experience because some of the puppets that represent the slavery have movements.
As I’ve shown you, Guanajuato is famous for a lot of things, but the most important one is the Museum of the Mummies. This museum consists of mummified bodies of people that died in the cholera outbreak in this city around 1833. Supposedly, these bodies were naturally mummified, because of the weather, when they disinterred when a tax hadn’t been paid, and they were taking to an abandoned building.
Because of the fame of this museum, the line is very long, usually a wait of an hour and a half – two hours, but from my point of view, it’s worth the wait because you can see up close bodies that died almost 2 centuries ago.
The last place I went to be the spot where the El Pípila Monument is. This monument is a man holding a flaming torch, honoring the man, Juan José de los Reyes Martínez Amaro, who was an important man in the Mexican war of independence. The importance of this spot it’s that it gives you a beautiful panoramic view of the whole city. It doesn’t matter if you go at night or day because it still looks stunning. We went at night, so we got to see the whole city lighted up.
To get to this spot you can ride the funicular, but watch out, it closes. And that’s what happened to me and my family, so we had to go back down by walking a lot of steps. And believe me, it’s very tiring.
I did this trip around the city in one day, so it was very exhausting, and I didn’t get to see all the must-see spots there are, but I am pretty sure it is an extraordinary city and you will never get tired of discovering all the magic it has. You should definitely go to visit it and stay at a local hotel, so you can feel like a local and enjoy the whole Mexican – historic experience like it should be.