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Mexican Wi-Fi Revolution Continues — On To Guanajuato

August 25th, 2018 · Tags:Arts · Cities · Politics · Wi-Fi

Sometimes things just fall into place. For instance, when this blogger visited San Miguel de Allende a couple of weeks back, it seemed like the coolest place on the planet. However, now that I’ve seen Guanajuato City, the state capitol … I may like it even better. So glad the order worked out like it did.

Both cities, San Miguel and Guanajuato offer a cityscape of architectural “eye candy” most noticeably in the centuries-old cathedrals and colonial-era plazas. But San Miguel has a modern feel to it … the vibe from all the American and European ex-patriots living there. But, Guanajuato is “old world.”

 

Even the old market in the heart of downtown Guanajuato — Mercado de Hildago — is an architectural showpiece, at least on the outside. Inside the market has much the same flavor as the border cities I have visited. Everything is for sale in there. Raw, whole chicken hang dressed out in booths next to vendors pushing woven textiles and onyx chess sets and my favorite, wrestling masks and wrestling mask t-shirts.

 

Mercado Hildago

Somehow I had the good fortune to park about a block from the market, albeit I had to back up up a steep hill in my tiny rental and hit one heck of a tight parallel parking spot. Hey … I did take driver’s ed. class in Vega … I digress … So the spot was pretty measly and also rare. I saw several drivers who wanted it, but passed on by when the saw the dimensions. So fun to back up with one foot on the accelerator to climb the hill and the other foot on the brake to keep from rolling forward into the tiny car in front of me. Done.

As I have learned to do over the years, especially in foreign travels, I took several photos of the rental car itself and the license plate (they all look alike), as well as the street signs at the nearest intersection. IF my feeble memory failed me, I trusted my iPhone and my GPS … despite cell phone issues earlier in the trip.

On this day, the cell phone/GPS had steered me to the heart of Guanajuato, but it was touch and go. The old, old city is divided and circled by rough, bumpy-but-scenic cobble stone streets just about as wide as the two side mirrors on a nondescript rental car. Even more interesting, there are one-lane, long tunnels through the side of the mountain, everywhere. I think I drove the right direction through every one I encountered, but it was iffy at times. No head ons = scored a win.

And about that GPS … I am pretty sure the navigation app in my phone just kinda said “The hell with it.” With no apparent logic, the electronic voice instructed me to go up a hill and through a mountain tunnel, turn around, come down the mountain, through another tunnel, through a neighborhood, along a scenic overlook, and then kind of right back through all those same steps … or so it seemed. Somehow, after 15 minutes of roadway confusion, I saw the downtown plaza and cathedrals and parked.

 

Cafe En Route

The road to Guanajuato from Celaya (my operational base during this Mexico “Dirty Gig” project) was longer than the drive to San Miguel a week earlier … and more mundane, but oh so worth the extra effort. “Mundane” after a shaky start, that is. About 15 miles out of Celaya, I was zooming along (at the speed limit) when I noticed several cars in front of me turning on their hazard blinkers. THAT is one of the smartest things I have seen drivers do in Mexico. The more alert drivers realize, with all of the insane drivers around them — drivers who have no regard for any other human lives … drivers who are just trying to survive day-to-day “fo they ownseffs” — someone is very likely going to rear-end someone when traffic slows down abruptly or comes to a sudden stop for a wreck or traffic jam. More noticeable than my usual tap-tap-tap on the brakes to flash and alert the drivers behind me. I like it. I followed suit and turned those flashers on, baby, and watched as the less alert drivers approached from the rear … all too quickly.

Up ahead, just a few feet from an overpass was a bright red mass of carnage showing from under a blanket in the roadway, and several cars pulled to the side of the road … and lots of police who had the main thoroughfare shut down. Sadly, I am pretty sure someone fell or jumped from the bridge and was done in — in the most horrific way — by the traffic. So sad. We detoured to a tiny side road, but kept moving.

To Mexico’s credit … even though every, every intersection is crazy … most of the drivers have learned to take turns. No … no one stops at any of the four stop signs at a four-way stop … but as they keep moving, driven by some unwritten law … it works, most of the time. I digress …

Just as I had noticed on the road to San Miguel, once again bicyclists on modern lightweight touring bikes were attacking the highways. But my favorite cyclists in Mexico are the riders of necessity. Daily I saw guys riding in the dark, without lights, on dangerous two-lane, decrepit roadways … before sunrise … just happy to be on their way to a job where they made a living. Immediately, I saw more of these utility riders all over Guanajuato with various customizations … a bicycle with a built-on sun shade here, a half-bike half-frozen treat cart there … and my favorite the old guy with a special basket on the handle bars for his tools, and an open A-frame ladder somehow attached to his bike, and straddling him, forming a triangle over his head as he rode. You do what you have to do … Oh … that was an “escalara on una bicicleta” for those translating along at home …

 

Worship

After leaving my little car, I toured the market first and moved on. The next thing I saw was a little step down to a side entrance of some sort of church. Actually, it was the humble side entrance to a marvelous cathedral … but that was not readily apparent from the outside. … Kind of like the door to slip in to services, if you’re habitually late. And where the side vestibule joined the main aisle was one of several interior domes built into the structure. This little side dome must have been known for its acoustics, because one of the most heavenly little choirs I have ever heard was using that spot to amplify their voices.

There were probably 10 singers in the group — all dressed in decorative, knee-length white robes with colorful sashes — a few boys-choir types, an older gentleman or two, a couple of women and some young girls, as well. The perfect combination and variety of vocal ranges created one of the sweetest, most pure sounds I have ever heard. Heavenly. Darn it. They stopped, put on dark shades and all went outside for a cigarette break before I could record them with my iPhone. Well … kidding … but they did go on break.

 

I beat it back to the streets from that side door, walked around, and re-entered the big door of the cathedral. OH … the decorative, artistically carved doors of this city! The church, in all its splendor, might not have been as impressive as some of the basilicas in Rome … but it was close. So ornate … the mixture of craftsmanship and expensive materials to illustrate God’s holiness … or the wealth of the church, depending on with whom you discuss this.

 

 

6 Stunning Sacred Places of Guanajuato

Like San Miguel, Guanajuato was filled with tourists and sightseers and people watchers … and shoppers … but not the American/European ex-patriots of San Miguel. Guanajuato streets, cathedrals and plazas were overflowing with visitors, but they were the home-grown variety … and me … and two French girls studying abroad at some nearby business college. I can’t tell you how much I stood out with my goofy, long hair … even more than usual. But people were nice and seemed to either appreciate or find humor in my attempts at broken Español.

 

El Gente y Cacti

After walking in circles for a few hours and snapping selfies and postcard-esque photos here and there, I tackled my one real objective in Guanajuato. From my brief Internet research of the city, the one attraction I wanted to see — beyond the cathedrals, plazas and architecture — was the Diego Rivera museum, in the former home of perhaps the first- or second-most famous Mexican artist. If you have been reading along, previously this blog noted the ever-present image of another Mexican artist … Frida Kahlo. She and her iconic image are everywhere in Mexico.

Frida ‘n’ Me

Well, if you don’t know … Frida was married to Diego Rivera, although she wore the eyebrows in the family. (I can’t resist … just can’t get over her trademark unibrow … with all respect …) Rivera, a painter, is known primarily for his murals in cities throughout Mexico and the U.S.A. as well … and for his communist doctrine … Well … I like his art, anyway.

Diego Rivera

The museum is fairly easy to find, just a few blocks from the market, and it’s perfect distance on foot, located in a somewhat non-descript multi-level structure … perfect for a multi-tiered gallery with a central courtyard awash in natural light. Guests walk through and see a collection of family portraits and furniture that must have been the way things were during Diego days … and then also little patios and hallways and even a miniature theater featuring the artist’s work. Pretty cool.

But now Wi-Fi for guests … ahem!

Ha … the moment you walk through the doors visitors are instructed that no photographicos will be taken. Hey … I follow the rules (for the most part), even though I had my Nikon dangling from my neck. But, I suppose I must have looked like some long-haired rule breaker. EVERY time I turned a corner, this one museum docent was lurking in the shadows … following me … watching me … seemingly just daring me to take a photo. Ha … I showed her.

 

Manifesto?

I slipped around a corner, and with my mouth imitated the recognizable “cha-kik” sound of a 35 mm camera firing off a round. She popped around the corner, following the sound, and found me smiling at her … empty handed … and I made the sound again. “Cha-kik!” “Gotcha!” No translation was needed. We both laughed.

 

My last stop in Guanajuato should have been my first. What I mean … if you visit, I would highly recommend driving up the mountain overlooking the city and park on the streets near the huge statue that towers above, and avoid the congested streets “abajo.” High up on the mountain is El Monumento al Pipila. It is huge … a statue dedicated to Pipila, a native miner who was killed after taking up arms against the Mexican government in a revolt. Mexico does love a good revolutionary.

 

While the statue is impressive and draws in a huge crowd of selfie-seekers, a dude dressed like the Grim Reaper to spice up your selfie … a family celebrating a quinciñera (a young woman’s introduction to society, so to speak) or two … and just every type of people … It is all about the view. Magnifico!

 

Grim

Is there anything more beautiful in Latin culture than the multi-colored pastels and also bright, bright vibrant colors of stucco and plaster buildings … all displayed so perfectly, in all directions. Flower-like purples, flaming shades of orange, cactus green, sunrise yellow … every imaginable variation of sky blue and ocean blue too …

 

15

There is a very inexpensive monorail/elevator lift for transport up the mountain, requiring only a short wait on line. It was that very line where I met a young man who became my only Peruvian/Iowa Hawkeye friend, now living in and loving Mexico. Nice guy. Ha … as we discussed our alma maters, he was quick to tell me he has learned to love American football more than futbol. Didn’t see that coming …

 

Street Vendor, Burros

So anywho … you can park up there, sightsee and shoot a few panoramic, colorful shots of Guanajuato and then casually ride the lift down the mountain, and sightsee away.

Know what I sayin?