It took me a while to get to Guanajuato (the capital city of the state, not the state itself – I’d already spent aaages in San Miguel de Allende weeks prior to that) but when I did eventually make it there, I fell in love almost instantly.
Within a few hours of being there, I was set on spending a good amount of time in this gorgeous city. I don’t know if it was the quaint cobblestone streets, or the colorfully painted houses, or the wonderful views, or the endless events going on in the city, but I fell in love, and I fell hard.
Here are some highlights and a tiny glimpse into what ended up being almost 6 weeks of my time in Mexico.
Disclaimer: The pictures do not do the city justice at all. I’m a terrible photographer, I’ve dropped my phone enough times that the cameras are out of alignment and most of my photos come out blurry (please let me know if you have a solution for this), and Guantajuato is just a city that is best experienced IRL. Also, this is the worst, most disjointed post I’ve ever written. Sorry.
Teatro Juarez – I never did get to go in, but the outside was really pretty too. I loved that Guanajuato always had something going on. Plays, musical performance, film screenings and a million other things (there was an event showcasing Japanese culture too!) which made the city so vibrant.
Universidad de Guanajuato, also featured on the 1000 peso bill! Heads up – if you’re in Mexico, and you have one of these bills, you’re in trouble because nobody ever has change. Also, I’m on a semi-mission to take pictures of all the places on the bills. Missing the 100, 200, and 500 peso bills right now!
Alhondiga (which always made me think of meatballs, but actually means warehouse / granary). Also a museum about the history of Mexico, the region, and everything. Also the scene of an important even in the struggle for independence. VIVA MEXICO!
**Also, Happy Day of El Grito de La Independencia to Mexico, in advance of Sept 15-16.**
Mercado Hidalgo – originally meant to be a train station, but they didn’t put in the tracks? Today, it’s a market where people sell just about everything, but mostly food and artesanias. Someone told me it was designed by the same guy who designed the Eiffel Tower, and bears similarities to the train station in Antwerp, Belgium, but I’m not 100% convinced this is true. It’s still a very pretty building.
Amanda came to visit!!! We ate Enchiladas Mineras (basically regular enchiladas with carrots and potatoes), and did a lot of wandering around the city / drinking mezcal and tequila / getting sick. Thanks for being such a good sport, chica!
One of the murals from one of my favorite bars in town – La Llamarada de Los Espiritus – featuring one of my favorite plants, maguey, which makes the very delicious pulque, a prehispanic fermented beverage a.k.a. drink of the gods.
Guanajuato is famous for its mummy museum, the only place in the world (I think) where the mummification process happened naturally, turning these buried people into perfectly preserved mummies in a span of 6-10 years. It was eerie, mildly horrifying, and rather disturbing. I feel it should have come with a warning before we entered.
The cemetery where the mummification process took place (okay maybe not, idk). But that’s actually how they discovered that buried people were becoming mummified – they ran out of space in the cemetery and dug up the bodies to move them to smaller plots and discovered the mummies. So. Weird.
Touristing with Amanda. There are some pretty amazing murals in various buildings in the city. This was in La Alhondiga. And no, the people in white robes are not KKK members, that actually has something to do with the Church traditions and penance and Semana Santa.
Tunnel-exploring. Guanajuato is built atop a complex maze of tunnels (where I was dropped off when I first arrived and thought I was gonna be robbed but turned out to be a normal part of life here). Interestingly, these tunnels were not originally intended for traffic, but rather as canals to deal with the problem with flooding, but then were paved over to deal with the increasing traffic situation. Don’t know what happened to the flooding. Hm.
The Guanajuato International Film Festival (GIFF) coincided with my stay there. Lots of great free movie screenings, short films, animations, VR experiences etc. Such a great vibe in the city and also when I discovered my favourite song about Guanajuato, by Santa Fe Klan.
Also the theme song of a great film, Huachicolero, The Gasoline Thieves, which premiered at the festival and was nominated at Tribeca this year.
Museo Ex Hacienda San Gabriel de Barrera – gorgeous little gardens in this random place. Shout out to Diego and his dad for letting me tag along 😀
So Guanajuato is named for the millions of frogs that live there. Or something like that. It means “Place of the Frogs” in one of the indigenous languages. I did not see a single live frog in my time there, but there was a plaza full of frog statues.
Guanajuato is oddly obsessed with Don Quixote. I counted at least six different statues of Don Quixote, and several more of Cervantes. It’s also host to the Festival International Cervantino, a mega showcase of the arts in October. I digress. The most giant statue of Don Quixote in town. Regular humans can reach about his shoe. Slightly larger than regular human featured sitting on Don Quixote’s shoulder. They’re so obsessed, there’s a Don Quixote museum, filled with over 2,000 images, artifacts and random things to do with Don Quixote. Now, that’s an obsession. Los voladores! They set up “camp” in the plaza in front of La Alhondiga a few days after I arrived. I loved watching them, and I watched them multiple times (a day, sometimes) while I was there. Delightful! It was also my birthday at some point in the midst of this, so I treated myself to a delicious lunch (delicious pork belly dish featured) and a temazcal (Mexican herbal / cleansing steam bath) which was an amazing experience that I would 100% do again. I was also featured in the Singapore national newspaper, The Straits Times, which was my 5 seconds of fame, yay! And also a nice surprise / birthday treat to know that my 30 years of life have not been a complete waste. (And maybe also to know that my parents can now be proud of my vagrant lifestyle.) #NeedValidationofMyLifeChoices
I also went on a traditional Callejoneada – it’s a tradition where students from the university take you on a walking/ singing tour of the streets and share some stories, anecdotes, and anecdotes about the city. It was amusing and entertaining, but it did seem like some “students” had given up on ever graduating and getting a real job.
El Pipila! There’s some debate about whether he was a real person who was instrumental (he carried a very large rock?) in the Spanish defeat in Mexico’s struggle for independence, or a representation of all the indigenous people who fought in the war. In any case, he is now a symbol of the city!
Lots of nice churches in Guanajuato. Note: The Cathedral is (imho) not the nicest or the biggest. I got a bit annoyed that they put up banners against abortion at some point at all the churches in the city, but whatever. Religious freedom.
Guanajuato is also one of the few cities (only city?) in Mexico that is not built around a central Zocalo or plaza, but has many small plazas around the city. Probably because it was too difficult to find a good place to put a plaza in this incredibly hilly town. But all the plazas are incredibly quaint.
The region is famous for being rich in minerals and Guanajuato is one of many mining towns. Obviously a trip to the mines was a must. I did not find any silver (or precious metals), at Bocamina unfortunately.
La Presa de Olla (somewhere down below), and the random lighthouse on top of a hill. Could not for the life of me figure out why there’s a lighthouse in a very landlocked area FAR from ships / boats / the sea.
It’s also where Diego Rivera was born and lived the first six years of his life. His old home is now a museum. Despite his life choices and certain convictions he held, he was an incredibly talented artist.
Clowning around at El Cristo Rey (Mexico’s version of Cristor Redentor in Brazil).
The view from Cristo Rey was pretty cool. Lots of green. We spent a decent amount of time figuring out where other cities in the area were. There was also a street full of ladies hawking all-you-can-eat buffets for 50 pesos. So hard to choose! But we finally went with the lady who said we were breaking her heart by not eating there. Cute little abuelita.
Ah, I will miss my daily cup of coffee at my favourite coffee places, Cafe Tal and Cafe Conquistador.
But I will particularly miss just wandering down different streets and alleys and getting lost in the charming streets of this delightful town.
Oh, mi Guanajuato ❤ I’ll be back.