Located in the Mexican state of Guanajuato, this city (photos) was founded in the mid-1500’s based upon the discovery of rich silver and gold deposits. The La Valenciana mine held one of the richest silver veins ever discovered, providing 20% of the world’s silver for 250 years.
Guanajuato sits along the slopes of a steep ravine with the historical center winding along the narrow floor of the valley. There don’t seem to be any straight streets in Guanajuato. There are a couple of narrow streets that allow vehicles to drive through the historical center but mostly you must explore on foot by wandering the narrow alleys or callejones. The most visited alleyway is callejone del beso, the kissing alley where the balconies on either side almost touch. A Romeo and Juliet type of legend has it that young lovers exchanged furtive kisses from opposite balconies. Ultimately, the romance was discovered and the couple met a tragic end. There are lots of lovely shaded plazas and outdoor cafes available for when you feel the need to rest. Jardin de la Union is the city’s main plaza that is shaped like a pizza wedge with uniformly shaped trees providing lots of shade at any time of day. In the evening it is a beehive of activity with roving musicians and strolling tourists.
Overlooking the historic section of the city is Monumento a El Pipila. Pipla is an important figure in the struggle for independence from the Spanish. In 1810, the Spanish forces were besieged by 20,000 Mexican rebels and took refuge in a large grain warehouse called Alhondiga. It appeared that they would be safe from the rebels and outlast them. But a young miner named Juan Jose de los Reyes Martinez (El Pipila) tied a stone to his back and was able to set fire to the main gate to Alhondiga. The rebels were able to break through the gates and kill all of the Spanish troops striking a major blow for independence. There is a small funicular that makes the trip up to the monument or there are stairs that lead to the top as well.
Another “must see” if the Teatro Juarez, built between 1873 and 1903.
One of the nearby attractions is Christo Rey. The 20 meter tall (65 feet) bronze statue of Christ stands atop Cerro de Cubilete about 15km west of the city. This location is said to be the exact geographic center of Mexico. The people of Mexico like having Christ at the center of their country. To get there we took a bus from the center of Guanajuato to make the trip through the mountains to the west. The last half of the drive was over rough unpaved roads. Once there we had about 30 minutes to snap some pictures and get a snack before the bus left for the return trip.
Guanajuato is a lovely city that seems to attract tourists from many places and is well worth the visit.