I wanted to make one more post about my trip to Mexico, specifically about the city of Guanajuato. Guanajuato is a large city in Guanajuato state, built across some hills and dry riverbeds. I only had half a day to spend in Guanajuato, but it made an impression on me and I wish I could have spent more time there.
The first thing that struck me about the city were the colors of the houses on the hills. They were spectacular. These pictures have a nasty glare, but it was the best I could do with the camera I had.
Guanajuato is one of the main cities of El Bajío, so it is chock full of history, including an important siege/battle of the Mexican War of Independence. The rebels were victorious, but many non-combatants were slaughtered after the siege was broken. This had the effect of turning many wealthy landowners against the independence cause, prolonging the war considerably. The Alhóndiga de Granaditas, the site of the slaughter, is now a museum on the history of the war and a memorial to the heroes of the war, but it fails to mention the atrocities that were committed within the walls and the effect that they had on the war efforts.
Historical realism aside, Guanajuato is an academic city with a large and prestigious university. It plays host to a number of artists and galleries. I liked this about the city, and it has lent the city some odd obsessions, including frogs, Don Quijote, and mummies.
The city is dry, and there are not many frogs around. However, the name Guanajuato has something to do with frogs in the native Mexican language that prevailed in the area, so the city has embraced its amphibious heritage. There are a number of statues of frogs scattered around the city, as well as a park dedicated to frog statues.
I don’t know why the city is mildly obsessed with Cervantes, but they host a massive Cervantes festival every year, there are statues of the deluded knight around the city, and they even have a Quijote museum which showcases art inspired by the novel. Like the frogs, I missed most of this unfortunately, so I don’t have any ironic photos to post here.
Guanajuato is also known for mummies. There is something about the local geology and climate that mummifies corpses interred above ground. They claim it is the only place in the world where this happens. The Egyptian mummies and Peruvian mummies are mummified deliberately through special treatments, not naturally. The city has an entire museum dedicated to its mummies, and they are fairly creepy. They all have wide open mouths and eye sockets, which is a product of the skin, muscles, and tendons drying out and tightening. They also had a mummy of a woman buried alive, a woman who was pregnant, and babies and children.
In classic Guanajuato fashion, the mummies have inspired a number of artistic works. A B-movie was made about them back in 1970 called Las Momias de Guanajuato. It featured famous Mexican wrestlers. In addition, Ray Bradbury wrote a short story based on them called Next in Line and Werner Herzog shot some footage for Nosferatu at the museum. I found the whole B-movie on YouTube. Feast your eyes:
It snowed yesterday here in NY, and there is more headed our way tomorrow, so I am getting out of Dodge a day early and heading to San Francisco tonight. I’m fortunate enough to have friends there who are hosting me tonight, and then tomorrow I am going to fly to Australia, my last stop before I begin my Peace Corps service in Nicaragua.