Guanajuato City, Mexico

The view of Guanajuato from high on the hill. I really enjoyed this town and if I come back to Mexico to teach again, I would strongly consider this city.

Easter weekend, we visited the city of Guanajuato, the capital of the state of Guanajuato. It’s beautiful and there is lots to do there. If I come back to Mexico, this is a city I will strongly consider.

Dinner outside with the family in one of the town squares. Left to right: Hugo, Ivan Jr., Meliza’s father, Meliza and Ivan Sr. The weather was perfect, though there was a brief shower.

Guanajuato was the site of the first battle of the Mexican War of Independence between insurgent and royalist troops at the Alhóndiga de Granaditas, which you’ll see below. The city was named a World Heritage Site in 1988.

There’s lots of history here. According to Wikipedia” “The Alhóndiga de Granaditas (Regional Museum of Guanajuato) (public granary) is an old grain storage building in Guanajuato City, Mexico. This historic building was created to replace an old granary near the city’s river. The name translates roughly from both Arabic and Spanish as grain market or warehouse. Its construction lasted from 1798 to 1809, by orders of Juan Antonio de Riaño y Bárcena, a Spaniard who was the quartermaster of the city during the Viceroyalty of New Spain. The building received World Heritage listing as part of the Historic Town of Guanajuato in 1988.”

The family from the base of the statue, El Pípila. This is a great hero of Mexican independence.

According to Wikipedia: “El Pípila is the nickname of a local hero of the city of Guanajuato in Mexico. His real name was Juan José de los Reyes Martínez Amaro (1782–1863), son of Pedro Martínez and María Rufina Amaro. Word for a hen turkey, it is said his nickname stands for his freckled face (similar to that of a turkey egg) or his laughter resembling the bird’s peculiar gargle.”

“Pípila, became famous for an act of heroism near the very beginning of the Mexican War of Independence, on 28 September 1810. The insurrection had begun in the nearby town of Dolores, led by Miguel Hidalgo, a criollo priest born in Pénjamo. He soon moved to the city of Guanajuato, Guanajuato, where the Spanish barricaded themselves–along with plenty of silver and other riches–in a grain warehouse known as the Alhóndiga de Granaditas. The granary was a stone fortress with high stone walls, but its wooden door proved to be a shortcoming.
With a long, flat stone tied to his back to protect him from the muskets of the Spanish troops, Pípila carried tar and a torch to the door of the Alhóndiga and set it on fire. The insurgents–who far outnumbered the Spanish in the warehouse–stormed inside and killed all the soldiers and the civil Spanish refugees. Some accounts say that Pípila was not alone but went accompanied by other indigenous miners ready to fight for their freedom from the Spanish, but as the story is told today in Guanajuato, Pípila stood alone to break through the door.”

The view from El Pipila.
From Wikipedia: “The stone monument of a muscular man, holding aloft a flaming torch, towers on a hill at the edge of the city. Visitors can ride on a funicular to and from the monument, or they can walk up one of several steep stairways to the top. At the base of the monument, a series of broad stone plazas provides plenty of space for the numerous camera-carrying tourists and young lovers. From the foot of the monument, they have a fantastic view of the whole city of Guanajuato.”

If you look at the top of the mountain in the distance, you can see the statue of El Pipila. Below, you see an entrance to one of the many tunnels below the city.
This was Easter Sunday.
As you can see, the city is in a valley, but has extended up the sides of the nearby mountains.
Lots of street commerce, but I really enjoyed the street performers and the many folks dressed in costume. It was very busy, but then this was Easter weekend. I wonder if there’s much going on during a normal weekend?
This city is a rabbit warren of intersecting tunnels, plazas, circles and narrow streets. With the mountains, there’s no grid pattern. Learning to get around would be difficult.
The entrance to the Universidad de Guanajuato. According to Wikipedia: “The Universidad de Guanajuato (in English, the University of Guanajuato) is a university based in the Mexican state of Guanajuato, made up of about 33,828 students in programs ranging from high school level to the doctorate level. Over 17,046 of those are pursuing undergraduate, masters, and doctorate degrees. The university offers 153 academic programs, including 13 doctorates, 39 masters programs, and 65 bachelor’s degrees. The university has schools in fourteen cities throughout the state of Guanajuato.”

In front of the University.
So many balconies and plants.
Much better signage than most Mexican cities, particularly considering this isn’t quite as touristy as Mexico City or San Miguel de Allende. There’s lots to see and we only had about 24 hours.
This is the Templo de la Compania. According to a sign in front: “It is said that the miners worked day and night to complete the building. The Church of the Company of Jesus was one of the largest constructions by the Jesuit order of New Spain. The Jesuits first sited a hospice here in 1732, while building on the church began in 1742 and was completed in 1765.
The project was overseen by the Bethlehemite friar Jose de la Cruz. The design is centered on a single tower which the mater of works, Felipe de Urena subsequently decorated with its present facade in the ornate Currigueresque style consisting of three doors and a series of niches for Jesuit saints. A large part of the building’s atrium, which served as a cemetery, was lost in the 19th century.”

We stayed in a Holiday Inn, way too expensive, but very nice. This is the view of the pool from the 5th floor.
….and a view of the dining area. Breakfast was included and was quite good. The hotel was quite a ways from the downtown area, so if I’d been alone, I’d have never stayed here. It’s OK if you have a car, but parking is pricey downtown, too.

Mummies of Guanajuato

The mummies (momias) of Guanajuato

Over Easter weekend, the family I live with let me come along on a trip to Guanajuato. I don’t think anyone else in the family was interested, but I wanted to see the mummies and they humored me. Nice folks!

But before you think Egyptian mummies, these folks were not prepared for becoming mummies. There’s no linen wrapped bodies or pyramids. Most weren’t even embalmed. These folks, or the people who prepared their bodies, certainly didn’t expect the bodies to be put on display. No, these corpses are only about 150 years old (or less) and come from a nearby cemetery. They weren’t buried in the ground (with one exception), but entombed and simply dried out. The air is quite dry here, the soil alkaline and the tombs isolated the bodies from the elements and many organisms,. Unfortunately, their tombs had been rented, not purchased, so when the families couldn’t pay, or couldn’t be found, they were put here, in Museo de las Momias de Guanajuato.

By US standards, this is pretty gruesome, but Mexicans have a different, more familiar and accepting view of death. Somehow, I feel slightly guilty about my visit, though. Can you say voyeur?

This woman died in childbirth and the fetus was nearby.

According to Wikipedia: “The first mummy was put on display in 1865. It was the body of Dr. Remigio Leroy. The museum, containing at least 108 corpses, is located above the spot where the mummies were first discovered. Numerous mummies can be seen throughout the exhibition, of varying sizes. The museum is known to have the smallest mummy in the world, a fetus from a pregnant woman who fell victim to cholera. Some of the mummies can be seen wearing parts of the clothing in which they were buried.”

This woman (?) had an almost clown face and quite a bit more hair that most.

More from Wikipedia: “The mummies are a notable part of Mexican popular culture, echoing the national holiday “The Day of the Dead” (El Dia de los Muertos). A B movie titled Santo vs. The Mummies of Guanajuato (1970) pitted the well-known Mexican professional wrestler Santo and several others against reanimated mummies.”

Don’t worry. This person wasn’t buried alive. The jaw naturally drops open like this after death. There is one mummy, however, on display that researchers believe was buried alive–her hands and body are out of place, not as would be placed after death. Since there was no embalming, bodies weren’t kept around long and entombed quickly. It was possible to declare someone dead when they were only in a deep coma. Can you imagine anything worse?
According to Wikipedia: “It is thought that in some cases, the dying may have been buried alive by accident, resulting horrific facial expressions. however, perceived facial expressions are most often the result of postmortem processes. One of the mummies who was buried alive was Ignacia Aguilar. She suffered from a strange sickness that made her heart appear to stop on several occasions. During one of these incidents, her heart appeared to stop for more than a day. Thinking she had died, her relatives decided to bury her. When her body was disinterred, it was noticed that she was facing down, biting her arm, and that there was a lot of blood in her mouth.”

“Author Ray Bradbury visited the catacombs of Guanajuato with his friend Grant Beach and wrote the short story “The Next in Line” about his experience. In the introduction to The Stories of Ray Bradbury he wrote the following about this story: ‘The experience so wounded and terrified me, I could hardly wait to flee Mexico. I had nightmares about dying and having to remain in the halls of the dead with those propped and wired bodies. In order to purge my terror, instantly, I wrote ‘The Next in Line.’ One of the few times that an experience yielded results almost on the spot.‘”

While most bodies were without clothing, the shoes were usually left on. I suppose the feet are quite fragile and this was easier.

“To conjure a morbid and eerie atmospheric opening sequence to his film Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), German director Werner Herzog used footage he had taken of several of the mummies.”

Infant mortality was quite high. Lots of hair on this little guy, so he probably wasn’t a newborn.
This woman drowned. Another was listed as a stabbing victim.
There was surprisingly little information with each corpse–only a handful have a name or date attached. While the mummies are interesting, I would have liked to know more about the people they had been.
OMG. I fear this is what happens when fat women dehydrate. I may never eat again.
Honestly, they could have kept a few pieces of clothing on the bodies. The private parts are almost non-existent in most cases. It’s harder than you think to tell male from female. And I didn’t really want to look THAT closely. But I really never thought about how much pubic hair would remain. It will take me weeks to get that picture out of my head.
The infants were often dressed up as angels or saints.
Above the babies were photos of seated mothers holding their (clearly) dead infants, often with older, much more lively siblings standing nearby. Photos of the death were common in the mid-1800’s and since the time exposure was long, they made excellent subjects.
If you’ve lost a child at birth, this is not a good place for you to visit, I suggest.

There is glass between you and the mummies, but I’m told this is a recent addition.
This infant is dressed as a saint. It’s a way to dedicating the soul of the child to the care of a particular saint.
The fat make poor mummies. Cremation sounds better all the time.
One of the few with her coffin.

One of the few fully clothed, in a nightgown.
There’s surprisingly little written info, though it is in both Spanish and English. There’s a short introduction video, which looks quite interesting and informative, but my Spanish just isn’t good enough to understand more than a few words in most sentences. I really thought I’d be better by now.

Finally, a man in a suit!