In late January, we had made our way north into the state of Guanajuato. We were eager to see what we would find in a city called San Miguel de Allende, famous for it's Baroque and Neo-classical style architecture and popular among visual artists. It was as classy and picturesque as suggested, full of upscale boutiques and fancy restaurants.
I was really in love with all of the warm autumn colors, the mural masterpieces of Bellas Artes, the dream-scape narrow, winding streets with ornate fountains and regal doorways. Visually, I think it must be one of the most romantic cities in Mexico.
In the middle of town, the Parroquia de San Miguel Archangel, you will find the most gorgeous, pale pink neo-gothic cathedral that looks like it belongs in a fairytale.
We walked around admiring the murals at Instituto de Allende and Escuela de Bellas Artes.
Our feelings about San Miguel were conflicted. On the one hand, there is so much beauty. This city looks like a page from a book- pristine and sparkly. But on the other hand, it was a bit too perfect. It didn't have nearly the energy or the soul of other places we have traveled. It had the feeling of a place that was overrun with tourism. There is this wealth disparity that is impossible to look beyond. It is no secret that this town has been "discovered" many international ex-pats (mostly retired and seemingly wealthy) from the US and Canada, and in my opinion, that does tend to strip some of the character from this place's spirit. I much prefer the grittiness, the flavor, and the warmth of other Mexican cities. Although it did make me wonder what this place was like 40 or 50 years ago.
To the west, we headed toward the city of Guanajuato, an old mining town with a very rich history. I sensed that this place would be a bit more authentic feeling. At a point in time, it was one of the wealthiest cities in the West due to its gold and silver mines. It also has a museum to very a unique collection of naturally-made mummies from the 1800s, a city full of twisted alleyways and a labrynth of tunnels, and the birthplace of muralist, Diego Rivera. Fascinating and full of color and life. The kind of place you could explore endlessly.
We were able to camp at the top of the city- a good location with a great view and a lot of exercise climbing the steep (and very uneven) cobble-stone streets. My legs were sore everyday from our citywide strolls.
Lots and lots of dark, scary tunnels to walk and drive through. Mark said that the foundation of this city must be like swiss cheese because of all the mining they have done here. Let's keep our fingers crossed that there is never a serious earthquake!
A tour of the world-famous Valenciana silver mine. This mine is still active, and in 250 years, it has produced 30% of the world's silver. For this reason, Guanajuato is also home to many jewelers and silver artesans.
Nearby, the San Cayetano church- full of ivory, precious hardwoods and metals.
The birthplace of Diego Rivera was a fun museum to visit. This is the actual house he grew up in, filled with a lot of his work from throughout his lifetime, including the very early stuff. Interesting to see the way his style evolved over the years. These life-size paper machete replicas of Diego and Frida made me smile.
Pretty city views.
Rock shops galore. Some really beautiful mineral stones found near the mines here, including quartz, amethyst, calcite, flourite, sun stone, topaz, pyrite, and opal.
Adios, Guanajuato. An interesting region of the world, undoubtedly. We enjoyed checking out these two cities, but we are beyond ready for some nature time to recharge our batteries. Coming up next, a very long, very bumpy road through the mountains to San Luis Potosi.