No. 7: Guanajuato

September 30, 2008. Guanajuato, Guanajuato.

Group at mine

We concluded the month of September with a two-day excursion to Guanajuato. From the moment we arrived, students fell in love with the beautiful colonial city—a World Heritage Site—famous for its Guanajuato streettwisting cobblestone streets, colorful plazas, and underground tunnels.

Because Guanajuato was formerly Mexico’s most important silver-mining city, we began our trip with a tour of the Bocamina San Ramón, where we descended into the mine and learned of the hardships suffered by miners who, in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, worked 1500 feet underground. From there we visited the gorgeously baroque church La Valenciana, and then, in an odd turn of events, toured the former Hacienda del Cochero, whose cellars were allegedly used as torture chambers during the Spanish Inquisition.

After a meal together in the charming Jardín Unión, Guanajuato’s central tree-lined square, we toured the Teatro Juárez to admire its spectacular art deco interior. From there we boarded a funicular to the Pípila, a hillside monument to one of Mexico’s Independence heroes. From the top we enjoyed Guanajuato viewbreathtaking views of the colonial city below.

In the evening Guanajuato comes alive, with live performances at seemingly every plaza. Most of the students enjoyed an after-hours tour of the city by estudiantinas, a serenade by student minstrels dressed as medieval troubadours, followed by a night of dancing at a local club.

In the morning, we met to explore many of the city’s attractions. We began at the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato, a 17th-century baroque church which houses Mexico’s oldest Christian statue: an 8th-century Virgin gifted from Spain. Outside the church, we were pleasantly surprised to witness Mummy museum & Isabelan enormous parade honoring Guanajuato’s founding.

Afterwards, we all visited the Alhóndiga, a former granary that served, among other things, as a fortress during the War of Independence; the University of Guanajuato; and the Mercado Hidalgo, the 1910 market designed by Gustave Eiffel. A few brave souls even ventured to the Mummy Museum. But the best part of the trip was perhaps just having the time to individually wander the colorful streets and plazas and to find a surprise around every corner.

To see some of these surprises, view the slideshow below: