Sunday, September 14, 2008

Guanajuato Part 3 - Theatres, plazas, museums, markets

Teatro Juarez dominates the Jardin Union with late 19th Century splendor. Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz built the Teatro Juarez in an Italianate style popular in many places around the world at the time. The Teatro opened in 1897, but was not dedicated by Diaz until 1903, just a few years before he was overthrown at the start of the Mexican Revolution. Usually a church is the most prominent structure in a Mexican plaza, and the Templo San Diego next door (to the right) once did. Now, in my opinion, the Teatro clearly out shows the Templo. The steps form an informal amphitheatre at which people gather to meet, study, or just enjoy the scene unfolding below in the Jardin.

Standing guard. This bronze lion is one of two guarding the broad stairway leading to the tall arched wooden entrance doors behind the massive columns.

Shedding some light on the matter. Ornate street lamps with multiple lights illuminate the dramatic Teatro entrance at night.

The Escalera de Honor. This grand staircase in the lobby of the Teatro creates an atmosphere of drama as it leads up to the upper floor balconies or down to the lobby. Many high officials, diplomats, and Mexican aristocrats have ascended and descended this staircase dressed in all their theatre-going finery from Porfirio Diaz’ time down to the present.

Ornate urn is one of several bronze pieces gracing the Teatro lobby.

The best seats for the "best people". One of several U-shaped balconies riming the back and sides of the Teatro as they rise in tiers above the orchestra seats. The balcony rails are of intricately carved wood.

The Ruling Class "steps out". Photo from the Diaz period showing a typical audience of the time, dressed for the occasion.

Intricate tapestry covers the area immediately above the stage.

Praying for a good performance. When I entered the Teatro, few people were around. This left me free to explore normally off-limits areas. I found this shrine back-stage, apparently for the actors and stagehands. It forms a sort of stage within a stage.

Basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato overlooks Plaza de la Paz (Peace Plaza). Built in 1671, the Basilica serves as the main place of worship in Guanajuato. King Philip II of Spain, the same ruler who sent the Spanish Armada against Elizabeth I of England, donated the statue in the middle of the garden. The large building to the left of the garden is the Palacio Legislative (Guanajuato State Legislature). The building to the right houses a row of sidewalk restaurants where patrons can enjoy the Plaza de la Paz.

Look like anyone you know? The massive old wooden front doors to the Basilica contain carvings that once again demonstrate Mexican artistic whimsy. This fellow bears a remarkable resemblance to the Mad Magazine character Alfred E. Neuman whose favorite line was “What? Me worry?” Others have noted the resemblance to George W. Bush on a bad day.

Restaurante Tasca en Paz. One of the numerous sidewalk restaurants in Guanajuato, the Tasca En Paz faces the imposing Basilica and the garden of the Plaza de la Paz. Carole and I stopped here for a much needed and very excellent Mexican coffee.

Private chapel is now a public museum. The churrigueresque entrance facade of the Museo Publico chapel lies inside the former mansion of a Guanajuato aristocrat. Now the mansion and its chapel function as a public museum exhibiting the work of various Mexican artists. It was not unusual for the wealthy of the 16th-18th Centuries to build personal chapels in their haciendas and mansions.

Fortune favors the ruthless. In this detail of a large mural inside the Museo Publico chapel, a Spaniard stands on ingots of silver, tossing handfuls of coins in the air to celebrate his good fortune while sick and maimed Indios huddle nearby. Above, an Indio chief submits to a conquistador, while his tribesmen slave in the mines. Conditions in the mines were atrocious. Contemporary accounts speak of the dead and dying covering the ground near the mines so thickly that one never needed to touch the ground while walking over the area.

Spreading the wealth. The rich doing their part for the poor. A great Senora reluctantly hands a coin to a poor Indio boy while her husband averts his eyes.

The Burning Dunce. I don't know exactly what the figure in this Museo Publico mural represents. Perhaps he is another victim of the Inquisition, burning for his "sins". The Inquisition and its fiery punishments lasted well into the 18th Century in Spain and its colonies.

Mercado Hidalgo. The main Mercado in Guanajuato was originally a French-built railway station.

Mercado interior. In the cavernous interior of the Mercado nearly every kind of food or other object can be purchased.

Caterina dolls. In the 19th Century, dolls of skeletons mimicking the dress and mannerisms of the wealthy became very popular during Day of the Dead fiestas. Like the fiestas, the dolls, known as Caterinas, are usually cheerful and humorous. Carole had long wanted a Caterina and found just what she wanted at this Mercado booth.

Everything you ever wanted to scare you. Mexican folk artists show great creativity in their work on masks and other items for the Day of the Dead fiestas.

This concludes my 3rd post on Guanajuato. I hope you have enjoyed it. I have enough material for one or maybe two more, which will follow in about a week. Hasta luego! Jim

1 comment:

  1. Jim, I enjoyed your pictures of Guanajuato. They brought back nostalgic memories of my parents' home state. My grandmother was born in Marfil. However, I do not know the day nor the year. I belive it was around 1890? The only clue I have is that she was born the "very first day the train entered in Marfi" Would you have to know the day and the year?

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