Sunday, November 26, 2023

Guanajuato Revisited Part 17 of 17: The pueblo of Santa Rosa de Lima and its Mayólica Pottery factory.


Parroquia de Santa Rosa de Lima is located in a deep canyon.  The main part of the pueblo is just off Hwy 110. However, an older part, called the Cañon del Silencio (Canyon of Silence), is reached by following a road which winds down into a deep canyon. 

In this posting, we'll look at both the lower and the upper parts of the pueblo. I'll also tell you about the Mayólica Santa Rosa pottery factory which makes beautiful hand-painted ceramics of all shapes and sizes. In fact, we visited the town on the recommendation of our next door neighbor in Ajijic who had bought some ceramics there.


Santa Rosa de Lima is only a short drive from the city of Guanajuato. Just take Hwy 110 north and follow it 13.9 km (8.6 mi) toward the northeast. Very quickly the road enters heavily-forested mountains. This is where so much of Guanajuato's silver was mined in the colonial era. The drive takes about 25 minutes and would be worth it even without the town and its pottery factory.

The old pueblo of Santa Rosa de Lima

The old pueblo's plaza is small but very clean. The red and white banners draped overhead suggest that a fiesta has either just been completed or that the celebration will soon begin. Even though this place is fairly remote, the age and condition of the vehicles show a good level of prosperity.

Like so much in Guanajuato, the pueblo was a product of the 18th century silver boom. A mine called Santa Rosa de Lima was started by José Mariano Sardaneta, whose family owned the San Juan de Rayas mine (see Part 7 of this series). He opened the Santa Rosa mine in 1728, after his San Antonio mine flooded and had to be abandoned. The pueblo of Santa Rosa de Lima grew out of the mine's need for services, goods, and homes for the miner workers and their families.

View of the Parroquia from the plaza. The two steeples each have three levels but are otherwise very different from each other. The left one is shorter and each of its levels is smaller than the one below it. The right one is taller and its levels are all of relatively the same size. In addition, the right steeple's top level has a clock on each of its four sides. Many other clocks on Mexican buildings don't function, but these do and they gave the correct time.

Santa Rosa de Lima was the first saint born in the New World. Isabel Flores de Olivia was born in1586 in Lima, Peru. She got her nickname "Rosa" when one of her family's servants had a vision of Isabel's face turning into a rose. At her confirmation in 1597, Isabel formally took the name RosaShe was extremely pious, severely ascetic, and devoted to the needy. Her parents pressured her to marry but, at age 20, she became a nun in the Third Order of Saint Dominic. 

As a method of penance, Rosa sometimes burned her face or hands. To remind herself of Jesus' crown of thorns, Rosa wore a heavy crown of silver with spikes which often became entangled with her hair. She sold flowers and made lace and embroidery to raise money for the poor. When she died in Lima in 1617, her funeral was a major event. Miraculously, the whole city smelled of roses that day and many other miracles are reported to have followed. Rosa was canonized in 1671. 

Side entrance to the Parroquia. The doorway is Baroque, while other parts of the church, including the main entrance, have a Neo-Classic style. When the church was constructed, Neo-Classic was becoming the dominant style in Mexico. Many churches built during this period that I have visited show a similar mixture of styles.

Construction on Parroquia Santa Rosa de Lima began in 1735, under the supervision of Padre Francisco Ramírez Rendón. This was only a few years after the opening of the new mine. The work continued for forty-six years until the church was finally inaugurated in 1771. Long periods of construction were not unusual during the colonial period. Money for church construction was often a problem. Difficulties such as mine flooding might cause shutdowns and dry up donations. 

The church's side door faces onto the beginning of an alley. Part way down the alley, several bicyclists push their vehicles toward the edge of town. A small dog lounges on the church steps, watching them as they leave. The bicyclists were clearly not locals and probably came from Guanajuato or elsewhere in Mexico. They face a tough climb up from the bottom of the Cañon del Silencio to Hwy 110. But from there to Guanajuato it is all downhill. 

The upper pueblo and the Templo del Sagrado Corozon.

Templo del Sagrado stands on the north side of the Camino Real. Camino Real (Royal Road) branches off Hwy 110 at the western end of town and the two roads parallel until 110 turns north while the Royal Road continues east. Camino Real is a name often given to roads built in the colonial period to connect important towns and cities. 

The entrance gate was built in Neo-Classic style. The gate was locked so I had to take my shots from outside. The church was constructed toward the end of the 19th century, which was a boom time for Guanajuato and its surrounding mining towns. Porfirio Diaz was President of Mexico during this period and he set about modernizing Mexico, in particular its mining industry. 

Unfortunately, the benefits of the modernization accrued largely to the upper classes and particularly to Diaz and his cronies. The standard of living of the working class declined, including that of mine workers. Unrest spread and intensified over the 3 1/2 decades of what was known as the Porfiriato. Strikes by miners' unions became more frequent, but were often brutally suppressed.

The facade, and steeples of the church are also Neo-Classic. In front of the church is a broad open area, surrounded by a wall. This feature is called an atrium and is used for processions and events that need more space than can be provided inside the church itself. 

The Mexican Revolution broke out on November 20, 1910 and the country exploded like a pressure cooker with no steam outlet. Only a few months after it began, Porfirio Diaz was forced to flee to Europe. Five years later, he died comfortably in bed. Ironically, many of the leaders who drove him from office were assassinated over the next twenty years. 

One of the aftershocks of the Revolution was the Cristiada, or Cristero War (1926-29). Some of the provisions of the Constitution of 1917 were aimed at curbing the political and economic power of the Catholic Church. When President Plutarco Calles attempted to enforce them, the Church opposed it and right-wing reactionaries flocked to the cause. They were called Cristeros because their battle cry was ¡Viva Cristo Rey! ("Long Live Christ the King!"). 

The bloody struggle resulted in the execution of many Mexican priests who supported the Cristeros. One of these was Padre Gregorio Gutiérrez of Santa Rosa de Lima, who was known by the nickname "Goyito". He was captured while hiding out in the mountains that surround the pueblo. On May 14, 1928, Goyito was shot by a military firing squad. 

Fabrica Mayólica Santa Rosa

Fabrica Mayólica Santa Rosa.
The fabrica (factory) is on the right just as you reach Santa Rosa de Lima, just before the Camino Real branches off to the right. Getting inside was a little confusing. After we repeatedly rang the bell by the door, a woman finally came. She explained that the main entrance is on the back side of the building, facing the Camino Real. A sign on the door might help, but hey, this is Mexico.

The building has three floors, with one used for the factory and the other two as show rooms. The variety of ceramics is overwhelming. They range from very small spoons to very large vases and every other kind of shape you can imagine (and some you probably can't). Every piece is beautifully hand-painted. Unfortunately, the fabrica's owners don't allow photographs in the showrooms, so the only one I have is of the dish you see below.

Hand-painted dish from Fabrica Mayólita Santa Rosa. Since the fabrica doesn't allow photos inside the building, I took one of the small dish that Carole and I brought home. Over the last 45 years, Mayólica Santa Rosa has been operated by three generations of the Salazar family. Currently, it is managed by Maria del Carmen Aguilera Salazar

The pottery is created by a group of artisans who use clay collected locally to make the pottery and local minerals to make the paints and glazes. Maria oversees every step to ensure the craftsmanship is of high quality. The family has another fabrica called JB Diseno in San Miguel Allende. There, pewter items are crafted.

Tras Lomita Restaurante

After leaving Santa Rosa de Lima, we lunched at Tras Lomitas restaurant. It is only a couple of miles back toward Guanajuato on the left side of the road. Tras Lomitas ("Behind little hills") is situated up on the hillside overlooking Hwy 110 and the rolling wooded hills beyond.

Large windows provide diners with great views. There is also a balcony along the front of the restaurant where you can eat. The fare is mostly traditional Mexican, with some Gringo options. The staff were friendly and efficient and well-deserving of the nice tip we left them. As you can see from the number of diners, the place is popular.

This completes Part 17 of my Guanajuato Revisited series and also finishes the series itself (I'll bet you thought it would never end!) I hope you enjoyed the series. If you would like to leave any thoughts or questions, please do so either in the Comments section below or email them directly to me. If you use the Comments section, please remember to include your email address so that I may respond in a timely manner.

Hasta luego, Jim

Friday, November 17, 2023

Guanajuato Revisited Part 16 of 17: Plaza Allende and Jardin Embajadoras

Don Quixote and his companion Sancho Panza keep watch over Plaza Allende. The chief characters from the book "Don Quixote" stand on the rocky hillside above the plaza. You can find many depictions of the protagonists in Miguel Cervante's novel around Guanajuato, but these are the best, in my opinion. Don Quixote is mounted on his trusty steed Rocinante, while Sancho rides Dobby, his faithful donkey.

Don Quixote is pronounced Key-ho-tay, with the accent on the second syllable. "Don" is not a name but title of respect. The book, published in 1605 with a sequel in 1615, is considered the first modern novel. It is also one of the most translated books in the world as well as being one of the best-selling of all time. 

Up until then, chivalric romances had been the most popular style of fictional writing. Cervantes viewed these works as silly wastes of time and his novel spoofs them unmercifully. His chief character is a member of the lowest level of the nobility and Sancho Panza, the secondary character, is a simple farm laborer. Don Quixote goes mad while reading chivalric romances and decides he is a famous knight who must set off on a great quest.

In this posting, I'll briefly outline the story of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. I'll also show you both Plaza Allende and the nearby Jardin Embajadoras (Garden of the Ambassadors) and relate some the history of each.

 Overview of Plaza Allende

Google satellite view of Plaza AllendeIn my last couple of postings, I showed the andador (walking street) called Manuel Doblado. If you continue to follow it from Plaza Ropero, it will lead you directly to Plaza Allende. Alternatively, if you follow the callejon (alleyway) called Del Campanero that runs under the pedestrian bridge of the Santo Café (another site from my last posting), it will also take you to Plaza Allende. The Plaza can be found at the bottom center of the photo above.

Don Quixote, in all his mad glory. I don't know if the sculptor intended it, but Rocinante seems be getting quite a chuckle out of the whole thing. By the beginning of the 17th century, the era of medieval knights was a fading memory. During the previous couple of centuries, fully-armored and mounted noblemen had been repeatedly defeated by common foot soldiers. 

As early as the Hundred Years War (1337-1453), English archers wielding their long bows had repeatedly slaughtered heavily-armored French knights. In other wars, Swiss foot soldiers were able to capture or kill Austrian knights by using hooked pikes to pull them off their horses. When gunpowder use became widespread, the armored warrior's day was over. It took awhile for Europe's nobility to accept that they could easily be killed by the lowliest peasant, if he was armed with gun.

It was in this context that chivalric romances had become popular, somewhat like the 20th century American fascination with 19th century cowboys on their cattle drives and wagon trains fighting off Indian attacks. The works written about those earlier periods were full of sentimental nonsense that ignored hard dirty realities that were sometimes dangerous but mostly filled with boredom. Cervantes' book was an antidote for romantic tales of chivalry.

Carole walks in the plaza. Behind her is the small stone Teatro Cervantes. The theatre was inaugurated in 1979 by Carmen Romano de Lopez Portillo, the wife of the then-President of Mexico. The Teatro and its plaza is one of many venues in Guanajuato where the activities of the annual Festival Cervantes are held. Unfortunately, the theatre was locked, so we couldn't get a peek inside. The statues of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are just out of view on the hillside to the right. 

In the book, a minor nobleman from La Mancha named Alonso Quijano goes mad from reading too many chivalric romances. He decides that his real name is Don Quixote de la Mancha and that his duty is to become a knight-errant and serve his nation by reviving chivalry. 

Since every knight needs one, Quixote selects the earthy peasant Sancho Panza as his squire. Strapping on a rusty suit of armor, Don Quixote sets off on his mighty steed, an old workhorse Rocinante. Chivalry also requires a lady love, so he picks a local slaughterhouse worker named Aldonza Lorenzo and renames her Dulcinea del Toboso.

A biker bar is located across Calle Sangre de Cristo from Teatro Cervantes. Oddly, the sign over its door is in English, giving the bar's name as "The Beer Company". Although small, it is a two story building with an umbrella-shaded deck on top. The line of motorcycles along one side suggests that this is a popular bar for Mexican bikers. 

When the newly re-named Don Quixote sets out, his first stop is an inn. He believes it to be a castle, filled with noble ladies, who are actualy prostitutes. Quixote insists that the innkeeper (the "lord" of the castle) must dub him as a knight. The innkeeper is understandably dubious about all of this. 

Adhering to one of the classic rituals of knighthood, Don Quixote keeps vigil at the castle's chapel (a horse trough). When some muleteers want to water their animals, he gets into a brawl with them for disturbing his vigil. The innkeeper finally goes through with the knighthood ceremony in order to get rid of this madman.

A group of foreign tourists walks along the length of the plaza. Beyond them, a six-story apartment building faces the plaza and its statues. The apartments on the second through the fourth stories have French doors and balconies, features which probably make them popular. 

After leaving the inn, Don Quixote encounters a servant being beaten by his master. The knight-errant orders the master to stop the beating and release the unfortunate servant. The man complies but resumes his beating as soon as Quixote leaves. He next encounters some traders along the road and becomes angry with them when they refuse to believe his Dulcinea is the most beautiful woman in the world. Charging on Rocinante, he falls off and one of the traders beats him up, leaving him unconscious.

Found by a kind peasant, he is brought home still unconscious. His housekeeper-niece and the parish priest decide to burn all his chivalric romances in order to bring him back to reality and end these crazy adventures. They are among several people in the story who step forward to rescue Don Quixote when he gets himself (and sometimes Sancho) in trouble. 

A small dog was carefully scrutinizing us from its high perch. Carole's sharp eye picked out this pooch on one of the building's balconies. Although it was a warm day, the little dog was wearing a coat. A worn boot stood next to the dog. The boot's mate was missing, so either it fell off the balcony or perhaps the remaining boot was a favorite chew toy.

Soon, Don Quixote recovers enough to set out on another adventure. In one of the most famous incidents, he mistakes some windmills for giant monsters and decides to charge them, with disastrous results. This has become the common expression "tilting at windmills", meaning to attempt something that is utterly foolish and misguided. The description of some course of action as "quixotic" has a similar meaning.

A colorful array of buildings surrounds the south end of Plaza Allende. The intersection above is where Calle Sangre de Cristo meets Calle Sostenes Rocha. Close to this intersection is an attractive little restaurant with the unusual name of "La Vida sin ti."

During Cervantes' story, Don Quixote and Sancho have a great many other hilarious adventures. Usually, these end up with one or both of them in trouble. At the end of the book published in 1605, Quixote gets into yet another fight. This time, he is thoroughly beaten up by a goatherd and some pilgrims and is again brought home. The first book ends here, but Cervantes wrote a sequel, which was published in 1615. 

Two foreign tourists study the menu at La vida sin ti. The name of this restaurant/bar means "The life without you". I speculated that the owner was mourning the end of a treasured relationship. On the other hand, perhaps s/he was celebrating its end, as in "good riddance!" We decided that this was just another of life's little mysteries and headed toward our next destination: Jardin Embajadoras.

Although the sequel of the 1605 book came out ten years later, today the two are published together as one book. Don Quixote has many additional adventures in the 1615 book, but finally comes to his senses. Before he dies, he apologizes for any harm he has done. The second book came out less than a year before Cervantes' own death in April of 1616.

Jardin Embajadoras

Jardin Embajadoras is shaped a little like a hockey stick. To reach it, just follow Calle Sangre de Cristo from Plaza Allende. The "paddle" of the hockey stick is thickly wooded, but among the trees are some interesting structures. 

A pedestrian overpass enables those on foot to safely enter the Jardin. Traffic on Guanajuato's streets can be chaotic, particularly given the large number of motorcycles that zoom around in all directions. The pedestrian overpass not only provides safety, but is also an attractive addition to the JardinThis land was originally part of Hacienda San Agustin. Up until 1741, when Guanajuato was officially recognized as a city, the edge of the Jardin marked the town's administrative limit.

A statue mounted over a fountain is located in the wooded section. This is known as the Columna de la Libertad (Column of Liberty). The sculptor was a Guanajuato artist named Jesus Fructuoso Contreras. He has been called "the most representative sculptor of late 19th century Mexico"The statue above is of a woman, holding a torch aloft with her right hand and cradling a stone tablet with her left. 

A snarling lion appears on each of the four sides of the statue's base. Since there was no sign to provide information about the statue and its fountain, I had to do a considerable amount of Googling to discover the monument's name and sculptor.

Monument honoring the Mexican flag. The monument has a soldier standing on one side and a mine worker on the other. According to the sign on the monument, it was dedicated on September 16, 1949 as part of the celebration of Independencia, held annually on that day. 

This completes Part 16 of my Guanajuato Revisited series and I hope you have enjoyed it. If so, please leave any thoughts or questions in the Comments section below or email me directly. If you leave a question, please remember to include your email address so that I may respond in a timely manner.

Hasta luego, Jim


Sunday, November 5, 2023

Guanajuato Revisited Part 15 of 17: (Continued) Calle Manuel Doblado's Plaza del Ropero, Café Santo, and the historic Calle Tecolote


A young musician taps on her drum on Calle Manuel Doblado. Just another of the myriad of musicians of all types to be found on the calles (streets), andadores (pedestrian-only streets), and callejones (alleyways) of Guanajuato. This young woman started on her drum as soon as she perceived I was about to photograph her. In my last posting, I covered about the first half of the andador called Manuel Doblado

In this posting, we will continue down this long andador (walking street) to check out the other attractions along the way. I will also relate the story of Manuel Doblado, a young attorney from Guanajuato who became the state's Governor, then a skilled diplomat and eventually Mexico's Foreign Minister. He played a key role just before and during the 5-year French occupation of Mexico in the last half of the 19th century.


Calle Manuel Doblado comes in from the upper left corner of this aerial view. Templo San Francisco, seen in the last posting, faces onto the street right at its beginning. Manuel Doblado joins Calle Cantaranas in the upper center at a small grove of trees sheltering the Restaurant El Chahuistle. In this posting we'll check out Plaza del Ropero, where a monument to the musician Jorge Negrete stands. Across the street is a callejon called Del Campanero that leads to the charming little Café Santo (bottom center)Branching off to the left of the Café is the historic Calle Tecolote.

So, who was Manuel Doblado and why does he have a street named after him? As usual in Mexico, this involves a hell of a back-story. Doblado was born in 1818 into a prosperous Guanajuato family. He became an attorney as a young man and was active in the Liberal Party. In 1847, Doblado was elected Governor of Guanajuato at the age of only 28. However, the minimum age to take office was 30 and he had to get a special dispensation from the Mexican Congress to take office. He was able to do this because those were unusual times. Mexico was struggling with an American invasion (1846-48) and the conquest of half of the nation's territory.

A customer tries on a bracelet at a street market along Manuel Doblado. In Mexico, just about any open space with foot traffic is fair game for street marketeers to set up and hawk their wares.

Manuel Doblado was staunchly opposed to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, viewing it as the dismemberment of his country through an act of outright theft. Many Americans at the time agreed with this view, including a young Congressman named Abraham Lincoln and General Zachary Taylor, who helped lead the invasion. By 1847, the war was lost. In a protest of the result, for a short time Doblado allied himself with a rebel priest named Celedonio Domenco de Jarauta. However, the priest was soon captured and executed. Doblado managed to avoid any charges and for some time after devoted himself to his legal career.

A colonial mansion stands on Calle Cantaranas at its intersection with Manuel Doblado. The street level contains various stores and shops, while the second floor is probably occupied by apartments or offices. I found the juxtaposition of the colonial architecture with the modernist metal sculpture to be an interesting feature of this intersection.

Young Manuel couldn't stay away from politics, however, and he soon joined the Revolution of Ayutla against the feckless President/Dictator Santa Ana, who had lost both the war with Texas (1835-36) and then the Mexican American War. Santa Ana was forced out, and replaced by General Juan Alvarez. However, Doblado came to view the Alvarez government as corrupt. In 1857, he threw his support behind Benito Juarez, a Justice of the Mexican Supreme Court who then became one of its most famous presidents and a national hero. In the meantime, Doblado had once again became Governor of Guanajuato where he instituted various liberal reforms.

Plaza Ropero

Plaza del Ropero is just past the colonial mansion, along Cantaranas. This small plaza looks a bit worn, with chipped, faded paint, compared to the mansion that preceded it. However, I kind of like the timeworn look because of the antique feel it creates. 

When Benito Juarez came to power, Mexico was effectively bankrupt, thanks to Santa Ana's profligacy and the lost war with the Americans. In addition, Juarez had proposed reforms that prompted the Mexican Conservative Party to revolt, in what became known as the Reform War (1858-60). During this struggle, Mexico borrowed heavily from various European powers, including Britain, France, and Spain. Following his Reform War victory, Juarez' had to suspend payments for two years. The foreign powers, insisting on being repaid regardless of Mexico's financial situation, formed an alliance to seize the Gulf port city of Vera Cruz.

A old fountain occupies the center of the plaza. For reasons unknown to me, the name of this place means "Plaza of the Wardrobe". It is possible that clothing was sold here at some point in time. However, the plaza is better known for its association with Pedro Negrete, a famous native of Guanajuato.

The seizure of Vera Cruz had the aim of taking control of the customs duties on goods imported through there, in order to collect the funds owed to the three European powers. It was at this point that Manuel Doblado, a rising figure in the national Liberal Party, was selected as Foreign Minister and given the task of negotiating a settlement. He proved to be very able and gradually brought Britain and Spain around to reasonable agreements. However, France, then ruled by Napoleon III, had a hidden agenda. Napoleon wanted to overthrow Juarez and the Mexican Republic and install the Austrian Archduke Maximilian as Emperor of Mexico.  

Statue of Jorge Negrete, el Cantante Charro. The lifesize bronze was the work of Raul Jaramillo a local sculptor. Jorge Negrete (1911-1953) was a famous singer and actor who was born in a house right next to this plaza.  His father had been a colonel in Pancho Villa's famous Division of the North during the Mexican Revolution. In 1920, the family moved to Mexico City, where Jorge was recognized as a brilliant student. However, he had a wild side so his father enrolled him in military school. He graduated as a junior officer with a "gallant presence" which served him well in his later career as an actor. It was during this military period that Negrete discovered his talent for music and singing. 

After leaving the military Jorge began to sing in operas and on the radio. In 1932, Negrete traveled to the United States where he became a popular singer in Latin clubs. Then, in 1937, he was cast in his first movie role La Madrina del Diablo (The Devil's Godmother). It was the beginning of a film career that led to roles in a total of 38 movies. Negrete helped found the Mexican actors' union called the National Association of Actors, succeeding the famous Mexican comedy actor Cantinflas as its chairman. Cantinflas and Negrete eventually became rivals for control of the union. In 1953, Jorge Negrete died at the age of only 42 of hepatic cirrohosis. 

Café Santo y Calle Tecolote

Strollers pass beneath a pedestrian bridge leading into Café Santo. Callejon del Campanero branches off Manuel Doblado to the right, across the street from Plaza del Ropero. Following it will lead you to Plaza Allende, which will be covered in my next posting. However, it you take the ramp up to the right, you can gain access to Café Santo and the beginning of Calle Tecolote

Napoleon III's ambitions were spurred by the support of the Mexican Conservative Party, still smarting from their defeat by Juarez in the Reform War. They convinced the French that Maximilian would be welcomed with open arms in Mexico. In 1862, the French launched an all-out invasion. Doblado convinced Britain and Spain to take no part in this and they quickly withdrew their troops from Vera Cruz and sailed back to Europe. The French lost the initial Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862 (celebrated today as Cinco de Mayo). However, they managed to defeat the Mexican army and occupied the country until 1867. 

Café Santo has seating inside, but the best spot is a table on this little bridge. From here, you can sip coffee or a cold drink or munch a snack while watching the world go by beneath you. In the US and Canada, "cafe" usually means an informal restaurant. In Mexico, café means coffee of various kinds and that is usually the main focus of a place like this. From where I took this shot, Callejon Tecolote rises up the hill behind me. 

The French were able to pull off this 5-year occupation because the United States was fully engaged in the American Civil War from 1861-65. Abraham Lincoln, who had opposed the dismemberment of Mexico in 1848, supported Juarez with money and arms, but could do little militarily until the South was defeated in 1865. After that, Mexican victories and American threats of intervention finally forced the French to withdraw in 1867. Maximilian and many Mexican Conservative Party leaders were then captured and executed as traitors. Unfortunately, Manuel Doblado never saw the end of the conflict. He died in 1865, while the fighting still raged.

Callejon Tecolote is an old and slightly shabby alleyway with an historic past. Down this street, marching toward me, came the ragtag army of Padre Miguel Hidalgo in September of 1810. Armed with machetes, slings, farm tools, and a handful of firearms, thousands of Hidalgo's men marched into Guanajuato. Except for a few rebelling regular soldiers and militia, the overwhelming majority of the men were peons from haciendas, indigenous villagers, mine workers, shopkeepers, and craftsmen. They were led by Hidalgo, a Catholic priest turned rebel general.

The men had responded to Hidalgo's famous grito (cry) for revolt, given on the steps of his church in the pueblo of Dolores. The revolt had exploded into action and the men were headed toward Guanajuato's huge stone storehouse for grain, known as the Alhondiga, which was being used as a fortress by the Spaniards. (For the story of this see Part 3 of this series, as well as Mexican Independence Day, What's it all about?).

This completes Part 15 of my Guanajuato Revisited series. I hope you have enjoyed it and, if so, you will leave any thoughts or questions in the Comments section below or email me directly. If you leave a question, please remember to include your email address so that I may respond in a timely manner.

Hasta luego, Jim

Monday, October 30, 2023

Guanajuato Part 14 of 17: Calle Manuel Doblado and Templos San Francisco and Santa Casa de Loreto

Statue of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. Cervantes (1547-1616) was the author of Don Quixote, which has been called the "first modern novel" and the "first great novel of world literature. He is regarded as the greatest writer in the Spanish language. This figure stands outside the Museo Iconográfico Don Quixote, across from the main entrance of Templo San Francisco. The statue is impressive, but no one actually knows what Cervantes looked like, because he never had an official portrait.

This posting and the one which follows will focus on the long andador (walking street) called Calle Manuel Doblado. The street has many interesting points along the way. The ones we will focus on in this posting will include the little plazuela with statues of Cervantes and Don Quixote and also the Templos de San Francisco and Santa Casa de Loreto.  The following posting will cover the remainder of Calle Manuel Doblado.


Google map of Calle Manuel Doblado. The street begins in the upper left where Calles Sopena, Manuel Doblado, and Del Potrero intersect. The Museo Iconográfico is located at this intersection. The first large structure along Manuel Doblado is the Templo San Francisco, followed by Santa Casa de Loreto a few doors down. 

Near the east end of the street is a small plaza devoted to the popular Mexican singer Jorge Negrete and a wonderful little place called the Café Santo across the street. These latter two sites will be featured in the next posting.

View to the south on Calle de Sopena toward Templo San Francisco. Above, a young woman pauses to take a photo of her boyfriend in the doorway down the street. Guanajuato's andadores provide ways to stroll through most of El Centro (Old Town) without having to dodge careening cars or motorcycles or breathe their exhaust fumes. The andadores also tend to abound with many points of interest.

Templo de San Francisco stands near the west end of Calle Manual Doblado. Built at the height of the 18th century mining boom, Templo de San Francisco is an example of the late Baroque style of architecture. Some Neo-Classic elements were added in the 19th century including the clock between the two steeples and some of the interior features. 

It was originally dedicated in 1728 to San Juan Bautista (St. John the Baptist). In 1828, the Franciscan Order was running a hospice--a place of rest for weary or ill travelers--next door. They took over the San Juan Bautista temple and renamed it for their patron saint, San Francisco de Assisi. The church was closed when we came by, so I don't have any photos of its interior.

View of the church and its large dome from the rear. This shot provides a feel for how narrow and crowded together the colonial-era streets and structures of Guanajuato really are. The dome and much of the rest of the church are made from pink cantera (quarry stone), a popular building material since pre-hispanic times due to the ease with which it can be shaped.

Plazuela San Francisco

View of Cervantes' statue and the little plazuela from the Templo steps. This is obviously a popular spot to hang out and rest in the shade. The building behind the statue is the Museo Iconográfico.

Statue of Don Quixote gesturing dramatically. What made Cervantes' novel unique in its time was its departure from what he called the "vain and empty" chivalric romances popular up to that time. He made Quixote and his paunchy side-kick Sancho into comic figures and shaped his story according to the real life of his day, using everyday language. The innovation was instantly popular. Although Cervantes apparently wrote a great deal besides Don Quixote, much of the rest has not survived. 

Templo de la Santa Casa de Loreto

This church is actually part of the Templo de San Francisco Convento complex. The structure was originally a house bought in 1737 by a priest named José Antonio de Busto.  In 1776, the house was sold to Don Pedro Sereno Covarrubias. His son, José Maria Félix de Corvarrubias, was administering the house as a hospice for the Franciscan Order in 1803 and improvised a temple inside. 

By 1820 the house was in ruins, but the improvised temple continued to function. A priest named Fuentes Lazo de la Vega decided to repair the structure and dedicate the temple to the Virgen de Loreto. In 1845, de la Vega decided to completely demolish the ruined house and its temple and rebuild it in its present form. The construction began on February 2, 1846 after a procession and an elaborate ceremony. 

The templo was built to be a site for prayer and contemplation.  The interior is unusual because it is circular rather than rectangular. Around its circumference are a series of altars containing statues. These include a main altar with the statue of the Virgen de Loreto, along with various saints and a crucifix. 

A wealthy local man named Don Agustín Godoy was among those who furnished resources to build the little temple. The architect was a "humble and simple man" named Professor Cleto Salinas. Tragically, he never saw the completion of his work because he was murdered shortly before finishing. Even so, the opening of the Templo de la Virgen de Santa Casa de Loreto on September 8, 1854 was celebrated with processions, masses, and fireworks.

An unidentified saint is displayed along the circular wall. There was no sign on the glass case containing this figure, but my eye was caught by his rather gaudy attire. If anyone can help me name this saint, I'd appreciate it.

This completes Part 14 of my Guanajuato Revisited series. I hope you enjoyed it and, if so, please leave any thoughts or questions in the Comments section below or email me directly. If you leave a question, please be sure to include your email address so that I may respond in a timely fashion.

Hasta luego, Jim


Monday, October 23, 2023

Guanajuato Revisited Part 13 of 17: The charming little Plazuela del Baratillo and other street scenes

A Florentine-style fountain forms the centerpiece of this small plaza. The official name is Plaza General Manuel Gonzales, who once was Governor of Guanajuato and President of the Republic. However, few people use that name. Instead, it is generally called Plazuela del Baratillo, which means "little plaza of the secondhand goods". This is probably because it has long been used by local street vendors to sell inexpensive vegetables, street food and other items.

In this posting, we will take a look at the Plazuela and check out some of the street scenes Carole and I encountered in its immediate vicinity. This is a continuation of our stroll through the heart of Guanajuato's El Centro (Old Town), which began with the Museo de Alhondigas on the west end, paused last time at the great Templo de la Companía de Jésus, and will continue on to other beautiful and interesting plazas along the way. 


The Plazuela is centrally located. It is only a couple of blocks east of the Universidad de Guanajuato (upper left) and a couple more north of Jardin Union (triangular green plaza). Both were covered in my previous posts of this series. Our neighbor Vinnie, who recently bought a house in Guanajuato, encouraged us to check out the Plazuela, saying he had particularly enjoyed the street food sold there. They were selling it when we came by, and it looked good, but we weren't hungry at the time. 

Generally, we are a bit leery of Mexican street food, because you can pick up all kinds of nasty intestinal bugs if you aren't careful. However, local Mexicans are usually aware of who is selling clean food and who is not. A good sign that the food is sanitary will be if there is quite a crowd around the stall. Also, the person serving the food should not the same as the person handling the money. Because it passes through so many hands, money is one of the dirtiest objects you will encounter anywhere. 

Plazuela del Baratillo

The Plazuela is surrounded by former Spanish colonial mansions. The ground floors are now small shops and stores selling a wide variety of items, while the upper floors are generally apartments. Some of the local food vendors are gathered under the tree on the right. Various callejones (alleyways) and andadores (walking streets) branch off from the Plazuela, making it a great place to just wander around and see what sort of interesting objects and scenes you can find.

Four fantastic bronze fish support the bowl of the fountain. They reminded me a bit of the one at the Wolf and Fish fountain just below the Templo de la Companía de Jesus. Possibly, they were created by the same sculptor. Originally the fountain was located at the Plaza de la Paz (see Part 6 of this series). However, in 1893, this fountain was replaced by the statue now at Plaza de la Paz and the Florentine fountain ended up here. It was a good trade, in my opinion.

A "deceased" miner's mummy stands in his coffin. We found this just outside the entrance of a small store. Nothing in the store particularly related to the miner and his coffin. This is just another example of the quirky Mexican sense of humor. Guanajuato is famous for its bizarre collection of the local mummies of people who died here long ago.

However, Guanajuato's long history of mining did lead to many untimely deaths among the workers. Over the course of centuries, mineshaft collapses, fire, poison gases, and lung disease from mine dust claimed the lives of many of those who went down into the darkness every day. (For a look at how the mines operated and the daily life of the mine workers, see Part 7 of this series.)

Stairway into another world. Near the entrance to the Plazuela is a set of steps leading down into Guanajuato's underworld. The level to which you descend used to be the level of the arroyo (stream bed) along which the city was originally built. Now it is a network of streets running under El Centro, with the city built on top. 

What happened was that in 1780, a great flood roared down the arroyo, swamping and destroying much of the original town. To avoid future disasters, the city fathers raised the level of the town 6m (18ft) and rebuilt it over the arroyo. (See Part 2 for the story of this catastrophe.) You can find entrances like this all over El Centro, some for pedestrians, some for vehicles.

Don Quixote, in full armor, stands proudly outside another store. You find statues of this figure, large and small, all over Guanajuato. Another thing for which the town also famous is its Festival Cervantino celebrating the works of Miguel Cevantes, 17th century author of the book Don Quixote. (For the origins of the Festival Cervantino, see Part 11 of this series.)

Street market on Calle de Sopena. This is another of the many andadores in El Centro, which makes the area great for walking. By Mexican custom, just about any area open to pedestrian traffic is fair game for street vendors. It can often be crowded, but it is usually fun and always interesting.

Restaurant under a large tree in yet another plazuela. We were finally hungry and the day was warm, so we decided that a meal under the shade of this tree was just the ticket. Alas, it was not to be. What we didn't understand that was this is actually two restaurants. We sat at the tables on the far side of the tree and waited to be served. And waited...and waited. 

Finally, a waiter from what turned out to be the restaurant on the right of the tree came over and told us that our tables belonged to a place that was closed. Unfortunately, all the tables for his restaurant were filled by then. Famished, we finally moved on to find another place to eat.

Another of Guanajuato's innumerable street musicians. This violinist was probably a music student at the university. He was really quite good as he fiddled his way to making a little spare cash. I believe, in the US, this is called "busking".  I tipped him nicely, as I usually do with street musicians. I love that Mexico often provides a sound track for my life.

This completes Part 13 of my series Guanajuato Revisited. I hope you enjoyed it! If so, please leave any thoughts or questions in the Comments section below or email me directly. If you leave a question, please don't forget to include your email address so that I may respond in a timely fashion.

Hasta luego, Jim