Sunday, March 26, 2023

Guanajuato Revisted Part 3: The Alhondiga, Mercado Hidalgo, and Jardin Reforma

Insurgents fought fiercely to take this Spanish-held stronghold. It was known as the Alhondiga de Granaditas, but it wasn't originally built to be a fortress. Instead, the Alhondiga was a storehouse for public grain supplies. It became the refuge for Spaniards and their families when Independence War leader Miguel Hidalgo led his huge but rag-tag army into the city during the winter of 1810. The painting above shows silver mine worker El Pipila setting fire to the door.

In this posting, will provide some background on this fight and the impact on the early stages of the War of Independence. We will also visit another nearby attraction, the Mercado Hidalgo, a huge structure filled with hundreds of booths selling ceramics, clothing, toys, leather goods, raw and cooked food and much else. Finally, we'll take a walk through Jardin Reforma, a quiet and lovely park across from the Mercado that is perfect for relaxation on a warm day.

The Alhondiga de Granaditas appears almost unchanged from 1810. The right side of the building contains the door that El Pipila, burned to allow Hidalgo's forces to storm inside. The street along the side with the door is Calle 28 de Septiembre, while the street leading off to the left is Calle Mendizábal. The line of people are tourists waiting to enter what is now a regional museum displaying artifacts from the pre-hispanic and colonial eras.

The Alhondiga's thick stone walls, small windows, and limited access were intended to protect grain stored by the city council and to ensure Guanajuato's inhabitants could buy wheat and corn at controlled prices. Its construction was ordered in 1796 by Spanish Viceroy Miguel de la Grúa Talamanca de Carini yBranciforte. and it was designed by the architect José de Mazo Avilés

The Alhondiga was completed November 9, 1809, less than a year before Hidalgo launched his revolt. As the insurgent forces approached, the Spanish believed that the grain would help them withstand a siege and that the building itself would protect them because Hidalgo had little or no artillery at this point. Neither belief would prove true.

The view along Calle Mendizábal shows more of the Alhondiga. I originally thought the door on this side was the one burned by El Pipila, but the painting shows that the windows are different, as well as the emblem over the door. El Pipila's real name was Juan José, de los Reyes Martinez Amaro (1782-1863). He was one of many mine workers who quickly rallied to Hidalgo's cause. The reason for their support had to do with the conditions of the silver mining industry in 18th century Nueva España (Mexico).

Guanajuato was then, and still is, one of the most important silver mining centers in Mexico, with dozens of mines dotting the mountains surrounding the city. During the period from the mid-16th through the mid-17th centuries, the indigenous population crashed by as much as 90%, due to disease, overwork, and abuse. This tragedy actually produced a benefit for those who survived because it created acute labor shortages, including within the mining industry.

By the mid-18th century, the population had somewhat recovered. Until then, mine owners were forced to pay better wages to attract workers who were free to go from mine to mine. Typically this included the partido, an amount of ore above which the worker could keep for himself beyond the 100 lbs daily quota. As labor shortages eased and prices rose, mine owners refused to increase wages and began to eliminate the partido. Workers saw this as a loss of status as well as pay and resentment grew. 

The small windows along this side provided many gun ports for defenders. The broad open area below the steps is called the Esplanade. Both the steps and Esplanade are modern additions. As related in Part 1 of this series and in my 2008 posting, El Pipila crawled through a hail of gunfire, protected only by a paving stone strapped to his back. When he set the big wooden door alight, Hidalgo's men stormed inside and took the impromtu fortress.

From there, things went bad, both for the defenders and for their conquerers. The Spanish were already hated for a variety of reasons, including those related to miners' grievances. The insurgents' loss of their friends in the assault further enraged Hidalgo's men. They promptly massacred everyone inside the Alhondiga, including the families of the defenders. This, along with later massacres, alienated many of the creole elites who had initially supported the independence movement.

Interior courtyard of the Alhondiga. The doors around the perimeter open into museum salons full of displays. Creoles were Spaniards, born in Mexico, and thus were considered socially inferior to those born in Spain, who were called peninsulares. Wanting to eliminate this "glass ceiling", many creoles had initially supported the movement. They included trained military officers who were desperately needed to lead Hidalgo's undisciplined troops. Many were appalled by the massacres.

Less than a year later, Hidalgo's army was defeated and largely destroyed at Puente de Calderon by a much smaller royalist force. Hidalgo and many of the initial leadership were soon captured and executed. The insurgent forces split into a large number of uncoordinated groups who sometimes fought each other as well as the royalists. The war then dragged on for a decade before victory was finally achieved. 

(See my 2015 posting "Mexican Independence Day, what's it all about?" for a fuller account.)

Mercado Hidalgo

Carole stands across Calle Juarez from Mercado Hidalgo's entrance. The open area where she stands is the atrium in front of Templo Belén, which I will cover in the next posting. There are many urban myths connected to Mercado Hidalgo. Best known is the claim that the famous French architect Gustave Eiffel (who built the great tower in Paris) was responsible for its design and construction. However there appears to be no official record of this anywhere.

Another often-repeated, but unsubstantiated, claim is that the Mercado was designed as a railway station. The 70m x 35m (230ft x 115ft) structure was built on the site of the Gaviria Bull Ring and designed specifically as a market. Its two Mexican architects, Ernesto Brunel (1875-1950) and Antonio Rivas Mercado (1853-1927), employed techniques that were cutting-edge at the time. These included a visible steel structure, pre-fabricated in Mexican factories. The great entrance arch was carved from Mexican sandstone. 

View of the Mercado's floor from the top of the steps to its 2nd level. The whole place is packed with booths selling everything imaginable. We had a nice Mexican-style lunch sitting on stools along one of the narrow aisles, then roamed around to check out the unbelievable abundance and variability of the merchandise.

There was a French connection, however. President Porfirio Diaz, Mexico's dictator for 35 years, did everything he could to modernize the country during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Diaz particularly wanted to import French culture, including architecture. I found this somewhat ironic, given his key role in defeating the French occupation of Mexico (1862-67). The use of visible steel structures in architecture was pioneered by Gustave Eiffel, which is possibly the origin of the myth. 

A booth contains numerous large and small ceramic objects. Mexican ceramics are sometimes exquisite, often humorous, and always colorful. When we bought our house, it already had many ceramics, so we passed on these. However, when I visit an area, I traditionally buy a t-shirt with a design appropriate to the place. Needless to say, my closet is stuffed with Mexican t-shirts. I finally found one here that satisfied me.
Diaz wanted to use projects like the Mercado to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Independence War. Its construction, begun in 1904, was finished in 1910 so it fit with his plans. Diaz was able to personally inaugurate the Mercado on September 16, 1910, the anniversary of what is known in Mexico as Independencia. He considered the celebration as a great political victory. Ironically, only two months after Independencia, the Mexican Revolution exploded. Seven months later, Diaz fled into exile. 

Jardin Reforma

Entrance to Jardin Reforma. The Jardin was built in the 19th century on the site of the old corral of the nearby Templo Belén. However, the Jadin Reforma did not get its name until 1923. This small, quiet, shady park is located on Calle Juarez. The entrance above is about 1/2 block to the left of the Mercado and across the street. After all the walking around at the Alhondiga and Mercado, we were happy to find a place to sit down and relax, particularly since it was a warm day. 

View from the entrance walkway toward the hills surrounding Guanajuato. As you can see, the city climbs directly up the sides of the hills. The streets tend to run parallel to the hills and are connected by steep, pedestrian-only alleys. Jardin Reforma has lush gardens and cast iron benches dot the edges of the walkways. There are plenty of trees to offer shade but the benches tend to be quickly occupied so you need to grab one if it becomes available.

The Jardin is centered on a large fountain. A pool of water surrounds the fountain and its rim also offers a spot to sit, but not necessarily in the shade. However, it is a good spot for people-watching As you can see, we were not the only ones who decided to kick-back for a bit while we sought refuge from the sun and the hustle and bustle on the street outside.

Mexican plazas, jardins, and parques almost always display statues. These are usually not of generals or politicians but artists, writers, musicians, and philosophers. From our seat on the edge of the fountain, the statue above looked familiar, so I decided to check it out. It turned out to be a bust of Mohandas K. Gandhi, a Hindu from India and the founder of the philosophy of non-violent political action. There must be a story behind how and why it ended up here, but I haven't discovered it yet.

A Mexican family chats while pigeons at their feet scour the pavement. The mom clutches her recent purchases while the dad balances a new baby on his lap. On one end of the bench, the older sisters listens to her parents while, on the other, her younger brother is oblivious to everything but his iPad. Are they tourists or just a local family taking a break? Either way, like us they are just enjoying another day in lovely Guanajuato.

This concludes Part 3 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 use the Comments section for a question, please don't forget to leave your email address so that I can respond in a timely fashion.

Hasta luego, Jim


Sunday, March 19, 2023

Guanajuato Revisited Part 2: The Templo San Diego & Ex-Convento Dieguino

Templo San Diego de Alcalá stands across from Jardin Union. In fact, Plaza Jardin Union used to be called Plaza San Diego before the it was transformed into a lush garden in the late 19th century. Like many old churches in Mexico, Templo San Diego was built in a mixture of styles over the centuries. It was once a part of the structures of the Ex-Convento Dieguino, a 17th century Franciscan monastery complex. 

A bronze troubadour stands outside the entrance of the Templo. He symbolizes the many wandering musicians that gather in this spot before they set off through El Centro (the center of the old town). We encountered a number of them during our walk. In the first photo of Part 1 of this series, the smiling fellow in 16th century clothes was one of these musicians.

The Templo's Churrigueresque facade was carved from pink sandstone. The facade was carved in the flamboyant style of late Baroque. I was a bit puzzled by this at first. It was one of many oddities I encountered while touring this complex. The Franciscans, particularly the ones who came to evangelize in Mexico, were noted for the simplicity of their lifestyle and their architecture. 

In fact, the subset of the Franciscan Order who built the Ex-Convento Dieguino and Templo San Diego de Alcalá were called Franciscanos Descalzos (Barefoot Franciscans) because they tended to go about barefoot or in sandals at most. They were also known as Dieguinos (a derivative of San Diego) and were followers of the Franciscan reformer San Pedro de Alcántara.

Then, I learned that the original complex had been destroyed in a great flood in the 18th century and the Templo had been rebuilt by a rich Spanish mine owner with more sumptuous tastes. But all that comes much later in the story of this small but exquisite example of Spanish colonial architecture. 

This wooden door is another example of Churrigueresque. Use of lush foliage in this style is typical. Often, almost every square inch of available space will be covered by floral decorations, with the faces of cherubs and various animals peeping out.  

After silver was discovered in the mountains around Guanajuato in the mid-1540s, a mining boom started. Although the first church was built in 1555, there were no monasteries in the area for more than 100 years. Finally, in 1663, four Dieguinos arrived with plans to build a Franciscan monastery with an attached church. However, for reasons that remain unclear, Spanish King Felipe IV withdrew his approval for the project. Things then remained in limbo for three years.

The Nave

View of the altar from the rear of the nave. During the 18th century, the advent of the Enlightenment and its emphasis on rationality began to displace all things Baroque. Thus, when Templo San Diego was remodeled, it was done in the more severe Neo-Classic style then becoming popular. The tall, undecorated columns along the walls are an example of Neo-Classic.

The Franciscan monastery project was finally given the go-ahead in 1667, after Felipe IV was succeeded by King Carlos II. Completed in 1694, it was three times as large as it is now. The complex included Templo San Diego, with a cloister surrounding it to house and provide workspace for 25 friars and 9 poor, orphaned or abandoned children. Another part of the monastery, the Templo del Tercer Orden de San Francisco, once stood on Templo San Diego's left. In front was Plaza San Diego.

View toward the rear, with the organ and choir loft. To the right are the stairs leading to the pulpit. In Mexico's colonial-era churches, pulpits are placed on one side or the other of the nave, rather than facing the pews from the altar area. This placement is because, until the 1500s, there were no pews! Everybody stood during the services for the first 1500 years that churches existed. The pulpits' placement probably made it easier to address large groups, who could easily gather below to listen.

The installation of pews happened during the Protestant Reformation. The lengthy sermons the Protestants liked were tiring so people wanted to be able to sit down. Eventually the Catholics followed suit and installed their own pews. However, the placement of pulpits in the Catholic churches continued to be on the nave sides through the colonial period and even into the Republic era.

A pipe organ is on a balcony on the nave's right side. The origins of the instrument called an organ dates back to 246 BC, when a man called Ctesibius of Alexandria came up with a water-regulated mechanical flute-playing device called a hydraulis. In 90 BC, Romans such as Cicero mentioned its use during banquets, games and circuses throughout the Mediterranean. 

In 757 AD, Byzantine Emperor Constantius made a gift of an organ to the Frankish King Pepin the Short. Pepin promptly hired a Venetian to teach students to build organs and their use quickly spread. Around 900 AD organs began to be used in churches for ceremonial purposes and, by the 1400s, they were well-established in monasteries, cathedrals, and other religious institutions throughout Europe.

A statue of San Francisco holding a skull is in a side-niche of the nave. He was the founder of the religious organization known as the Franciscan Order, the first of its kind to begin evangelization of Nueva España (Mexico). San Francisco (1181-1226) is best known for images in which he is surrounded by animals, which he loved and to whom he sometimes preached. 

However, paintings and statues of him holding a skull are also common. He died at age 44, a relatively young age, and was aware of his coming demise. San Francisco often placed a skull on his breakfast table as a reminder that life is ephemeral and death is not to be feared.

San Martin de Porres, the first Black saint born in the Americas. Another oddity I encountered at Templo San Diego was this statue of a saint who was a member of the Dominican Order, a great rival of the Franciscans. San Martin de Porres was born in 1579 in Lima, Peru, the child of a Spanish nobleman and the freed mulatto slave (Black and indigenous) who was his mistress. Prejudice against this background made it difficult for Martin to became a Dominican, but he succeeded. 

His presence at the Templo may be due to some of the similarities between San Francisco and San Martin. Both are often depicted in the company of animals and both were devoted to poverty, simplicity, and service to others. San Martin de Porres is usually shown holding a broom, symbolizing his belief that all work is sacred. He died in 1639 but, while his saintliness was recognized in his own time, this was not made official until 1962. 

Wooden column from one of the retablos of the original church. retablo stands behind an altar and contains niches for paintings and statues.  This was part of the original Baroque interior of the Templo and may have been carved in 1709 to honor San Antonio de Padua. The spiraling Solomonic column is decorated with floral images and shows traces of gold sheathing. It was discovered recently in the campanario (bell tower) of the church. 

Less than a century after the monastery's completion, disaster struck. In 1780, a great flood cascaded through Guanajuato, destroying much of the city. The channel of the deep arroyo along which the city had been built became clogged with mining waste and other debris and the catastrophe was probably inevitable. The Templo's nave was filled with the floating cadavers of humans and animals and the Dieguinos' cloister was completely destroyed. 

Museo Ex-Convento Dieguino

Carole walks through the ruins of the old cloister. The Museo Dieguino can be accessed from the alley to the right of the Templo. From there you descend into an eerie underground world. After the great flood, the level of the street was raised as much as 6 meters (18ft) with tunnels left to allow water to pass through and thus avoid future floods. The tunnels now serve as underground streets.

The Templo San Diego was rebuilt at the new level and the upper level of the cloister now became its ground floor, with cells and offices for the friars. The lower level of the cloister was left buried deep underground. The reconstruction of the Templo and its cloister took about four years. 

This was a remarkable feat given that the original structures needed more than 30 years to complete. The rapidity of the reconstruction was due to the intervention of Antonio de Obregón y Alconcer, first Conde de Valenciana. He was one of the richest men in Guanajuato and his mines produced 60% of the 18th century world's silver. Apparently, money was no object.

The walls and arches still show some of the painted decorations. The ruins of the cloister that you see above were left underground and only excavated by archeologists in the 20th century. The original monastery contained a special door for pilgrims, an atrium, and 2 aljibes (underground water tanks) including one in the cloister and another in the patio.

Ironically, the effect of the long burial of the cloister was to preserve all this for modern visitors. Wandering through these shadowy ruins, I could almost hear the quiet shuffling of sandals and bare feet, as long-vanished friars made their way along ancient stone walls and through the archways to their monastic cells. 

An eight-pointed star and a heart decorate two sides of a pillar. The symbols apparently had great meaning to the Franciscan friars who painted them. However, there was no explanatory sign so they were as much a mystery to me as the hieroglyphics in an Egyptian tomb. 

The Templo San Diego and the surviving monastic structures continued to undergo changes during the 18th and 19th centuries. The Templo's interior was remodeled, replacing the Churrigueresque features with the newly popular Neo-Classic style. Various small side chapels were added, along with some of the statues and paintings we see today.

Carole contemplates the well over one of the cloister's two aljibes. The biggest changes to the monastic complex began in 1860, the result of the Liberal Party victory over the Conservatives in the Reform War of 1858-61. The war was fought over the implementation of the Constitution of 1857, which was aimed at limiting the political, economic, and cultural power of Mexico's Catholic Church. 

At the time, the Church controlled as much as 40% of the arable land in Mexico and completely dominated the education system. This left the vast majority of Mexicans poor and illiterate. The Church protected its privileges through a separate court system it controlled. In the Liberal view, the Church was a regressive force in society. Its power at stake, the Church allied with the Conservatives and threatened to excommunicate civil servants who implemented the new Constitution. 

The opposite side of the well. The spill-over tank in the foreground may have been used to wash clothing or other items like dishes. It's not clear what function the poor, orphaned, or abandoned children played in the monastery. Almost certainly they were put to work around the complex and probably labored over the clothes or dishes washed in this tank.

The three-year Reform War resulted in Liberal victory under the leadership of Benito Juarez. However, at the Conservatives' invitation, French Emperor Napoleon III invaded Mexico in 1862, overthrew its Republic, and installed Austrian Archduke Maximillian as Emperor of Mexico. After a five-year occupation, the French were finally expelled in 1867 by Juarez' forces, with American assistance.

A small art gallery occupies some of the old cloister's rooms. I found this display of abstract art yet another oddity of the complex. The paintings were in no way representative of the place and I couldn't quite reconcile its atmosphere with this sort of art. 

With his final victory over the French and his Conservative enemies, Benito Juarez was able to implement the Constitution. Vast properties of the Church were expropriated and sold. Juarez' idea was to create a broad class of small farmers, similar to the U.S. However, in the end, the big hacienda owners ended up with most of the former Church land. They had money and the government was broke after the long struggle with the French. 

Monasteries in Mexico, including this one, had been disbanded during the early reforms. Except for the Templo, the structures of Ex-Convento Dieguino were demolished in 1861and replaced by the Hotel Emporio. These included the cloister and the Templo del Tercer Orden de San Francisco . In 1873, the hotel was itself torn down and construction began on Teatro Juarez. The theatre was inaugurated in 1903 by President Porfirio Diaz.

This completes Part 2 of my Guanajuato Revisited series. I hope you enjoyed it and, if so, you will leave any thoughts or questions in the Comments section below or email me directly. Please remember to include your email address if you leave a question in the Comments so that I can respond in a timely fashion.

Hasta luego, Jim


Friday, March 10, 2023

Guanajuato Revisited Part 1: The Jardin Union Plaza

Dressed in 16th century garb, a wandering lutist strikes a pose. Guanajuato is chock full of musicians, most of them strolling about live, but some are statues. We encountered this cheerful fellow at the Plaza Jardin Union in El Centro (the center of the old silver mining city). I always enjoy street musicians because they provide a live sound track to my life in Mexico.

I titled this series of postings "Guanajuato Revisited" because our 2022 visit there was our second. The first was back in 2008, about a year after we moved to Mexico. I was both curious to see what changes might have occurred and to check out some of the things we didn't have the time (or knowledge about) to see during our first visit.

How to get to Guanajuato from Lake Chapala/Guadalajara. It is a relatively easy and fast trip (3.5-4 hours) on high-speed toll roads called cuotas and short sections of libres (free roads) which are also high-speed and divided. Just take the Chapala-Guadalajara carretera (highway) north a few miles past Ixtlahuacán de los Membrillos and then get on the Macrolibramiento (the first cuota) at the sign for Zapotlanejo

After reaching Zapotlanejo, the cuota seamlessly becomes the 80D cuota until you get to San Juan de Los Lagos. Follow the signs toward Léon, which will put you on the 80 libre (free road). When you exit the 80 libre at the Léon signyou will be on the 45D cuota. Just past Léon, the road becomes the 45 libre for 33km (20mi) until you reach Silao. There you go north on the 110D cuota. It is 22.8km (14mi) from there to Guanajuato.

Plaza Jardin Union 

Plaza Jardin Union from above. The shot was taken from the base of the huge statue of El Pipila that overlooks El Centro from high on one of the hills surrounding Guanajuato. El Pipila was a hero of the Mexican War of Independence from Spain. You can read his amazing story in Part 1 of my 2008 series. The Jardin Union (Union Garden) is the green area, roughly triangular in shape, just beyond the church in the foreground. 

The church is Templo San Diego de Alcalá, founded by the Franciscan Order in 1667 and completed in 1694. The Plaza was long known as Plaza San Diego because of its proximity to the Templo. In 1861, the Plaza was transformed into Jardin Union, a garden area with platforms, benches and lamps. Electric lighting and other improvements were made during the era of the Porfiriato (the 35-year dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz).

Pedestrians approach Jardin Union along Andador Luis González Obregón. An andador is a walking-only street. This one stretches 4 blocks from the Plaza de la Paz at the Basilica church to the northwest corner of the Jardin. Then, its name changes to De Sopena as it crosses in front of Templo San Diego and continues another 4 blocks until it finally hits Calle Del Calvario and is open to cars again. 

One of the best parts of El Centro areas in Mexico's colonial-era cities are the andadores that often border plazas or connect one or more of them. You can stroll along, enjoy the whole scene and not have to dodge cars, trucks, and maniac motorcyclists, or breath their exhaust fumes.

With no traffic, artists can set up right in the street. The corner above is where Luis González Obregón becomes De Sopena. The vegetation on the right is part of the Jardin Union. The blocks surrounding the Jardin are filled with restaurants and hotels. I wanted to stay at one of these hotels, but the parking was just too problematic. 

We finally decided on a hotel on the edge of Guanajuato in order to avoid driving in El Centro as much as we could. Our solution was to park in a large public parking garage called Estacionmiento La Alhondiga. It is located near the Museo Alhondiga where El Centro begins and we could just walk everywhere from there. It was an inexpensive and convenient solution and we recommend it. In addition to the one where we parked, there are other public garages in the area.

One of several fountains burbles in the midst of the lush garden. On a warm day, Jardin Union is an oasis of green, shady coolness with lots of music. There are several restaurants lining the walkway through the Jardin but they are all pretty up-scale and expensive. We like smaller, homier places, so we just sat on one of the many benches in order to people-watch and listen to the music of the various mariachi bands perform. 

And play they did! Two trumpeters performed our favorite song "Guadalajara!" A mariachi band that is full of good musicians is well worth a pause to listen to a few songs. Restaurant patrons, particularly large Mexican families, will hire a band to entertain them during their meals. There were plenty of ready customers for these guys. 

The bands typically dress in charro outfits. like those shown above. Mariachis originated in the state of Jalisco where we live. Tequila and charros are also among the many parts of ranch culture that originated in Jalisco and have since come to symbolize Mexico.

As soon as one band quits, another starts up. A mariachi band may vary in size, but the typical instruments include 2-3 trumpets, 3 or more violins, a vihuela, guitar, guitarrón, and sometimes a harp. And, of course, the bands often include wonderful singers. The musicians are nearly always men, but we have heard a few women-only bands, who also do a great job.

It is not certain exactly when and where mariachi music began. Some hold that it dates back to the Coca indigenous people in the 16th century. Apparently, they were trying to imitate the singing of the Franciscan friars who were evangelizing them. Others say it came about in the 18th century at rural fiestas. The small city of Cocula in Jalisco claims that the music style originated there and even boasts its own mariachi museum.

Teatro Juarez and the Funicular

Large bronze statues line the top of the Teatro Juarez. They represent some of the nine muses of Greek mythology. The Teatro is considered one of the most beautiful in Mexico. It was built using a variety of styles, including a columned Neo-Classic front and an Art Deco smoking lounge. 

The theatre was inaugurated by President Porfirio Diaz in 1903, only seven years before he fled the country in the face of the 1910 Revolution. For a detailed look inside at this fascinating building, see Part 3 of my 2008 postings on Guanajuato.

The Teatro's steps are a favorite "hang-out" spot for university students. Guanajuato is a college town and young people are everywhere. Over 17,000 students pursue undergraduate, graduate and doctorate degrees while attending the Universidad de Guanajuato (to be seen in a later posting) .

A rather bizarre statue stands between the Teatro and Templo San Diego. I have searched the internet and can't find any information about the statue's meaning or the identity of the sculptor. Anyone who knows anything about it is welcome to add a comment at the end of this posting. The Teatro was undergoing a major renovation during our 2022 visit and you can see the scaffolding on the left. I had photographed it in 2008 and so I didn't take many shots.  

El Pipila stands above the Teatro Juarez and the Templo San Diego. The statue is actually quite huge and the fact that El Pipila looks so tiny in the background demonstrates just how high the hill is upon which it stands. Held aloft in the statue's right hand is a torch. It symbolizes the blazing ember the silver miner carried as he crawled through a storm of gunfire.

With his torch, and protected only by a slab of stone tied to his back, El Pipila set alight the wooden door of the Alhondiga granary in which the Spanish had fortified themselves. This incredibly brave act allowed Miguel Hidalgo's insurgent army to storm the building and ultimately take Guanajuato as their first major victory.

One way to reach El Pipila. The Funicular Railway can take you up to the statue. It can be accessed by way of the alley between the Teatro Juarez and Templo San Diego. Other ways to access the statue include a stone walkway that is steep and narrow, and the Panorámica highway which circles the city.

This concludes Part 1 of this series. In Part 2, we'll take a look at Templo San Diego and the ruins of its Franciscan Convent, called the Dieguino. I hope you have enjoyed Part 1 and, if so, you will leave any thoughts or questions in the Comments section below or email me directly. As always, if you leave a question, please remember to include your email address so that I can reply in a timely manner.

Hasta luego, Jim


Friday, March 3, 2023

The Virgin of Guadalupe parade at Concepción de Buenos Aires: Part 2 of 2

A lone devotee prays at the chapel of the Virgen de Guadalupe. The flower-bedecked chapel is located in the Parroquia (parish church) on the Plaza, which was the end point of the parade. The Virgen de Guadalupe is not only a powerful religious symbol in Mexico but has great political and historical significance. In 1810, a banner with her image was chosen by Miguel Hidalgo, the Father of Mexican Independence, as his battle standard. 

In Part 2 of this series, I will show you the parade held in her honor on December 12 at Concepción de Buenos Aires. I'll wind up this posting with a great little spot for lunch, should you choose to visit this pueblo in the future. To locate the town, check out the map and directions I provide in Part 1.

The Virgen de Guadalupe Parade

A tractor from a local farm towed the lead float. Everything about the parade was obviously put together by the local people with great care and devotion. Nothing about it pandered to foreigners like us. All that made the experience even more interesting and downright charming.

View of the lead float from its rear. Almost hidden by the mounds of flowers, a lone charro stands watch over the statue in the front of the float. The Virgen de Guadalupe is nearly always portrayed in exactly the same posture and clothing. She first appeared to a Christianized Aztec man near Mexico City in 1531. Everything about her image and the legends that surround her carries both Catholic and pre-hispanic pagan meanings. 

A second float carried a live tableau. A woman kneels reverently before a young girl who is dressed as the Virgin. Mexicans are very attracted to religious pageantry and living tableaux. Sometimes, living actors even portray inanimate statues.

Children are often incorporated into the tableaux. Rural communities like Concepción de Buenos Aires are deeply religious. While parades like this are entertaining for everyone, there is always an underlying seriousness to these kinds of religious events.

In the back of the second float, another tableau. A pretty young mom and her daughter ride quietly by a spectator watching the parade. The mom gave me a Mona Lisa smile but her little girl looked a bit concerned by my photographic efforts.

And here come the charros. These were the last three in the line of horsemen, but certainly not the least. The streamers they ride under are in the colors of the Mexican flag. Along with the music, it was this set of streamers that originally attracted our attention to the point far down the street from the Plaza where the parade had originally gathered.

The local band brought up the rear. The group was made up of two drummers, a pair of saxophonists, one trumpeter and a tuba player sporting a large blue instrument. They banged and tootled along merrily, if somewhat off key at times. 

A cohetero prepares to fire. A cohete is a small rocket, about the size of a cigar, attached to a long stick. They are lit off by men known as coheteros, who are ubiquitous at fiestas of all kinds. Their rockets don't set off a visual display, other than the small cloud of smoke that appears when they explode high in the sky. The main effect is the deafening blast. Individually, this is startling but tolerable. However, when shot off in a barrage, the effect is akin to the Battle of Stalingrad. 

Small groups of spectators gathered  to watch. Multiple generations crowded together in doorways and storefronts. I particularly liked the little girl who wears a huge heart on her chest.

A castillo lies on its side in front of the Parroquia at the Plaza. A castillo (castle) is a pyrotechnic structure that vaguely resembles a Christmas tree. To erect it, a street will sometimes be dug up and the center post set in the ground. In this case, the castillo has a cross- piece to rest upon when it is upright. It will become the focus of the fiesta this evening.

The structure is festooned with small rockets that are interconnected by fuses. When the castillo is lit off, the many small circular devices connected to it will spin wildly, propelled by the rockets attached to them. The whole affair will be quite a spectacle as it showers sparks in every direction. However, we will be long gone by then.

Lunch at El Tio Lucas Bar and Restaurant

Jerry approaches Tio Lucas Bar and Restaurant. In Spanish, Tio Lucas means "Uncle Luke". The one-story brick structure occupies the corner of the Plaza at Calles Aquiles Serdán and Álvaro Obregón. I found it a little odd that the structure is entirely brick since wood is so heavily used in this town. The style suggests a 19th century creation.

A bearded barman, presumably Tio Lucas, sat ready to take any orders. The restaurant-bar was very cozy and homey. While our waiter didn't speak English, we knew enough Spanish to read the menu and order without difficulty. Photos of local people covered the walls. Some were of charros, while others were of local school sports teams and families celebrating various rural events.

Jerry opens a dish of hot tortillas as we get ready to dive into lunch. The tasty menu mainly listed traditional Mexican dishes. These included the usual standards of enchiladas and tacos, along with salads and frijoles, but there were also some local specialties. Tio Lucas is definitely a good spot for a meal during a visit here.

The masks Lori and Carole are wearing were due to the heightened level of covid-19 in the area during December. Quite a number of our friends and acquaintances came down with it at the time. I wear one too, when in crowds or confined spaces like this. Better safe than sorry.

This friendly pair agreed to a photo as I passed through the Plaza. The guy is probably the abuelo (grandpa) of the young girl. He looks like a prosperous local farmer, in town for the big event. I get some of my best "people" shots when I encounter folks sitting in plazas like this. They almost never say "no" to a photo.

This concludes Part 2 of my series on Concepción de Buenos Aires and completes the series itself. 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. Please remember that if you leave a question, you need to include your email address so that I can respond in a timely manner.

Hasta luego, Jim