Sunday, April 13, 2014 11:18 AM
Kinnon Family Trip Report 2014 - El Pípila & the Legends of Guanajuato
With just one day in town, already we could see that this is an area in Mexico that is truly flourishing. Smartly dressed business men and women and hip university students seem to make up the majority of the people we see in town, sprinkled with tourists, mostly Nationals. Guanajuato's economy has long benefited from its silver mines, which are
among the richest in the world. Other treasures harvested from the surrounding mountains are tin, gold, copper, lead, mercury and opals.
The state also leads the nation in the manufacture of shoes and is a major manufacturer of motor vehicles and auto parts. The day we arrived, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and French President François Hollande were here together to inaugurate a new aeronautics plant. If people are struggling here, we have yet to see it but we have not yet ventured outside of el centro.
Today, Cat and I grabbed some pastries at the nearby panaderia and
brought them back for a leisurely break fast at home. We had no big
plans for the day as Rob and I were adjusting to the altitude and not
feeling 100%. I uploaded photos, went through email and tried to get
some work done. Here are a few photos of our rental house and the neighborhood where we are staying.
From our rooftop, we have a great view of the city but we really wanted to get up above it all and a visit to "El Pípila", the enormous statue that looms high over downtown seemed like the place to do it. It is possible to hike up there but we decided to take the funicula, a tram which runs up the side of the hill, leaving from behind the Teatro Juarez.
This remarkable statue celebrates the bravery of one Mexico's earliest
heroes in its push toward independence, Juan José de los Reyes Martínez,
"El Pípila". He was given the nickname Pípila by his fellow miners
because his pock-marked face made him vaguely
resemble the egg of a species of native turkey called
In 1810, the famous revolutionary, Miguel Hidalgo, led an insurgent
peasant army into the
rich city of Guanajuato. The under-manned Spanish garrison was routed
the surviving soldiers and many wealth citizens barricaded themselves
in the Alhóndiga (granary). Legend has it, "El Pípila" with a giant slab
of stone strapped to his back to deflect bullets, crawled to the
granary door with a torch and
lit it on fire. The insurgent army then burst through, killing all the
occupants. Hidalgo was
eventually captured by the Spaniards and executed. His
corpse was decapitated and his head suspended in a wire cage from one of
the outside corners of the Alhóndiga. It hung there
for 13 years until the fight for independence was finally
won. So that's nice.
However you find your way up here, the view is magnificent and absolutely worth the trip. There are the usual trinket vendors at the top of the hill as well as a dozen or so taco carts with fantastic looking food. I was sad we had already eaten. We met a local artist and bought a small lithograph from his collection of portraits of Don Quixote. Guanajuato is absolutely obsessed with Cervantes and statues and imagery of Don Quixote can be found all over the city. The Quijote Iconographic Museum was inaugurated in his honor in 1987. Every year in October, the Festival Internacional Cervantino is held attracting visitors from all over Mexico and around the world. The origin of the Cervantino Festival dates back to the mid-20th
century when short plays by Cervantes were performed in the city's plazas. The festival was officially founded and named in
honor of Cervantes in 1972.
The state of Guanajuato is known as the land of legends due to the
residents’ infatuation with supernatural tales such as the stories of El
Pípila and "Kiss Alley". I thought that a visit to the Museo de Leyendas might be fun and give us a brief overview of some of Guanajuato's favorite tales. I was thinking it might be a Mexican version of the Salem Witch Museum which we all enjoyed last summer.
I don't think I can effectively depict in photos just how bad this "museum" was. Truly hokey. Not recommended unless you need a good giggle. There's 30 minutes and 60 pesos I'll never get back.
The remainder of the day and evening was spent strolling about town, wander from park to park and sitting occasionally to have a drink when the mood struck. Plaza de la Paz was particularly beautiful so we sat for a bit, enjoyed a pitcher of Clericot (sangria) in the shadow of the grand Basilica Nuestra Senora de Guanajuato and watched the world go by. Saturday must be a big day for weddings as we saw three or four wedding parties making their way through the city, taking pictures along the way. We made our way back to our now favorite spot at Casa Valadez and tried a few of their finer tequila and mezcal while the kids watched one of the many street performers, mariachi bands and musicians who call Jardin de la Union home. Everywhere you look there is art and music and culture.
We went for a somewhat forgettable dinner, discovered a fantastic craft beer store conveniently located across the plaza by our house and then headed home for the night. Hoping everyone feels more energetic tomorrow....