Tag Archive: Guanajuato Mexico


Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

What has to be the largest Mexican flag in all of Mexico waves over Dolores Hidalgo.  It’s visible from the mountain road long before the city appears, and it’s a beacon which flies there for good reason.

Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

The town – to which the name of Mexican patriot Father Miguel Hidalgo is now affixed – is where Hidalgo uttered the Grito – his famous cry for Mexican independence – on September 16, 1810.

Within a year, his rebellion’s early successes were reversed and his head was impaled on a spike upon the ramparts of the Alhondigas in Guanajuato, where his army achieved its first major victory.

Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

It would take ten more years for Mexico to free itself from the Spanish crown, but every year on September 16, the Grito is re-enacted in the city’s historic central plaza – the zócalo – as in thousands of cities across Mexico.

But Dolores Hidalgo’s role in the Mexico’s War of Independence is only one of the good reasons that the city has been named one of Mexico’s Pueblos Mágicos” – Magical Towns.

Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores and statue of Father Hidalgo, Dolores Hidalgo zócalo

Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores and statue of Father Hidalgo, Dolores Hidalgo zócalo

The center of Dolores Hidalgo is the zócalo, and it’s dominated by a statue of Father Hidalgo and by his historic church, the Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores.

As I walk the plaza, I check out a church facade done in the ornate Spanish Baroque “Churrigueresque” style and bearing intricately carved figures.

Street food, Dolores Hidalgo

Street food, Dolores Hidalgo

 

History buffs will enjoy the nearby Museo de la Independencia, in which are displayed artifacts of the war of independence.

Ice cream flavors, Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

Ice cream flavors, Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

 

Until I visited Dolores Hidalgo, I thought that Michoacán was the epicenter of Mexican ice cream, but a walk around the zócalo – where homemade ice cream is sold daily from the many push carts –  quickly convinced me otherwise.

Ice cream vendor, Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

Ice cream vendor, Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

Nowhere but the at the State Fair of Texas annual Fried Food Contest – known for its improbable ingredients –  have I tasted so many quirky (yet all very tasty) flavors.

Chili ice cream, Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

Chili ice cream, Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

On my visit, featured flavors ranged from the traditional fruits and nuts and chocolate to the truly exotic and even bizarre.  But who wants vanilla, chocolate or strawberry when you can have mango or papaya?  Perhaps avocado or corn?  Fried pork skins, chile, or mole?  Shrimp or octopus?  Or maybe cerveza, tequila, or pulque?

Ice cream made to order, Dolores Hidalgo

Ice cream made to order, Dolores Hidalgo

Vendors are constantly competing to come up with the next new flavor, so it’s an experience constantly re-invented.

Today, Dolores Hidalgo it is widely renowned for its ceramics, the production of which directly or indirectly employs more than half of the city’s workers.  It was Father Hidalgo who introduced Talavera pottery techniques from Puebla to the people of Dolores Hidalgo.

Ceramics workshop. Dolores Hidalgo

Ceramics workshop. Dolores Hidalgo

Since 1997, only ceramics from Puebla can be designated as “talavera,” but the Puebla techniques are still practiced here, as they have been for three centuries.

 

Ceramics artisans, Dolores Hidalgo

Ceramics artisans, Dolores Hidalgo

While Dolores Hidalgo is one of the main producers of majolica glazed tiles, its workshops produce a staggering array of ceramics including dinnerware, vases, pots and jars, mosaics, bathtubs, bathroom sinks, and soap dishes, and even light switch covers and bird baths.

Ceramics workshop. Dolores Hidalgo

Ceramics workshop. Dolores Hidalgo

There are plenty of shops selling ceramics on the side streets just off the zócalo, but it’s far more interesting to visit one of the workshops that line the approach to town.  There visitors can walk among the artisans as they work, which is a real treat, since everything is made and decorated by hand.

Because Dolores Hidalgo is not a major international tourist destination, it retains much of its colonial charm and all of its Mexican authenticity.  No visit to Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, or Queretaro is complete without including this side trip.

Also in the state of Guanajuato and just down the road from Dolores Hidalgo is a mystical world heritage site that’s the subject of my next post.

Read my other related posts:

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Rivera’s roots

Bronze of Diego, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Bronze of Diego, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Diego Rivera was a prominent Mexican painter whose large scale wall frescos dealt mostly with social and political themes arising from Mexico’s 1910 revolution.

 

He painted in Mexico City and in the U.S. between 1922 and 1953, and was instrumental in establishing the Mural Movement in Mexican art.

 

Guanajuato’s Museo Casa Diego Rivera is located in the house where the artist was born, and where he lived until the age of ten, when his family moved to Mexico City.

 

Exterior, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Exterior, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Living quarters on the ground floor are furnished in period antiques.

The upper floors house a permanent collection of nearly one hundred original works and sketches that span more than forty years.

Rivera was a man of contradictions.

Born into a well-to-do family, he became an ardent Marxist and his politics made him a persona non grata in Guanajuato for much of his life.

Born the son of a Catholic father and a Converso mother whose Jewish ancestors had been forced to convert to Catholicism, he was a lifelong atheist.

Address plaque, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Address plaque, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

A year after his twin brother died at the age of two, Rivera began drawing on the walls of the family house and his parents installed chalkboards and wall canvasses to encourage his talent.

He was already studying art in Mexico City at the age of ten, and continued his studies in Madrid and then in Paris, where he lived and worked among the Montparnasse artists and where his friend Modigliani painted his portrait.  Rivera also traveled extensively through Italy, studying Renaissance frescoes.

His early work embraced the emerging school of Cubist art, but by 1917 he began to adopt a new style that emphasized simple forms and large patches of vivid colors with an Aztec influence.

Dining room, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Dining room, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

He painted his first significant mural, “Creation,” at the National Preparatory School in Mexico City in 1921.  During the work he carried a pistol to protect himself from right-wing students.

His murals at the Secretariat of Public Education in Mexico City were painted between 1922 and 1928, and soon afterward he produced works for Cuernavaca’s Cortés Palace.

Salon, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Salon, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Rivera arrived in Moscow in 1927 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution.  Also attending was Alfred Barr, later the founding director of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, where a retrospective exhibition of Rivera’s works was held in 1931.

While in Russia, Rivera received a commission for a mural in Moscow’s Red Army Club, but was expelled from the country because of involvement in anti-Soviet politics, and the next year he was expelled from the Mexican Communist Party.

Bedroom, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Bedroom, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Following his return to Mexico City, he produced a series of murals in the National Palace.

In 1929 he married his third wife, artist Frida Kahlo.  He was 42 and she was 22,  Their mutual infidelities and his violent temper would lead to their divorce in 1939 and remarriage in 1940.

Memorial, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Memorial, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

In 1930, after completing a commission for murals in the National School of Agriculture at Chapingo, and the Palace of Cortés in Cuernavaca, Rivera accepted commissions from the City Club of the San Francisco Stock Exchange and from the California School of Fine Art.  The work he produced there is now on display in the Diego Rivera Gallery at the San Francisco Art Institute.

Between 1932 and 1933, Rivera completed the twenty-seven panels of his work “Detroit Industry”, commissioned by Edsel Ford, on the walls of an inner court at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Bedroom, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Bedroom, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

His 1933 mural “Man at the Crossroads”, commissioned by John D. Rockefeller, was removed from the Rockefeller Center following a furor over its inclusion of the image of Lenin.

When Diego refused to remove it, Rockefeller ordered Rivera to leave and the mural destroyed.  The censorship became a cause celebre among New York’s artistic community.

Rivera family photos, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Rivera family photos, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

While Rockefeller detested Rivera’s art for its politics, Edsel Ford saw the art separately from the politics, and was a staunch defender of the artist’s talent even during the McCarthy witch hunts of the 1950s.

The negative publicity over the Rockefeller Center mural, though, lost Rivera a commission for the Chicago World’s Fair.

In 1934, Rivera  repainted the Rockefeller Center mural in Mexico city’s Palacio de Bellas Artes.

Bedroom, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Bedroom, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

He returned to the U.S. for the last time in 1940 to paint a ten-panel mural for the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco titled “Pan American Unity”.

The mural and its archives now reside at City College of San Francisco.

There’s plenty more to see on a future visit, but it’s still been a great day trip from San Miguel de Allende.

For more on Guanajuato, check out my earlier posts:

A panel from Diego Rivera’s work “Detroit Industry” appears on the cover of my latest novel, Lifelines: An American Dream, available now on Amazon.

 

The first sight of Guanajuato is breathtakingly beautiful.  Thousands of brightly colored buildings are draped across the hills like a mosaic carpet, and the colors are warm in the morning sunlight.  It’s picture postcard perfect.

Guanajuato, Mexico

Guanajuato, Mexico

Guanajuato has played an important role throughout much of Mexico’s history, including its service as one of  Mexico’s provisional capitals  up until its capture during the French intervention in 1863 .

Plaza de la Paz, Guanajuato, Mexico

Plaza de la Paz, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

This city’s spirit is well summed up by its  Plaza de la Paz – the Peace Plaza.

 

This is where the wealthiest of colonial families built their homes.

 

It is also the site of the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato – the Basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato.

 

One of the plaza’s most distinctive feature is an allegorical sculpture of the woman “Peace”.

Since much of Guanajuato’s through traffic has been routed through the tunnels of abandoned silver mines which run below it, the narrow streets of the Centro Historico are very pedestrian-friendly, and beg to be walked.

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

 

 

 

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

 

The Alhondigas de Granaditas – The Granary – dominates the  old city, and has played a central role in its history for more than two hundred years.

Alhondigas de Granaditas (center) and Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato (lower right), Guanajuato, Mexico

Alhondigas de Granaditas (center) and Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato (lower right), Guanajuato, Mexico

Today it is one of the venues for the Festival Internacional Cervantino, held here every fall since 1972.

The festival  celebrates the life and work of Miguel Cervantes, who is considered by Spanish-speakers to be as significant an influence on their literature as Shakespeare is to English literature.

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

The Alhondigas is best known, though, as the site of the first battle in Mexico’s War of Independence.

 

 

In 1810, insurgents led by patriot Miguel Hidalgo entered the city to find that Royalist troops and  sympathizers had barricaded themselves – and millions of pesos of silver – in the Alhondigas.

 

The Royalists were counting upon the granary’s thick and windowless walls and single gated entrance to resist a siege, and they were able to fight the rebels to a stalemate.

Statue of El Pípila, Guanajuato, Mexico

Statue of El Pípila, Guanajuato, Mexico

The impasse was broken when miner Juan José de los Reyes Martínez, better known to history by his nickname of El Pípila, armored himself with a large flat stone strapped to his back and crawled to the wooden gate with a flask of tar and a torch.

Martínez’s  courageous act enabled the patriots to take the building, and his heroism is commemorated by a colossal statue of him that now overlooks the city.

Murals, Alhondigas de Granaditas, Guanajuato, Mexico

Murals, Alhondigas de Granaditas, Guanajuato, Mexico

The building now serves as the Museo Regional de Guanajuato, documenting the city’s history  from before the Spanish Conquest.

Mural, Alhondigas de Granaditas, Guanajuato, Mexico

Mural, Alhondigas de Granaditas, Guanajuato, Mexico

Its architecture honors heroes of the Mexican Revolution with mascarons, gargoyle-like sculptures that incorporate their faces.

The walls of the main stairwell contain murals by José Chávez Morado that allude to Independence, along with paintings and photographs.

It is a long-standing tradition to celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day with a reenactment of Miguel Hidalgo’s “El Grito de Dolores” – the call to arms – in the Alhondiga’s large courtyard.

An eternal flame is re-lit here each year on the anniversary of the battle.

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

It ‘s no surprise that this charming and historic city is one of Mexico’s thirty-two World Heritage Sites.

Coming up next in Guanajuato:  Museo Casa Diego Rivera, the Mexican muralist’s childhood home.

Also in Guanajuato:  Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, the opulent home and magnificent gardens built by one of the city’s silver barons.  Read more…