Part 2 of my trip to Mexico.
During the middle of a Friday afternoon, my company’s entire Mexico office packed up and headed to the Festival Internacional Cervantino in Guanajuato. Guanajuato is a city full of history, so this post will serve as a mini history lesson, ending with a peek at my visit.
Before we could roam the streets of Guanajuato, we had to find our way through a maze of underground tunnels beneath the city. My coworker tour guides explained that the tunnels were once the town’s sewer system. They now function as the primary way to travel by automobile, as very minimal traffic is allowed at the street level. The following hastily snapped photo will not do it the tunnels justice – they are the most spectacular old sewer system turned underground highway that I have ever seen.
Guanajuato was formed due to the detection of minerals nearby. The Spanish were attracted to these resources and settled in the area during the 1540s. As time went on, mine production climaxed, and at one point Guanajuato became the largest producer of silver in the world. The wealth of the town in that era is still reflected in gold strewn throughout the city’s churches. Yet as many histories go, the rich became richer and the poor became poorer.
In 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla raised an army to stand against the Spanish and led them into Guanajuato. Spanish troops and the wealthy took shelter in the local granary (Alhóndiga de Granaditas).
The thick stone walls were effective at holding off the rebel army, until a miner from a nearby town took a few daring steps. Juan José de los Reyes Martínez Amaro (known as El Pípila) strapped a large, flat stone to his back to block Spanish gunfire and walked to the granary’s wooden door. Then he smeared the door with tar and set it on fire! After the door burned down, it wasn’t long until Hidalgo’s men stormed the building and killed everyone in it.
This fight was the first attack against Spanish troops, and a major moment in Mexico’s War of Independence.
My coworkers pointed to the bullet holes I wrongfully assumed was the natural wearing away of the building. It struck me deeply that we were standing on the site of an event that helped shape a country, and that so many died for. I still can’t begin to imagine how El Pípila braved the gunfire with the big rock on his back, let alone made it up the incredibly steep hill to the granary.
The Festival Internacional Cervantino
The name of the festival comes from an event in Guanjuato called Entremeses de Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, which was a festival where short plays written by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (the author of Don Quixote) were performed. After the Mexican government involved itself, the Entremeses bloomed into the Festival Internacional Cervantino as it is known today. The festival showcases all manner of performances from a multitude of other countries. To honor the original incarnation of the festival, Cervantes’ short plays are still performed.
One of the best parts about visiting Guanajuato is wandering the streets. Behind every corner is a picturesque view, an amazing performance, or a unique shop. Here’s a peek at how we spent our evening:
My only regret about visiting Guanajuato was not staying for a few weeks to explore it, but I’m thinking another trip may be in order…