Mexican StateGuanajuato State, the heartland of Mexico during the colonial period, is bounded on the north by the state of San Luis Potosí, in the west by Jalisco, on the south by Michoacán and on the east by Querétaro.
Predominantly mountainous, with fertile valleys and plains, it is part of the Bajío, the granary of the central Mexican plateau. In addition to its capital, Guanajuato, the state boasts several handsome colonial towns which together with its beautiful scenery and numerous health resorts make it a popular tourist region. The population includes Indians of the Otomí and Chichimeco-Jonaz tribes as well as Tarascans.Archaeological SitesThere are some smallish archaeological sites in Ibarilla near León, Agua Espinoza near Dolores Hidalgo, Cañada de la Virgen near San Miguel de Allende and Oduña near Comonfort.HistoryAt an early stage the Otomí mingled with the Chichimecs in this region; then in the 15th c. Tarascans (Purépecha) and Aztecs (Mexica) moved in and eventually became dominant. After the fall of the Aztec empire the first Spaniards, led by Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán, arrived c. 1526 in what is now the state of Guanajuato (Tarascan: "Cuanax-huato", "hilly place of the frogs"). Simultaneously with the first discoveries of minerals, areas of fertile land were granted to Spanish settlers as ecomiendas. The subsequent history of the region during the colonial period and after Independence is substantially that of the larger towns in the state. Until 1824 Guanajuato was joined with Querétaro as an administrative unit under Spanish control.EconomyThe state has a well-developed system of communications by road and rail. Guanajuato once had the most productive silver-mines in the world, now largely worked out. Other minerals worked include gold, tin, lead, copper, mercury and opals. Industry is mainly concerned with the processing of wheat, cotton, and sheep's wool; there are also some smelting works and pottery production. León is the shoe manufacturing centre of Mexico. In the fertile southern part of the state productive agriculture (maize, wheat, tobacco) and livestock-farming both contribute to the economy. The area around Irapuato is one of the largest strawberry-growing regions in the world. Tourism now also plays an important part.SightsIn addition to the capital, Guanajuato, the state has numerous other places of interest to the tourist, including San Miguel de Allende together with Atotonilco and Dolores Hidalgo, Celaya, Yuriria (a suburb of Celaya), Salamanca, Irapuato (a suburb of Salamanca) and León.
How to get thereFrom Mexico City by rail about 8.5 hours to Irapuato; change there for Guanajuato, a journey which takes a further 1.5 hours (there is no direct line); by bus in about 5.5 hours; by car on the MEX 57 and MEX 45 (370km/230mi).Guanajuato, capital of the state of the same name, extends along a narrow valley and up the lower slopes of the bare hills on either side.The trim houses, often painted in bright colours, the narrow streets and lanes, the snug little squares and the old colonial buildings give the town a charm all of its own. It is one of Mexico's most attractive spots and is included in UNESCO's list of world cultural heritage sites.Its rich cultural life combines with the visual attractions of the townscape to make Guanajuato one of the most popular tourist centres in Mexico.HistoryIn pre-Columbian times the region was occupied by Tarascans, who called the settlement here "Cuanax-huato", or "hilly place of the frogs". Between 1526 and 1529 the region was conquered and settled by the Spaniards, led by Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán. By the middle of the 16th c. the first silver-mines were opened up, establishing the prosperity of the town. In 1557 it was granted the name of Santa Fé y Real de Minas de Quanaxhuato, and in 1741 was granted a municipal charter.Shortly after the declaration of Mexican independence in 1810 Ignacio de Allende succeeded temporarily in occupying the town after Juan José de los Reyes Martínez, known as El Pípila (the "Turkeycock"), had blown up the entrance to the Spanish fort of Alhóndiga de Granaditas and compelled the garrison to surrender, but the town was soon afterwards retaken by royalist forces under General Félix M. Calleja. In 1811 the severed heads of the leaders of the fight for independence - Hidalgo, Allende, Jiménez and Aldama - were hung at the corners of the Alhóndiga de Granaditas, remaining there until Mexico achieved independence in 1821. During the Guerra de la Reforma (1857-60)Guanajuato was capital of the republic for a month at the beginning of 1858. During the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz (1876-1911) foreign capital flowed into the mines, and the town enjoyed a great surge of prosperity, during which many public buildings such as the Teatro Juárez, the Mercado Hidalgo and the Palacio Legislativo were erected. Guanajuato, with its Festival and University, is now a centre of intellectual life.
A tour of Guanajuato usually starts in the pretty little main square, the Jardín de la Unión or Zócalo, with the Teatro Juárez, an opera-house in Neo-Classical style with Doric columns, which was opened in 1903 having taken thirty years to complete.
Church of San Diego
Beside the opera-house stands the elegant church of San Diego, altered during the 17th and 18th c., with its Churrigueresque façade.
Museo Iconográfico Del Quijote
Plaza de la Paz
The female statue, sculpted by Jesús Contreras in 1898, lies in the center of the plaza and is known as the Monumento a la Paz.
Nuestro Señora de Guanajuato
Avenida Benito Juárez leads to the Plaza de la Paz (Peace Square) in which, to the right, stands the Baroque Basilica of Nuestro Señora de Guanajuato, formerly the parish church. This church, originally 17th c. but much altered thereafter, houses the much revered statue of the Virgin of Guanajuato, a carved wooden figure on a silver base which is believed to date from the 7th c. and was presented to Guanajuato by King Philip II of Spain in 1557.
This government building was finished in 1900. There is a library within the building as well.
Basílica Colegiata de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato
Avenida Benito Juárez leads to the Plaza de la Paz (Peace Square) in which, to the right, stands the Baroque Basilica of Nuestro Señora de Guanajuato, formerly the parish church. This church, originally 17th c. but much altered thereafter, houses the much revered statue of the Virgin of Guanajuato, a carved wooden figure on a silver base which is believed to date from the 7th c. and was presented to Guanajuato by King Philip II of Spain in 1557.This Baroque church is the largest building in Guanajuato and was finished in 1696.
Casa Rul y Valencia
In the Plaza de la Paz stands the Casa Rul y Valenciana, a Neo-Classical mansion built by Francisco Eduardo Tresguerras at the end of the 18th c. for the Conde de Rul, a wealthy mine-owner. The German naturalist and geographer Alexander von Humboldt stayed here for a short time in 1803.
On either side of Avenida Juárez will be found a number of picturesque little squares or (plazuelas). Off the Plazuela de los Angeles, to the left, opens the Callejón del Beso (Kissing Lane), so called because it is only 68cm (2ft 3in) wide, allowing a loving couple to kiss from windows on opposite sides. Farther along, on the left, stands the Mercado Hidalgo, a market hall opened in 1910.
The market is housed in an early 20th c. building.
Templo de Belén
Alhóndiga de Granaditas
A little way north of Templo de Belém stands the Alhóndiga de Granaditas, built in 1799 and originally a granary. Thereafter it was used as a prison and a fort, the gate of which was blown up by "El Pípila", Guanajuato's folk hero. It now houses the Museum of Mexican Independence (Museo de la Independencia Mexicana), which contains archaeological and ethnological material as well as historical relics and silver-mining souvenirs. On the staircase are murals by José Chávez Morado (1955-66) depicting scenes from the fight for independence, the revolutionary wars and folk tradition. At the corners of the Alhóndiga can be seen the hooks on which the heads of the executed freedom fighters were displayed in iron cages for ten years.
Address: Mendizábal, #6, Mexico
Opening hours: 10am-2pm, 4pm-6pm; Sun: 10am-2pm, 4pm-5pm; Closed: Mon
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Mexican Constitution Day (Día de la Constititución) (Feb 5), Mexico - Benito Juárez Birthday (Mar 21), Mexico - Battle of Pueblo Day (May 5), Mexico National Day (Sep 1), Mexican Independence Day (Sep 16), Mexican Revolution Day (Nov 20), Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe (Dec 12), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25)
Entrance fee in MXN: Adult $14.00
Useful tips: Free admission on Sundays.
Diego Rivera Museum
In Calle de los Pocitos, at the corner of Calle Mollas, lies the birthplace of the famous mural painter Diego Rivera (1886-1957), now a museum devoted to the artist and his work.
Plaza San Roque
To the south-west of the Diego Rivera Museum in the Plaza San Roque will be found the Baroque church of the same name. This square forms a picturesque setting for performances - given annually by the University, primarily during the Cervantes Festival in October - of the "Entremeses Cervantinos" ("Cervantine Interludes"), one-act plays by the great Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616), famous Spanish author of "Don Quixote". At the end of 1987 the Spanish prime minister Felipe González opened the Don Quijote Museum.
Teatro Miguel de Cervantes
Prior to 1979 when this building became a theater, it was used for smelting.
At the end of Calle de los Pocitos, in the former residence of the Marqués de Rayas, is the Municipal Museum (Museo del Pueblo de Guanajuato), which houses temporary exhibitions including works by the artist José Chavez Morado and other painters as well as collections of folk-art.
To the north of the Municipal Museum the main building of the University (rebuilt in 1955) is approached by an impressive flight of steps. The University is built of white stone in a colonial style showing Moorish influence which fits very naturally into the townscape of Guanajuato.
On the east side of the University towers the massive bulk of the church of La Compañía, a Jesuit foundation of 1747. The façade is in Churrigueresque style, the mighty dome Neo-Classical. The church contains two pictures by the great Mexican painter Miguel Cabrera. On the way back to the main square we pass the Plazuela del Barratillo, with its pretty fountain presented to the town by the Emperor Maximilian.
Avenida Miguel Hidalgo
It is worth driving along Avenida Miguel Hidalgo - which follows the line of the old river bed, running underground for part of the way - into the Carretera Panorámica, from which there are magnificent views of the town and surroundings. Along this road to the south-west stands a Monument to El Pípila.
Iglesia de Cata
The Carretera Panorámica leads north to the Iglesia de Cata (Iglesia del Señor de Villaseca) on the Calle Mineral de Cata. Built in the first quarter of the 18th c., this church has a fine Churrigueresque façade.Also worth seeing are the churches of San Francisco, Guadalupe and Pardo, which has the façade of the old church of San Juan Rayas.
The Calzada de Tepetapa leads past the station, in the direction of Guadalajara, to the Municipal Cemetery (Panteón Municipal), which adjoins a macabre Mummy Museum (Museo de las Momias). Here, in a crypt, mummified bodies of men, women and children, all of them deceased within the last 120 years, are displayed in glass cases, their excellent state of preservation apparently being due to mineral salts contained in the soil of the cemetery.
4km/2.5mi further on towards Silao lies the township of Marfil, an old silver-mining town in which some of the old houses have been restored and re-occupied by new owners, including foreigners. The gardens and old chapel of the Hacienda San Gabriel are worth a visit.
Cerro del Cubilete
16km/10mi beyond Marfil on the road to Silao a side road branches off on the right and in 14km/8.7mi reaches the Cerro del Cubilete (2700 m (8860 ft)), on which stands a conspicuous statue of Christ the King (El Cristo Rey), almost 23 m (75 ft) high. Sculpted by Fidias Elzondo and Carlos Olvera between 1922 and 1929, the statue is much visited by pilgrims and day-trippers and affords a superb panoramic view of the Baijo and the forest-covered hills of Tarascan territory. The Cerro del Cubilete is regarded as the geographical centre of Mexico.
The Church of la Valenciana is constructed of pink cantera stone and is an excellent example of Mexican "Ultra-Baroque".
Ex Hacienda de San Gabriel de la Barrera
Bocamina de Valencia (Mina de San Cayetano de la Valenciana)
This garden features remains of the Reforma Market. There are mansions surrounding the park from as early as the 16th c.
Jardín Unión (Zócalo)
Guanajuato's main square is a triangle shaped garden. The state band plays here on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.
Map of Guanajuato Attractions