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September 11, 2003


Here I am all by myself in this very elegant, civilised little town.

I arrived by bus on Tuesday, after flying into Mexico City. The landing was great - the plane swoops right in over the enormous city, so that you feel like the wings will surely clip the tops of the buildings. It's quite exciting.

I missed my bus at first, because I forgot to wind my watch forward, so I arrived late at night and checked into a dear little hotel with rooms surrounding a courtyard filled with potted plants and caged birds.

I have spent my time here mostly wandering around, casually popping into churches and museums. Guanajuato is a university town nestled in a lovely valley a few hours north of Mexico City. It's full of students, who all sit around on the steps of the charming buildings and monuments. The colonial architecture is very well preserved, and the town is World Heritage listed. There's one main drag running through the centre of town, with all the other streets coming off it, ascending steeply so that many of them are actually staircases. There is plenty of activity in the streets, too, with lots of organ-grinding and accordian-playing going on, and people selling delicious fresh corn and other treats, and mariachis playing in the garden in the centre of town.

There are lots of pretty little parks and squares all over the place, too. I sat in one today, reading some Gabriel Garcia Marquez (I thought I'd better read something Latin American, but his short stories are so opaque, he makes me miss the Garps terribly) and watching little boys chase pigeons around the fountain. I struck up a conversation with an old man called Jorge. He said I was far too young, at 21, to be traveling by myself. When I told him I was 29 he said I ought to find a husband and have some babies. I didn't disagree. Jorge said he was sorry his four sons already had wives.

The churches around here - except for the main basilica, which is quite jolly in its baroqueness, full of shiny chandeliers and juicy cherubs perched atop its gilt arches - feel stale and ghostly. Catholicism certainly is a very creepy religion (fellow RCs needn't get prickly - I speak from experience as well as observation). They go in for dressing up their statues around here, and Mary usually looks quite nice, but Jesus, always considered a long-haired fellow, sports a variety of brunette wigs, many of which are weirdly foxy. The unfortunate result is that he often looks like a transvestite after a particularly rough night on the turps. In one church, the gash in his side was so deep and gruesome that his ribcage was exposed. I thought that was going too far. And of course there are all the saints, murdered in any manner of horrific ways, dressed up and prone inside glass coffins.

The statues made by the original inhabitants of this part of the world, on the other hand, are fresh and uplifting with their clean geometric lines and their imaginative, abstract representations of gods and animals. They look positively contemporary next to all those literal-minded martyrs. I saw lots of pre-Colombian art in a museum today, which also had plenty of exhibits outlining the history of the War of Independence, which was launched not far from here. The museum is actually inside the building where the Spaniards hid while Padre Hidalgo and his fellow rebels were launching their attack on Guanajuato. Mexico's Independence Day is on Monday, so there are lots of celebrations happening in town - I'm off to a concert this evening.

Tomorrow I leave early for Mexico City, where I'll meet my New York-Mexican friend Cecilia, and also my friends Melanie and Tristan from Australia. I'll go to Ceci's brother's wedding on Saturday, then next week Mel and Tristan and I set off on a two-week tour of Oaxaca, Chiapas and the Yucatan. Can't wait.

Posted by Sarah on September 11, 2003 06:44 PM
Category: Mexico

Hi Sara, I was wondering if you could tell me the name of the place you stayed in Guanajuato? I will be there in Oct. Also, from the aiport did you hop right on the bus there or did you have to catch it across town? Thanks for any feedback. Virginia

Posted by: virginia on September 15, 2003 09:25 PM

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