Mexico - Guanajuato and Dolores Hidalgo

Monday July 30
Ken went to vacuum the van and wash it. In Canada this would not be mentionable, but here it is. Ken had a whole crew working on the van and it only cost $4.50, tip in. When he returned he replaced the plastic piece that was knocked off the bottom of the van when we struck a Mexican road bump the previous day. No other damage to the van. I'll let Ken tell more about the road bumps.

According to the Franz book, there are four types of speed bumps in Mexico: topes, tumulos, vibadores or boyas. Well yesterday I was getting a little impatient and a little tired when "wham", we hit a hit a big bump and came down hard on the front end just behind the tires. It sounded like a sledge hammer hit the under carriage. I meant to check for damage but kept forgetting. Finally, while driving down main drag Dolores, a Texan cruised by and started saying something in Spanish and pointing under the van. I pulled over and had a look. Luckily the damage was only a plastic splash guard.

Ken did not tell you that the roads are often made of stone, cobblestone or brick. Just a bit bumpy is an understatement. If some of those road covering pieces are missing in a certain area and not in others then you have a giant hole. It is that eventual whole that you need to always be looking out for.

We spent until late afternoon picking out Talavera ceramics for our home. Ken took me for to many artist's studios, all over town, until finally I saw one artist's work that really caught my eye. The painting was distinct and bright. It looked like she had a fresh shipment of work at her studio and she had lots of customers.

After shopping we ate and left town, on to San Miguel De Allende passing by the farms in the area. Once arriving there we actually had someone, Kent, to phone and get together with. Kent was a traveling buddy to Ron, who is Ken's brother. Our next adventure was using a pay phone which does not take coins. We bought a phone card and visited several pay phones before getting a hold of Kent. He let us stay in the old apartment that he was moving out of. We all met for supper and went to a little Mexican restaurant. We now had a Canadian that we could answer question about Mexico. We discovered that the black tanks on the top of the roofs are water tanks. They are used so when the water pressure goes down you have pressure. Then there would be no water pressure for hours without the tanks. They are also used like solar heaters, just as we suspected. The blueish, spiky plants we saw in the fields where agava not tequila plants, although they do make tequila out of these plants. I was curious about the eating of cactus. Cactus are very full of vitamins. The big, flat cactus that the spikes are scraped off of can be eaten raw or frieded up. The smaller red or green kiwi shaped cactus also have little spikes taken off. These pear cactus are peeled and eaten raw like any fruit. It was nice to find out all those little things that had become a real curiosity to us. Other piece of miscellaneous information that we were given was that firecrackers can be let off anywhere at almost anytime of day if a family member dies. That way the neighbors know that a member of the family has passed a way.

After supper we moved on to The Berlin Bar and on again to La Coucaracha, a student bar. The Berlin had a feral dog visiting while we were there. He was young and very cute. At one point he even got up on the couch beside Kent and went to sleep. One of the other patrons was quite concerned that we were going to take this dog, he wanted him and was going to have him join with his other two dogs. Kent gave us a brief history lesson on this town, and pointed out where Allende, in 1810 had given his speech in the jardin to the people.

The cobblestone streets of San Miguel were very quiet at 2:00 on a Tuesday morning.

Sunday July 29

The town of Dolores took on the name Hidalgo from the priest who helped begin the independence movement. He is a revered hero who was killed by the Spanish very soon after the revolution began. Every Sunday they reenact the speech given to start the independence movement. We spent another day here, Ken was especially moved by the roots of this town. This is a city where true Mexican people live. They just got street lights here not that long ago and a big supermarket about six years ago. The people here do not really cater to tourists, for example, there are really only two restaurants where we want to eat in this city of over a hundred thousand people. It reminds me of a deviation of an over grown prairie town like Rosetown, SK. We toured Talavera ceramics shops all day. When you really observe, you can see a real difference between the work of the different artists.

There are many different festivals and markets set up in many of the Mexican cities at anyone time. Dolores is no exception. This Sunday there was a heavy metal band playing to help the celebrations.We found a street market just before dark. When we drove away we wondered how we would find our way back in the morning so we tried to retrace our steps. All we managed to do was drive the wrong way down a one way street past a police truck which didn't even seem to care about our indiscretion.

Saturday July 28

We drove on to Guanajuato which was breathtaking and amazing. Twenty percent of the worlds silver came from this place for over two hundred years. It has many active roadways in underground tunnels under the city. The tunnels are relatively narrow with curves, even bus stops. There are brightly painted adobe type buildings built on hills/cliffs close together, peppered with domes and steeples. There is a university of the arts here and it appears many artists live here.

Being a tourist, you really have to keep on your mark to be sure you can retrace your steps back to your vehicle. The roads are rather maze like, but a city map is easy to come by. We picked up a map in the main town plaza and using the pictures of where we parked were able to return to the van with the help of the tourist info centre clerk.

We will return to this amazing town.

The road to Dolores Hidalgo, once we found our way out of the maze of tunnels, was hilly with cactus and low lying trees. Dolores is the birthplace of the 1810 fight for independence from the Spanish. It is one of the main centres in Mexico for Talavera ceramics.

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