Guanajuato, Day 2

Standard

We woke up reasonably early and went down to the restaurant for our complimentary breakfasts. The choice was limited, but I opted for the Hot Cakes with Bacon, and Wheat had the chilaquiles with chicken and salsa verde. We were also served a plate each of seasonal fruits before our meal. I immediately ordered a Diet Coke, and Wheat sat by in disgust while I received the news that they only had Coke Zero. I ordered it under duress – I needed caffeine. I knew I would have to pay extra, but it was 20 pesos for a can! Ouch!

We set off after checking our e-mail, and went to the Mercado Hidalgo. This market is situated in what looks like an old train station, and has two levels. On the main floor, there are food vendors, but there were also craft booths on the outer periphery. Up stairs, on a balcony level overlooking the first floor, was a row of souvenir, t-shirt, and other touristy items for sale, including crafts. We did a turn to check out the place,as I was going to come back later and buy stuff. Still, I couldn’t resist snagging a few pulseras that looked like Distroller knock-offs. I paid 20 pesos for each and got two with the Ave Maria on it, one with the lords’ prayer, and two others with various saints and the Virgin of Guadalupe on them.

From there, we made for the funicular that takes people to the base of El Pipilo – a huge statue on a vantage point overlooking the city. Because it was such a deal, we purchased the funicular/museo de leyendas pass for 35 pesos (we saved 15 pesos by doing this). When we got to the top of the funicular, we needed to climb up a bit more to reach the scenic overlook. For 3 pesos more, we could have gone into the statue itself, read about the legend of El Pipilo, and maybe even climbed up to his shoulders – at least it looked like that. Instead, we went to the deck with the scenic overlook, and Wheat set up the cameras in turn on the tripod to get a panoramic view.

While he was doing this, I pondered the show we were about to see. Guanajuato is apparently famous for its many legends, including that of El Pipilo and the Callejon de los Besos. I almost bought a book filled with them – maybe I should have! But they were in Spanish, and I have been able to find English versions of five of them already on the internet. Still, I insisted on going to the Museo de las Leyendas. The build-up was huge: it was going to be a multimedia representation of about 9 or 10 of Guanajuato’s most famous legend. There would be life-sized mechanical characters and sound and light. So, we lined up in the little lobby, waiting to start.

There was one couple sitting in the waiting area when we were ushered in. When a final couple arrived (the woman carrying a chihuahua over her arm), a door was opened and we were directed into a pitch-black room. Before closing the door, the usher flipped a switch, announced the legend we were about to behold, and our animatronic adventure began. I am going to tell you right up front that I understood little of the recorded voices accompanying the tableau (I also did not understand the usher, so I didn’t even have a clue as to the legend being animated. Of course, Wheat understood even less.

Programmed spotlights in turns lit up two heads that were attached to opposite walls to our right and left. The center was left dark. Apparently, the two heads were having a conversation. After the two heads talked back and forth for a couple of minutes, the center was lit up to reveal – a man holding a knife! A woman manniquin dressed in white was rolled out onto the scene, and the man stabbed her. The lights then dimmed and showed yet another manniquin of the man hanging by a noose! The music came up, and we went on to the next booth, where there was a story of a man who wanted to die, but demons were waiting for him. A priest finally came out and blessed him with holy water so that the demons disappeared (or their spotlights turned off…) and the man was able to die in peace.

We went on like this through 3 or 4 more theaters. They did do a portrayal of the legend of the Callejon del Beso (the Alley of the Kiss). The two lovers leaned over the balcony and we heard a recording of their conversation. Unfortunately, one could see the mechanical attachment on the top of her head and that was a little distracting for me – also, a bit of her nose was missing. Just as they were about to kiss, her father glided down behind her – with a knife!!! and stabbed her. No one ever says what happened to her boyfriend!

While this was all going on, the other couples were laughing every once in a while, but not as much as we were. The chihuahua was silent, probably asleep. During one graveyard legend, there were three graves on the floor, one with the obvious “star” corpse in the middle. I was just waiting for the corpse to sit up, but it didn’t! How hard is that to rig? Ditto for the second graveyard story, although there was one more story where a man slid out – with a knife!

The piece de resistance was when we entered the last booth (each booth had two legend tableaux in it). The usher led us into the final dimly lit room…and nothing happened. One of the other men with us tried to look for a switch to flip or something, but was unsuccessful. I forgot what the legend to our right was, but the last one had a real life-sized Volkswagon front end in it. Finally, someone knocked on the exit door and explained to the usher that nothing was going on. That was when Wheat and I took our escape. So, alas, we may never know the legend of the haunted Volkswagon.

After descending the hill, we went to a small restaurant and had quiche and baguettes for lunch. Then, we went to an ice cream stand and got ice cream instead of paletas. I got the “blueberry cheesecake” and Wheat got pecan and blueberry cheesecake. The price was 30 pesos each for the largest cup, which was half the size a serving that price would have been at Brusters. Oh, well, that must be why we Americans are overweight!

We visited the Diego Rivera Museum, which is set in his family home. It was pretty interesting, and reasonable for 15 pesos apiece. The first floor was furnished with the furnishings from the original home, I guess. The second floor had a lot of Diego’s early works, even from when he tried to go cubist. There was the obligatory nude of Frida Kahlo, and sketches he made of murals he had done. But the most interesting part of the exhibit was the sketches and watercolors of Aztec life that he did for an English translation of the Popul Voh, and ancient codex. I bought a few postcards of those – which cost 15 pesos apiece. On the third and fourth floors were a few Riveras, including a reprint of a mural with an explanation of all of the people in it. There were also two exhibits of other artists, one a photographer who took black and white photos of churches and religious icons, and the other a painter who creates big, colorful scenes of Mexican people – but none of the people are attractive. I guess he doesn’t get called to do too many portraits.

Our last museum of the day was La Alhondiga, which houses exhibits pertaining to the history of Mexico. The rooms that most fascinated me were – again – pre-hispanic. Wheat got great pictures of clay objects like those made of Aztec gods, for “cult of death” rituals, and my favorite: stamps with intricate designs for decorating fabrics and pottery. They even had roller stamps to make a continuous pattern. I didn’t take a picture of the placard explaining from what they made their dyes, but I will research that more later.

When we went back to the Mercado Hidalgo, I didn’t buy much. I bought a painted paper mache skull an a fold out paper ornament from one booth where the 12 year old girl spoke great English without having gone to live in the U.S. I bought some fabulous molded pottery figures – most no bigger than one inch – to paint and use on my artwork I would really have liked to have bought the molds to make them! I bought about 6 suns, 14 cherub faces, 10 cherubs and 10 Virgin of Guadalupe figures – 5 about 1 1/2 inch tall and 5 about 3/4 inch tall. Earlier, I had bought 4 mortal molded figures of a 2 1/2 inch square of the
Virgin of San Juan. Finally, bought a t-shirt and two more Virgin of Guadalupe bandannas.

We ate dinner again at the hotel, and Wheat had the pozole this time. I ordered the paella, which was okay. On Saturday nights in Guanajuato, groups of university students dress up in medieval garb and go around the town singing for tips at the various plazas in the city. These are called estudiantinas and their roam about the city is called a callejonada. Often, spectators follow them around from plaza to plaza – we were offered this privilege by a tour guide for $90 each. I urged Wheat to go along without me, but we were both too tired to walk any more. Still, there were lots of mariachi bands coming up to play music, and Wheat got pictures of them.

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