Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Guanajuato – of things underground

Guanajuato is a fascinating place. It's pretty, very. But it's got also a number of things that are definitely not pretty, but still incredible.

The city was founded as a colonial town in the 16th century. It's located in a valley rich with metals like gold and silver. And these two points are responsible for the things I'm going to mention now.

First, the famous "momias de Guanajuato", or Guanajuato mummies. Now, please, remember that here mummy is used in a broader sense. These are definitely not Egyptian style mummies whose insides have been taken out and that have been wrapped. Guanajuato's mummies are the result of the extremely dry weather and the very mineral-rich soil, which leads to bodies achieving a state of natural mummification in as little as 7 years!

Also, having the space constraints that a city in a valley has, bodies are continuously being dug out to make space for new ones, unless you have  paid a special fee. So there's actually always a fresh supply of mummies. Of course, whether they are show-worthy depends on how nicely they've preserved, and I guess on whether there is no way to identify the person or her relatives anymore.

My habib, a butohka, was fascinated with the bodies. They are buried vertically, which leads to them attaining some fascinating dance-like positions during mummification. I think we spent about an hour in there. A very strange encounter with death. 

And since I've been mentioning mines, you should also try and visit the mines around the city. Well, I'm actually tempted to say you can skip this. We went down Bocamina de San Cayetano, at Mina La Valenciana. You can go down the mine through two different entrances (one is San Cayetano, the other one is Don Ramón) and descend some 60 metres, I think. History-wise, the palce is important, but the descent itself is not that interesting. 

By the mine is a church, Iglesia de la Valenciana. Pretty, rich, baroque. But a 15 minute walk from there, away from all the buildings, is something fabulous: the Mina de Guadalupe. It's huge, it's beautiful with its arches and sitting high on a hill, like a real immense fortress! The dry area and the cacti and flowers just makes it the more impressive. For this and this alone, it's worth visiting this part of Guanajuato. 

And finally, the tunnels beneath the city. Being in a valley, the colonial city experienced floodings on occasion. Their solution, digging ditches and tunnels for the water to flow. In modern times, drainage systems and dams meant the ditches and tunnels could be put to use as streets! And so now you have streets that are open but way below ground (the former ditches) and streets that are fully underground (the old tunnels). This could easily be the part I loved more about the city, as the tunnels had this rough, old quality that modern tunnels in modern cities lack. Plus, as true streets, they had side walks and pedestrian accesses to the streets above! Super cool!

These are a couple of views from one of the ditch-streets. We were a full 2-3 stories below the normal street level.

And then the tunnels.We even came across a bus stop, with a bench an all! Oh, and if you've seen Eisenstein in Guanajuato, some of the scenes were filmed down here!

OK, so we have food, odd stuff. Next? Art in Guanajuato!

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