Thursday, July 22, 2010

Day 10. More of Guanajuato

We decided to be our own tour guides, and since our hotel was near theValenciana Mine we started by visiting this small mining community(the silver mines here have been active for more than 400 years, and 5years ago were bought by a Canadian company that believes there is alot more ore in them). First we had to visit the church, which is ajewel of 18th century architecture. The three retablos (the wallsbehind the altars) are covered in gold leaf, and survived the war ofindependence (1810-1821) and the revolutionary war (1910-1917) thanksto the fact that they were covered in coarse plaster, thus hiding themfrom the greed of the fighting factions.

We also visited a rock and mineral shop, where they had a beautifulspecimen of the host rock, criss-crossed by veinlets with ore.Unfortunately the shop owner was convinced that the shiny stuff wassilver, and he asked an astronomic price for the specimen. So mystudents do not get a sample from Guanajuato for the ore deposits lab;pobrecitos!

Next we went a hundred meters into the mine, guided by an old miner.He was fabulous! Full of old stories about his time as an apprentice,and how he slowly worked his way to master. We saw different models ofthe mining operations, mannequins demonstrating mining techniquesthrough the ages, and old pieces of equipment. Our miner had workedwith a couple of those pieces of equipment, so he could tell firsthand how hard it was to work with the percussion equipment, firing thedynamite, and even having to carry the bodies of comrades who hadperished in a misfire. Since we were interested and posing manyquestions he talked at length, and went out of his way to demonstratethe darkness in which he had worked, and the different types of ore.We spent well over an hour in the tour, and when we came out hisbuddies asked why he had taken twice as long as normal. What can Isay, we were wonderful company 

Afterward we took a ride along the panoramic roadway that runs alongthe outer edge of the city, twisting around the deep gorges, andgiving breathtaking scenic looks of the city when crossing the ridges.

Our final destination was the gardens of the Hotel Mision Guanajuato(actually, the hotel leases the land from the state Direccion deIntegracion Familiar—DIF—so the gardens are truly the DIF gardens, butnobody would recognize them by that name). They cover about 4 acresand are simply fabulous! Maybe not as luscious as the Jardin Borda inCuernavaca, but deigned with exquisite taste, and lovingly tended by asmall army of gardeners. Don’t miss them if you ever go to Guanajuato.

We had dinner in the hotel, and it was a special occasion becauseafter the good meal it came time to say goodbye to our good friendsGeorgina and Raul. They were magnificent hosts, very congenialtraveling companions, and the sweetest couple you could imagine. Mayaand I commented that it was clear that after 34 years of marriage theyremained deeply in love, and their solicitude for each other hadpermeated the trip to that point. They had also grown quite fond ofMaya, whom they introduced as their niece, and in parting invited herto come visit anytime. We will certainly miss them, and to make thegoodbye more palatable have made a plan to go biking together alongthe Camino de Santiago, in Spain, in the last two weeks of March.Looking forward to that trip!

Maya and I used the afternoon to visit the Alhondiga de Granaditas(museum closed), the Mercado Hidalgo, the Museum of Don Quijote, andthe Presa de la Olla. We walked, and walked, and walked, but by 8:45pm we were in the bus station, ready to board the bus that will takeus to our next stop: Saltillo.

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