Walking uphill on cobblestone, I am struck by the altitude’s perfect mix of hot sun and crisp air. A street vendor’s cry echoes in a canyon of brightly colored stucco facades, and I can’t help think this mystical, medieval-looking city is my favorite on Earth.
Though I hate to choose among Mexico’s colonial beauties, Guanajuato remains unique no matter how many others I’ve seen. Perhaps because I spent two months there 15 years ago, my first extended stay in Mexico, and every street corner brings a memory. Or perhaps because I’m still taken with the city’s energy and charm as if I were seeing it for the first time.
Guanajuato, founded in the mid-1500s on a rich vein of silver, is the birthplace of many things Mexican, including the fight for independence from Spain and famed muralist Diego Rivera. Its mummy museum, filled with dozens of naturally preserved corpses, boldly exhibits the Mexican comfort with death.
The city is the capital of the state of former President Vicente Fox, whose historic election in 2000 ended 71 years of single party rule. It’s also one of Mexico’s most conservative Catholic states, where an uprising took place in the 1920s over anti-religious laws.
A visit by Pope Benedict XVI scheduled to begin Friday, March 23, will put Guanajuato in the spotlight. But even before you take in its rich history, the scenery of a city built in a canyon at 6,600 feet (2,000 meters) will sweep you away.
A cable car takes you in minutes from the city center to the main lookout, where the Spanish colonial domes, Gothic spires, and lavender, fuchsia, orange and blue houses look as if they were painted on the hillside by Rivera himself. [More]