Journey to Central Mexico (March 2010)

To reach the historic city center of Guanajuato, which means “Hill of Frogs” in the local indigenous language, you drive through a dramatic honey comb network of tunnels. The center boasts well preserved Spanish colonial buildings, including 35 churches, with structures dating as far back as the 1520s. There are plazas and “Jardins,” connected by cobble stone streets. Callejones (narrow alleys) climb surrounding hills, where locals live in homes painted vibrant colors. Photo-ops abound, but you may want to shoot a video in order to capture the city’s ongoing sound-scape. Cathedral bells chime day and night. Latin chants from Mass spills onto the streets and echoes off stone buildings. Mariachi music fills the plazas and Jardins. Norteca radio hits blast from passing cars and trucks. These sounds pour in to my Alma Del Sol. B&B room. Luckily I can almost silence them at night by closing indoor shutters. But when I’m not sleeping I’m either sitting on my terrace taking it all in, or meandering around town with everyone else. It’s a compact enough city to walk just about anywhere; or you can hop in a taxi or jump on a bus for almost next to nothing to explore the outskirts. This University town is full of students and mingling with them are Mexican Nationals and people from all over the world. Some are tourists, but many call this home at least part of the year. There are families walking with babes in arms and little ones in tow. The birthplace of Mexico’s master muralist Diego Rivera Guanajuato attracts artists, musicians and writers. Rivera’s childhood home is now an excellent museum, full of his works. Then there are arts and crafts in shops and galleries, including beautiful and affordable silver jewelry—silver mining brought the Spaniards here in the first place—and on going live music and theater. In October people come from all over the globe to attend The Cervantino festival, founded in the 1970s. It features world-class performances by international and Mexican acts, in music, dance, theater, visual arts, and street-performance. If you can deal with crowds consider visiting then, but make sure you book lodgings way in advance. I was only in Guanjuato 3 days. It wasn’t enough for me. I don’t often feel compelled to come back to a place, but Guanajuato stole my heart. Here’s some tips for a Guanajuato holiday:

WHERE TO STAY: Charming, intimate Alma del Sol

WHERE TO DINE: Here’s a couple of recommendations:Las Capellina and Truco 7

Casa Diego Rivera
Teatro Juarez
Museo de la Alhondiga de Granaditas
Pipila—ON TOP OF THE HILL—take the fernicular or walk up for a fabulous view of the city.
Mention Guanjuato to a Mexican and they light up and say “Mummies”
Checkout the macabre—but fascinating. Museo de los momia:
The central El Jardin, especially on Sunday for Mariachis, people watching

Valencia and San Miguel de Allende…which brings me to part two of the trip:

Sagrada Wellness Retreat, a tranquil high desert hideaway that offers yoga and Pilates classes and world class massage treatments is Fifteen minutes outside San Miguel de Allende, Colonial art colony. San Miguel has been a haven for North Americans for decades. After too few days in Guanjuato I arrived at Sagrada ready to conduct a 5 day mind-body movement workshop for a small group of students. 5 days later, after discovering deep hidden muscles, which always happens when you do Pilates—accessing inner energies via Gyrokinesis classes—increasing flexibility with partner stretches—having fun doing a Conga line to Latin grooves as the sun set in the open air yoga studio—and most important sharing a lot of laughs and given one another encouragement to face not just the physical but the emotional challenges life volleys at us well, it felt too soon to bid adios to my new friends. Plans were made to continue the work in Denver, in Portland, in L.A.—maybe back in Mexico? Several times people from San Miguel joined us for classes and meals, including Tasha, originally from Denver, and now the owner of Flying Root Pilates, her fully equipped studio a couple of minutes away from Sagrada. We broke up our relaxing stay at Sagrada with an excursion to La Gruta, a hot springs resort where healing waters wash away all ills, and an afternoon taking in the markets and galleries of San Miguel. To truly appreciate San Miguel’s culture I recommend a longer stay—to explore the shops, galleries, attend festivals, dine in top quality restaurants. It’s a shoppers’ heaven, although quite pricey. Before returning to Guanjuato, I bought a purse made of recycled aluminum pop tops from Iaginarte (100% made in Mexico, with proceeds going directly to into the hands that made them) and some delicate silver and gold earrings crafted by Cartherine Gielis a Guanajuato artisan from Guanajuato at an annual artisan’s fair at Instituto Allende. San Miguel is a very “gringo” friendly place, with Canadians and Americans in every café and on every corner. It’s a safe place to experience Mexico, despite all the bad reports currently assaulting us in the media and damaging Mexico’s necessary tourist trade. Did I feel safe during this trip? Yes. Will I return to Mexico? Yes! As I said, Guanjuato spoke to my soul like few places have.

For further writing about this region—Ana Cervantes, a music pro and professor living in Guanajuato writes with tenderness and insight about Guanjuato at this link:

NOTE: September 18-25 I’ll be back teaching in Mexico at Rancho La Puerta, near Tecate, just across the border from San Diego, California.

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