Guanajuato is the capitol of the State of Guanajuato. This city is a tourist mecca, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Pueblo Magico. Friends have suggested lots of places to visit in Mexico, and Guanajuato is always on everyone’s short list. I’ve been told it’s a combination of beautiful streets and plazas, underground roads and intersections, lots of abandoned and active mines and a very interesting history. This city was home to the first battle of the War of Independence from Spain in 1810. Now it’s home to artists and galleries, theaters and an international theater festival, and so much more.
Spanish explorers found gold here in the 1540s which led to the building of forts and mines, and settlement of the area was underway. Eventually, many other minerals were discovered and mined here too, including silver.
The most important of Guanajuato’s mining complexes is the La Valenciana mine. La Valencia began operations in 1774 and from then until the early 19th century it was one of the most productive silver mines in the world. La Valencia accounted for 2/3 of the world’s silver production at its peak. For over 250 years, it produced about 30% of the world’s silver. The mine continues operation today.
While riding the Calle Panoramica on my first evening in the city, I pass some of the ruins of the Rayas Mine and then stop at The Great Panther Silver Mine for a view of the city below.
Many of the city’s streets run underground, so driving across town may take you over and under the streets several times. The streets are almost all narrow, single-lane cobblestoned streets which reminds me more of a European city than any other cities I have seen so far in Mexico.
The city is home to the Museo de las Momias (Mummy Museum), which contains naturally mummified bodies that were found in the municipal cemetery between the mid 19th and 20th centuries. These include men, women and children. While it’s definitely morbid, it isn’t as gruesome as I thought it would be. Death is very much seen as a part of life in Mexico. The museum is dark and smells musty which creeps me out a bit more than standing and looking at dozens of mummies had already done.
What an interesting place…