Monday, February 16, 2009

Un buen fin de semana

We’ve been having a lot of fun since my last post here! On Saturday, the school ran an excursion to Dolores Hildalgo, Atotonilco and San Miguel de Allende. Lots of history in these towns, too: Dolores Hildalgo was the small town to which Miguel Hildalgo, revolutionary priest, was banished after he began preaching against the church and against Spain. Instead of quietly living out his life in this tiny mountain town, however, on September 16, 1810, Padre Hildalgo famously delivered his grito (I’m unclear on the etymology, but it was a speech calling for Mexico’s independence from Spain) from the town’s main church and then led his army of farmers and ranchers through the mountains and into Guanajuato, where they fought the first battle of Mexico’s independence. The emancipation from Spain took another ten years, and Hildalgo was killed in the first year of fighting, but he and Ignacio Allende are revered here as the fathers of Mexican independence.

Here’s the inside of the church where Hildalgo preached and delivered el grito (my exterior shots are kind of boring):

Nowadays, Dolores Hildago is perhaps equally well-known for its beautiful pottery (which was started as an industry by Miguel Hildalgo himself):

Gifts may have been purchased. (Sadly, we decided that what we really wanted to buy [the unbelievably beautiful sinks] were just a little too bulky to take back to the States. Also neither of us have a home in which to install an intricately painted sink.)

Locally, the town is also famous for producing bizarre flavors of ice cream. Unfortunately, both Kristen and I were so engrossed in trying different flavors that we forgot to take a picture of the carts, but the ice creams are sold from carts off to the side of the main jardin (literally “garden” but here its meaning is closer to “town square”). We sampled many different flavors, among them avocado, pine nut (that was just me), cajeta and coffee; I ended up getting mole and strawberry and Kristen opted for cheese and chocolate.

Then we climbed back in our van (driven by Michael, from Texas) and traveled onward to Atotonilco, a very small town whose main claim to fame seems to be an 18th century church where the priests still practice self-flagellation. (There were souvenir whips for sale at the booths outside. It was a little odd, to say the least.) The church, while in need of restoration, was lovely inside, with numerous frescos and statues of the saints and the Virgin Mary.

We enjoyed a lunch of pork tacos (grilled pork served family-style by the kilo, with a stack of tortillas on the side) at an outdoor restaurant right down the street from the church, and then continued on to San Miguel de Allende, the birthplace of Mexico’s other father of the revolution, Ignacio Allende.

San Miguel was beautiful, if a little dusty, and is home to a thriving artists’ community. The institute de Belles Artes is located in a former monastery and contains the most beautifully tropical monastery garden I’ve ever seen:

Mexican artist and revolutionary political activist David Siqueiros painted here, and upon his death left a mural unfinished in a ground floor room in the institute, which is preserved today:

We also visited the city's main church:

(where I really liked the floor):

(and the ceiling, judging from my pictures, but here's a picture of the whole church, more or less):

We wandered through el jardin:

And around some of the streets:

But, truth be told, we spent a fair part of the afternoon perusing the stalls at the extensive artists’ markets.

We drove back to Guanajuato just in time to see the sun set over the city as we returned.

Yesterday was spent mostly lazily, reading, knitting and catching up on our neglected notes. We did have brunch out, where we tried molletas (refried beans and chorizo on toast, a popular breakfast item); afterwards we heard Mass at the city’s main church. (We may have heard Mass, but unfortunately I’m not sure we understood any of it: the priest spoke very fast.)

Today was the second week of classes, and we also had our first cooking class, but more on that tomorrow. ¡Hasta luego!

P.S. As if this post weren’t long enough, I have one last story to share. Friday night, we wandered around town, got some dinner, drank some margaritas, and watched the university singers, but the highlight of the evening was Kristen asking a gentleman leading several burros (a common method of transporting goods around Guanajuato) if we could take pictures of his burros. Very gravely, he shook his head, then burst out laughing and told us that of course we could. We took our photos and as we were walking away, we realized that our request was probably equivalent to asking a gardener in the United States if we could photograph his wheelbarrow. We enjoyed the laugh at our own expense all evening. And truthfully, we enjoyed the pictures, too:


Lrerg said...

Feel free to bring one of those donkeys home! I don't think we have any restrictions on them here in Connecticut..........

Sarah Rettger said...

"Grito" means "cry" - as in, the battle cry of the revolution. I think. My Mexican history is pretty weak.

I do remember, though, that Siqueiros is awesome.