306 Steps in Guanajuato – Julie Perini
Forevermore, when I remember the incredible UNESCO heritage city of Guanajuato escaleras/ steps will come to mind. I knew this city was hilly but really had no idea that the inhabitants in the colorful houses packed so closely together up those hills had absolutely no streets, just alleys horizontally and vertically! S T A I R S and lots of them; irregular rough concrete and paving stones stairs. With no handrails. Ascend or descend at your own peril!
Guanajuato is a very unique city and I’m truly surprised I didn’t visit here the two winters I spent in San Miquel de Allende. My trip this time coincided with Dias de Muertes, two very special days for Mexicans. It is a time for honoring the dearly departed, a time for family reunions and a time to tell the Grim Reaper, ” You didn’t get me this year!
My arrival by Primavera Plus bus from Tonala was fairly uneventful until the taxista dropped me off at the top of yes 160 uneven concrete stairs and vaguely pointed down to an undisclosed spot where my booked Hostal, Casa del Dante was. Well, fortunately I only had a carry on case and a small day pack but I slowly and carefully descended about half of those stairs before spotting the bright pink exterior of said hostal. I remembered that the stairs were mentioned in the guest reviews but somehow my incorrect assumption was that they were on the interior of the hostal not leading up to the front door!
Once again I was fortunate because the front desk clerk noticing my stair distress recommended another Hostal called AL Son del Santos at the bottom of the 160 stairs and about two blocks down the street. He called over and I was able to get three nights in the female dorm and one night in a cuarto privada which was a nice way to wrap up my four night stay in this incredible city.
Why incredible? Well, for a while lots of reasons, the first being that Guanajuato is a young, vibrant university town. The second is these amazingly steep hills full of colorful houses accessible only on foot up these in some cases very narrow staircases. Third? Well how about these tunnels of varying lengths connecting the main areas of the city. Add some great coffee bistros and cantinas and you’ve got a winning university town!
The first day I did a basic city walkabout hopping on the tourista trolley in the middle of the afternoon for a great overview of the main areas for basic orientation. The guide spoke only en espanol but I did get dropped at my hostal at the end so that was bueno. Second day was another tour but with a difference! It was November 1rst and I was going the infamous mummy museum as well as the eerie and freaky Museum of Purgatorio. Dead people and the damned and tortured seemed to go together that particular day!
Because I’m such a constant Internet researcher I also discovered a classic horror story written by Ray Bradbury called, ‘ Next in Line.’ Truly a creepy read after walking slowly past all these standing, yes standing cuerpos! You really have to see them to believe it especially after discovering that they are not all from the last century.
Here’s the link for a PDF file if you are so inclined to read a tale guaranteed to raise goosebumps!
The second of November was reserved for a visit along with hordes of locals swarming into the panteon/ cemetery just up from the Momias Museo. Guards and traffic control roping kept things orderly and of course the full retinue of food and merchandise vendors were set up outside the graveyard walls. Like in previous years in Ajijic and San Miquel de Allende I walked around slowly just observing the families and floral tributes. Naturally,there was a full scale mariachi band but with violinists set up in front of a prominent family tomb.
I had purchased a bouquet of the ever present Dias de Muertes flower, the marigold and once again I walked around surveying the graves and vertical crypts looking for one without any flowers where I would leave my tribute.
The Mexicans say there are three deaths, the physical one, the one where your family and friends still remember and the last and most lonely death when there is no one left to remember. A wonderful animated film called Libro de Vida/ Book of Life explains this very well visually.
When I was in San Miquel de Allende I chose a young but sadly forgotten young mother to receive my flowers in the empty rusty can. This year it was a six month infant only six months old. Maria Cummings, you didn’t live very long but I hope you did experience some love within your family who now has also sadly passed away into the third death.