My Misadventures in Guanajuato

Sat in a minivan in Guanajuato with two Mexican families, I waited for the driver to finish his introduction in Spanish. Surely, an English version would follow.

A minute passed. There wasn’t one.

I then turned to passengers for a translation; I just about made out ‘no’ and ‘ingles’ in the replies.

What did I get myself into?

I’d been keen to visit Mexico since the start of my student exchange in San Diego in 2010. With the WRC event in León, it was a great excuse to do more than cross the border to Tijuana. None of my housemates wanted to join me, however, so it became the second time I was alone in a foreign country. I had great fun at Rally Mexico and the leather goods were incredible value for money. Fortunately, I also befriended a few students who helped translate almost everything.

Getting to Guanajuato

For my visit to the state capital on the last day, though, I went alone. I knew only three things about it: it was a UNESCO World Heritage site, the buildings were colourful, and there were mummies. Going with such little knowledge wasn’t one of my wisest travel decisions.

Had I done my homework, or even asked the students, I wouldn’t have been surprised that the bus terminal was outside the city centre. I wouldn’t have looked lost and, when approached by a stranger, agreed to a tour of a place that I could’ve easily done on foot. I would’ve also been prepared for the absence of services in English.

Guanajuato street procession
A street procession outside the Mercado

Back in the van…

Quit the self-loathing. You’re in a foreign country; live the moment and don’t waste it.

Instead of trying to decipher the running commentary, I focused on capturing as much of the scenery as I could. Every structure we drove past was a brightly colourful shape in a Cubist painting, devoid of historical significance in my head. Whenever we darted into one of the city’s many underground tunnels, I had no idea what to expect at the other end.

It must have been what the world seemed like when I was two years old, except now I had no desire to put it all in my mouth.

I remembered that Guanajuato received plenty of tourists, but just as in Leon, I didn’t see another white or Asian person on the streets. Perhaps the visitors were from other parts of Mexico, like the families in the minivan. It turned out to be a blessing, though. Despite the language barrier, they extended their kindness to me and they even paid for my ticket to a museum when I indicated that I had no pesos left – I was saving them for the bus ride back to Leon.

Guanajuato Mercado Hidalgo
A Catholic shrine in the Mercado

Post-trip epiphany

It was only after I returned home that I learnt what I saw on the tour. Indeed, it covered a respectable number of the city’s attractions. Check them out in the gallery below. God knows if I could have found half of them without a city map or a smartphone. While I would have preferred to be somewhere other than the Tia Aura haunted house, but the kids seemed to enjoy it.

However, I still regret missing out the macabre Museum of the Mummies, the magnificent Basilica and churches that all that silver mining funded. Another visit is definitely on the cards, and this time, I’ll be better prepared!

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