Sunday, June 20, 2010

Mexico Memoirs

I split my trips to Central Mexico into two parts - l) Bajio area, relative lowlands and plains, known as the breadbasket country, including Leon, Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, Queretaro and, 2) primarily Michiocan State cities, such as Morelia, the state capital, Patzcuaro, Uruapan, then Taxco, Cuernavaca and Tepoztlan. I've been to Mexico City many times in my younger days. One time I stayed for over a month for trade shows in Chapultepec Park, Mexico City. I chose Guadalajara for the last city to visit on my first trip and Mexico City on the second trip, both times arriving back at the Tijuana International Airport, via the convenient U.S.-Mexico border cross-walk to San Diego, where I once lived. These trips were made after my retirement but before returning to Japan, almost 10 years ago. I want to record these adventures before my memories fade away.

Part 1

As sister city of San Diego, Leon is a growing industrial city. I saw a GM plant near the airport. It's famous for leather goods, as the world's shoe center. I remember a striking municipal palace and a street arch with a bronze Lion atop, the proud symbol of Club Leon, the city's football team.

Guanajuato, nicknamed Kyoto of Mexico and designated UNESCO's World Heritage Zone, is the most beautiful city in Mexico. It is a former silver mining boom town that has transformed itself into a college town and living museum. I visited the university, recommended by my friend who taught English there. The birth place of Diego Rivera, one of a trio of great mural artists, is now a museum. I walked up to El Pipila for the panoramic view over the city and saw the monument of Hidalgo heroes who won the first victory of Mexican independence (1810). Unless accompanied by a guide, it is easy to get lost among the maze of serpentine alleys. Downtown, the car traffic goes underground, using tunnels that were dug for mining or diverted water ways.
San Miguel de Allende is a mini Santa Fe, New Mexico minus the snow. With the mild climate all year round, it is a charming colonial town, another Mecca for artists and writers, galleries, boutiques, art schools. San Miguel was founded in mid 1500’s and the name Allende was added in honor of the independence patriot born there. His statue riding on a horse stands in the Plaza Civica.

Although less spectacular than Guanajuato in monumental and colonial buildings, Queretaro shines as a cradle of Mexican Independence and the site where the Constitution was signed and the city where Emperor Maximilian was executed. The city serves as a very important hub, being situated in the navel position of Mexico, 200 kilometers away from Mexico City.

The No. 2 megalopolis of Mexico, with impressive spacious plazas and squares in central Guadalajara, including the massive UNESCO World Heritage Cabanas Orphanage, now called "Institute Cultural Cabanas". Facing Cabanas stands a sculpture of the State of Jalisco's symbol of two bronze lions supporting a tree, the state coat of arms. Some Mexicans say that Jalisco is both the heart and soul of Mexico. Many things that are considered as typically Mexican, such as mariachi music, charreadas (rodeos), the Mexican Hat Dance, tequila, and the broad-rimmed sombrero hat, originated from this area, which had been the site of many civil wars and many battles in the past. In spite of these ongoing conflicts, the spirit of the people of Jalisco has endured. I saw many modern shopping malls. I also learned Guadalajara has the most competitive football team, called Chivas, the goats.

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