This is part 4 in a series. For part 1, click HERE. For part 2, click HERE. For part 3, click HERE.
Arlene and Glen had accepted our invitation to go to San Miguel de Allende, but when we arrived in Guanajuato to pick them up, we found out that Glen's back was out so it was just Padre, David (the Pirate), Arlene and me on the day's adventure.
Instead of leaving Guanajuato via the highway, we took the VERY high way via a two-lane road that went along the mountain tops. Guanajuato is at about 7000 feet, so the mountains that surround it must be around 8000. We definitely got above the tree line for part of the journey. It's so amazing to be south of the Tropic of Cancer (therefore in the tropics) but have cool weather in the summer. The entire central section of Mexico is a high plain known as the Bajio, and it reminds me a lot of the Central Valley of California: big agriculture with prosperous cities scattered around (well, that part isn't like California, where several cities in the Valley have had to declare bankruptcy), and quaint towns in the surrounding hills and mountains.
The road brought us into Dolores Hidalgo, where the Mexican War of Independence from Spain began. In the U.S. we think of May 5th as the Mexican Independence Day, but that is incorrect, and that day isn't very important in Mexico itself. It's September 16th, the day that the priest of Dolores called the townspeople to arms to fight against the Spanish, that is considered Independence Day in Mexico.
This is the church of Dolores Hidalgo, the one that the priest was pastor of. The second photo is the retablo to the side of the altar. Since the town wasn't awash in gold and silver (as Guanajuato was) the retablo is plain wood, unpainted except for one saint on the right. I like it much better than the gold retablo in Guanajuato.
After a substantial breakfast in Dolores Hildalgo, we got back on the road to San Miguel de Allende. San Miguel has a higher percentage of foreign residents than any other city in Mexico, but thankfully our experiences there were of the Mexican community.
Padre dropped us off at the main plaza in town and went to look for a parking place. We wandered over to the church (above) and discovered a wedding in process. One of the marvelous things about the Catholic Church, at least here in Mexico, is that all masses are public, so if there's a baptism or a wedding or a funeral, anybody can come to the service. We entered the church and stayed for the rest of the mass, and watched the bride and groom process out of the church. We turned to go too, and saw a large group of people dressed in black on the steps of the church. Yep, a funeral party. As soon as everyone from the wedding mass had exited the church, a casket was brought in and the funeral attendees entered for a funeral mass. Rather than staying for that, we waited on the church steps for Padre (who still hadn't arrived after a half hour; parking in the city is notoriously awful).
This horse was standing on the side of the plaza. Although he was in harness, there was no carriage for him to pull, so it was a bit mysterious.
Once Padre arrived he showed us the city from a Mexican's perspective. A Mexican priest. So, of course, we checked out all the churches in the city center. And found...another funeral mass! We opted out of attending that mass as well and went on to a convent. The church in the convent was closed, but we stayed in the courtyard awhile soaking up the peace of the place.
Definitely more fulfilling than going to all the shops catering to gringos, full of expensive stuff.
Although there were lots of gelato and frozen yoghurt shops for gringos, we decided to cap our visit by getting real Mexican helados (ices). The little cart that we went to had over 30 varieties of ices (take that B/R!) with some VERY interesting flavors - "dulce de angel", "dulce del diablo" (with chile, of course), and many more I'd never heard of.
The little plaza we sat in to eat our treats had the first cactus we'd seen anywhere on the mainland.
We drove back to Guanajuato where the Pirate and I stayed overnight with Glen and Arlene and Padre planned to stay at the house of a good friend of his. But things turned out differently. More tomorrow....