I hate dogs.
I've always hated dogs.
And if you were living with the trauma of being been bit by numerous dogs as a child, you’d hate dogs too.
So when a friend’s friend asked if I wanted to dog and house-sit for her, my immediate internal reaction was ‘NO chance!’
Then she threw a curveball – a Google Images link for ‘Guanajuato.’ This triggered my self-diagnosed compulsive wanderlust disorder (and unreasonable addiction to tacos) and my fingers found themselves frantically replying "YES ME!"
It was beyond my control.
Regardless, I was now faced with the reality of a stranger’s dog, in a foreign country, under my supervision and responsibility.
A half-week of self-pep talks, frantic Googling, revived attempts at meditation and Tony Robbins clips helped quell my nerves enough to reach out to a friend who happens to run a professional dog-training and sitting service. I asked him to draft a 'How to Love Dogs for People Who Hate Dogs" handbook, to which he borderline-begrudgingly, yet thankfully, obliged.
48 hours later there was a ticket with my name on it from PDX to BJX.
I (think) I was ready.
When I landed, I was greeted by Mosa, the dog, and the wonderful woman whose house I’d be sitting, Miriam de Uriarte, an extremely prolific and well-decorated writer, poet and artist, who also founded the Berkley Child Art Studio during her time in the Bay Area. She has called Guanajuato home for the past 15 years, and there’s absolutely no wonder why.
If you’ve never heard of Guanajuato, upon first sight, your immediate reaction might be a quaint Spanish town was airdropped smack dab in the middle of Mexico, then carpet-bombed by millions of gallons of red, blue, orange, pink, purple, yellow, and green happy sauce!
Founded in 1558, this UNESCO World Heritage city has a rich mining history - at its height, over two thirds of the world’s silver came from the veins in these very hills, and with mining, came money.
Lots of money.
And with lots of money came ornate haciendas scattered amongst seductive theatres, fountains, churches and museums.
The colonial influence is inescapable, and with manicured tree-lined plazas dotted with courtyard cafés surrounded by centuries old rainbow-colored sandstone structures, conjoined by an endless matrix of cobblestone pathways, roadways and alleyways, why would you want to?
However, lots of colonial influence eventually led to lots of inequality.
And with lots of inequality came revolution.
And Guanajuato was ground zero for revolution - it was here the first battle in the Mexican War for Independence was fought.
The Monumento a el Pìpila, where the following 360˚ image was taken (if you scroll the picture around, you’ll see the statue of Juan José de los Reyes Martínez Amaro, better know as El Pipila, overlooking the city) pays homage to one of the heroes that led that battle.
Though its prime mining days have waned, the region’s draw has not. The old mining tunnels are now an impressive network of roadways beneath the city. There are tunnels upon tunnels leading to more tunnels that start new tunnels as each tunnel ends into a tunnel. Heck, even the river that used to run aboveground was diverted into...yup...a tunnel underneath the city.
What this does is help lessen the congestion of cars aboveground in the city, which is absolutely necessary being as the city is so old, most of the roads are of the small cobblestone variety that don’t exactly allow for most of today's cars to even fit through them - they were designed for donkeys and small carriages and mining carts and such.
Regardless, that just adds to the charm of the modern-day version of Guanajuato, as this leaves most of the aboveground for walking.
In fact, when you arrive and first lay eyes upon her, the first, and only, thing you want to do is walk.
Every vibrant path, plaza, twist and turn just leads to another insanely stunning all of the above.
Each day, I would just drop myself off at some corner or plaza and just start…walking. It didn’t matter which direction and there was never a destination in mind, and that was the absolute beauty of it. Where you ended up wasn’t the goal, concern, focus, or even part of the plan. The best plan in Guanajuato is to have none, because you will discover something, somewhere, everywhere, all the time.
And if you happen upon something that you particularly like, chances are you’ll never find it again, so you better stop and grab that enchilada or torta or sopa or those zapatos or that shot or whatever it is that caught your eye (or other senses), for once you turn that corner and you find yourself in a whole other beautiful maze to navigate, that location will be long gone.
The colors, the charm, the aromas, the food, the food, the food. Oh my.
This was an absolute photographer’s, and curiosity seekers, and hopeless romantic’s paradise.
How Guanajuato isn’t a more popular destination absolutely blows my mind. At the same time, I’m hesitant myself to divulge the secret that is this gem simply for blowing its cover and contributing to turning it into something that it’s not. This is not only one of the most stunning destinations in Mexico, but one of the most beautiful locations on the planet. Period.
It’s as authentic as authentic gets, and if you’re not charmed by Guanajuato, have the carnitas. And if you’re still not charmed, then, well, you’re just not human and I simply don’t trust you.
Needless to say, the last thing I expected was for a dog to be the impetus that led me to one of the most beautiful destinations I’ve ever been.
Oh, by the way, did I mention, I love dogs…
A full gallery of images from the trip is above (including the lovely Mosa bidding me farewell...)
Here's a panorama taken from the Monumento a el Pìpila (check this one out in full screen!):
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