According to Wikipedia (the principal source of general information nowadays) Guanajuato is the capital of the state of the same name. It is located in a narrow valley, which makes the streets of the city narrow and winding. Founded in 1548, it is set at about 2000m of elevation and has a population of over 171000.
I’ve been living in Guanajuato for over four weeks now and I must admit I’m in love with the city and its people. Certainly, everything I had read about Guanajuato before coming indicated that my stay here would be full of novelties and surprises since it is completely different to any city I’ve lived in before. However, it is not the appearance that has enticed me the most, but its soul, the people in Guanajuato. The streets around the centre are always bustling with activity: tourists admiring the beautiful colonial-era architecture, locals enjoying the nice weather and lively atmosphere, kids and adolescents having fun with their friends, mariachis singing in the Jardin Unión, the Estudiantina starting their particular tour of the alleys (callejoneada) in front of the Teatro Juarez, street vendors selling whatever you can imagine…
Indeed, everyone I’ve meet has been lively and helpful in one way or another. Although the first days I was a bit scared by past stories of robberies and assaults, simply following the logical precautions any tourist must take in a new city I have felt completely safe at all times and never have come close to any conflictive situation. Guanajuato is a city full of tourists and students and this undoubtedly contributes to the festive atmosphere it transpires.
Below is a list (in no particular order) of what I hope might be useful information for future researchers coming to CIMAT:
- CIMAT is in La Valenciana, a small village a 15-minute ride away of Guanajuato. I stayed in CIMAT’s accommodation for guests, CIMATEL, the first days. It has nice and clean rooms around a beautiful central patio interior, but offers no breakfast or food. Since La Valenciana is such a small village, after 7 pm there is barely no activity outside and it is not recommendable to be walking alone. However, it was extremely useful to be close to CIMAT the first days, and to be comfortably staying there whilst I was searching for a permanent accommodation.
- Thanks to Miguel, who sent an e-mail to the CIMAT distribution list inquiring about available rooms in student-shared apartments, I found the perfect room (and the perfect roommate, Iris) in just a few days. I’m living in the area of San Javier, which is halfway between CIMAT and the centre of Guanajuato. It is a residential area, very calm, next to the bus stop and within walking distance to the centre. I really recommend searching for accommodation in this area.
- The climate is fantastic (apparently, I’m staying during the best months meteorologically speaking): sun every day!!! During daytime it gets a bit hot outside (around 26ºC) but at night it’s always chilly (around 10ºC). I was quite surprised by this temperature change, probably due to the altitude and dryness of the climate. In fact, both the altitude and dryness were a bit annoying at the beginning, and it took me a bit to get used to!
- The food in CIMAT is amazing!!! In fact, the food in general is delicious (and cheap!). I’ve tasted so many new vegetables and fruits. My favourite, without doubt, are the nopales. I has been a nice surprise that there is always a non-spicy alternative to the extra-hot dishes. I thought I would have to put up with a permanent burning sensation during all meals but it hasn’t been like this at all.
- Guanajuato is a town to be enjoyed, especially, at night. One must not leave without tasting a michelada in the terrace of a bar (I recommend the Oreja de Van Gogh in Plaza San Fernando which, like many others, has live music – música de trova – on Friday and Saturday nights) and, on the way home, eating gorditas prepared by the woman in front of the Lobos and the Dama de las Camelias (both also must-sees).
- Tourist attractions which can’t be missed:
- All the central streets around Jardin Unión, Mercado Hidalgo, Plaza de la Paz and the Basílica.
- The view of the entire city from the Monumento al Pípila.
- The nice restaurants in zona Marfil. Sabor y Arte offer live music (oldies goldies) on Thursday nights.
- The quiet gardens and history behind the Ex-hacienda San Gabriel.
- The museo casa de Diego Rivera. Ask about the tour conducted by the reincarnations of Diego and Frida themselves!
Ester Comellas Sanfeliu