As we began, I looked out my window at the wide expanses of blue agave and wondered if those same plants would one day be made into tequila I would drink? In the valleys, acres of grains, strawberries, leafy vegetables and fruit orchards seemed to stretch forever. As we climbed, cattle grazed and finally we found ourselves on sweeping high mesas of cacti and tumbleweed. Often we’d come upon picturesque villages tucked into hillside crevices, crumbling stone churches in the middle of nowhere and roadside vendors holding out pottery, pink roses and produce of all kinds.
In the town of Atotonilco, Jalisco, the proud señores in high hats, an ancient abuela and a Chihuahua pup named Mike showed us the relaxed lifestyle that is still so much a part of the Mexican countryside.
Arriving into Guanajuato, our driver got us hopelessly lost in the labyrinth of old mine shafts, a drained river bed and newly constructed tunnels that are part of the underground “roads” of the hilly city. We certainly didn’t blame him; navigating was challenging to the max! But fortunately, we were saved by Juan Francisco, an official tunnel guide who hopped onto the bumper of our van, hung on to the roof rack and led us unerringly to our hotel… As you often hear, “Only in Mexico…”
We were all so impressed with his skill and later we found out about his other job – three nights a week, Juan Francisco sings and plays the mandolin in one of the strolling minstrel groups known as the “estudiantinas.” In the evenings, these groups of young people, dressed in colonial costume, lead locals and visitors through the streets… all the while singing and sipping on wine. After taking part in this unique Guanajuato custom, we rolled into our beds – completely exhausted!
But after a good night’s sleep we were ready to see all the sights and to do some serious shopping in Guanajuato’s many shops and markets. Of course food and music were offered in abundance… wherever we went.
San Miguel Allende, only an hour away was out next destination. Once again, we were treated to a magnificent drive through the countryside. This city with its eons of history and large international community is another jewel of central Mexico.
After a week of travel through Mexico’s Independence route, we’ve seen history come alive. As noted, we’ve encountered happy, generous people, listened to wonderful music, seen beautiful scenery, eaten incredible food and relished in shopping opportunities galore.
We don’t have our heads in the sand; we are conscious of the facts… there are negative elements in the country as there are in every other. We have noticed security in place but have never felt nervous or at risk. Perhaps the one-sided media reporters should come and experience what we have… Mexico, a unique country that releases the imagination and sets the soul free.