I spent a week in central Mexico in a city called Guanajuato. Most people assumed we went to the beach in Mexico, but Guanajuato is in the mountains at nearly 7000 feet. Some people balked at our decision to go to Mexico since all they hear about is drug lords, violence and tourists being killed. Avoiding Mexico because of a small area would be like avoiding the U.S. because of the gangs in LA.
Monica has roots in Guanajuato. It is the birthplace of her maternal grandmother who left Mexico as a child during the revolution in the early 20th century. As wealthy Spaniards living in an opulent hacienda, the family was driven out by revolutionaries, their home taken over and nearly destroyed. Nearly 100 years later, I returned with Monica to Guanajuato in search of the hacienda and to see what had become of it. We took copies of photographs from 1909 and walked to the end of town known as “La Presa.” Along the way, we asked people, in our broken Spanish, “Have you seen this house?” When we finally found the house, it was emotional for Monica–and myself, it turns out. There was a lot of activity around so we decided to investigate.
In 1973 the house was used as a government building. We assumed it would still be. It was bittersweet to discover that the house has been turned into the School of Music for the University of Guanajuato.
The most amazing thing is that Monica’s grandfather’s cabinet is still intact with his initials engraved in the glass doors.
I tried to find a shirt, for Monica, that said: PANCHO VILLA STOLE MY FAMILY HOME AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS LOUSY T-SHIRT, but they didn’t have any. I settled for a sweatshirt from the University.
Guanajuato is a beautiful, old, and colorful city. Very little is updated. Life is not complex. People seem happy and friendly and very willing to accommodate an extremely white gringo such as myself. They are patient with my Spanish which often leads to the universal language of laughter. It is a lively and animated city. Music resonates through the streets late into the night, every night. People are out and about, strolling the streets enjoying each other. I was depressed to come back home to a town where the shops and restaurants close their doors early, where the streets are dead and the air is filled with silence.
I can’t wait to go back.