“Mountainous Place of the Frogs”
Guanajuato is an amazing city; literally a labyrinth of tiny colonial streets leading into tunnels underground in the belly of the city. Colorful small houses and grand colonial buildings dot the urban landscape and center around a plethora of tiny treed squares that pop out throughout the city.
Population – 135,000 year round residents
Elevation – 6,583 feet (2.008 ms)
Climate – Mild summers, cool winters
|Month||High Temp||Low Temp|
|January||71°F 21°C||42°F 5°C|
|February||74°F 23°C||44°F 6°C|
|March||78°F 25°C||48°F 8°C|
|April||81°F 27°C||52°F 11°C|
|May||82°F 27°C||55°F 12°F|
|June||79°F 26°C||56°F 13°C|
|July||74°F 23°C||55°F 12°C|
|August||75°F 23°C||55°F 12°C|
|September||74°F 23°C||5°F 12 °C|
|October||74°F 23°C||50°F 10°C|
|November||73°F 22°C||46°F 7°C|
|December||71°F 21°C||43°F 6°C|
Rainy season: May to October
Money – Banks and ATMs
Airport – Leon
High Tourist Season – Mid December to Mid March especially Christmas and Semana Santa, July and August are busy with Mexican vacationers.
Semana Santa – Week preceding Easter
Cervantino Festival in mid-October.
Medical – Numerous Doctors
Industry – Tourism and agriculture
Guanajuato (Quanap-huato) means “Mountainous Place of the Frogs” in the Purépecha regional dialect. Some of the nomadic tribes worshipped the spirit of the frog and settled in this area where a mountain appeared in a frog-like shape. Situated in a basin of the Sierra de Guanajuato range, the area was flooded constantly from the Guanajuato River that overflowed from 3 kms beneath the earth. Various indigenous bands inhabited the area prior to the arrival of the Spanish; the Otomi, the Nahua, the Guamares and the Purépecha. They settled along the river and as the population increased, homes and settlements expanded up into the hills following the path of the river.
The Spanish explored the area in 1541 and the Viceroy granted land to Don Rodrigo de Vazquez. Seven years later silver and then gold was discovered and this frontier land was changed overnight. Haciendas were built on the sides mountains on the river to enable processing of the valuable metal ores. Businesses, to support the mining efforts. followed and small settlements developed into a town. One of the richest silver mines, the Valenciana mine accounted for 2/3 of the 18th century world production of silver. The rich Spanish settlers invested some of their vast fortunes in the area and built beautiful colonial buildings and churches; the most notable being the Iglesia de San Cayetano built in 1765. Many of the cultural buildings and monuments; theatres, museums, churches, markets and squares in Guanajuato today were built in this period.
The early 1800’s were a time of great unrest in the country and in the area. Mexican-born silver barons, the descendants of the earlier Spanish, were increasingly unhappy with the increased taxes placed on the valuable metals. Additionally church property was seized and the Jesuits were expelled from the country for criticizing the Spanish monarchy. This had a profound effect on education. Napoleon’s invasion of Spain and the subsequent coronation of his brother Joseph in 1808 sent a rippling effect into the new world. Mexicans refused to obey the new ruler and laws sparking a social and political revolt that changed the nation’s direction in history.
The extreme poverty and deplorable working conditions of the mine workers and the taxation burden of the rich under Spanish rule gave fertile ground for the struggle for independence. Guanajuato was the birthplace of independence for the nation.
On September 16 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo called the masses of workers to the church in the small nearby town of Delores through the customary ringing of the church bells. His speech, known today as the shout or “grito” declared independence from Spain and launched a revolutionary army of peasants with swords, machetes, clubs, axes and other rudimentary mob weaponry.
The rebel army rallied under the banner of the picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the indigenous and Mexican representation of the Virgin. They passed through many of the silver towns, gaining strength in numbers from a few hundred to 82,000 as they continued their sacking and looting from San Miguel, Celaya, Guanajuato, Valladolid and onward to Mexico City.
In Guanajuato the Spanish Army retreated to a granary in the center of the town. The story goes that Juan José de los Reyes Martínez known affectionately as “El Pipila” to Hidalgo’s forces, strapped a stone across his back and used it as armor against the Spanish army bullets. He set fire to the granary door which allowed entrance of Hidalgo’s forces and subsequent defeat of the Spanish army.
Hidalgo was eventually captured six months later, defrocked and found guilty of treason and heresy. On July 30th he was executed in Chihuahua by firing squad and beheaded. His head, along with other revolutionary leaders, was transported and placed on display for a decade in Guanajuato.
January 17th 1858 President Benito Juarez established the temporary capital of the country in Guanajuato. Maximilian of Hapsburg visited the city just six years later and converted the infamous granary “Alhondiga de Granaditas” into a prison. In 1867 Maximilian’s empire collapsed and the historical period known as the Portofirio began. Teatro Juarez was constructed, as were the legislative Palace, the Mercado, monuments to Hidalgo as well a railroad. This period brought foreign investment from Germany, America and Britain to recharge the mining industry in the area and build tunnels and the reservoir.
In the next century during the Mexican revolution, Guanajuato felt the full effects of an economic crisis. A terrible famine in 1916 forced President Carranza to purchase and distribute grain to help Guanajuato’s suffering masses.
The city gradually started to prosper and again took it’s historic seat as a cultural and educational center of Mexico. The University of Guanajuato was established in 1946 and extensive restoration projects took place in the city in the 1950’s including infrastructure which would later spawn active promotion of tourism. The panoramic highway was completed in the 70’s and the world renowned Cervantino Festival was first introduced.
Guanajuato is a photographer’s delight with bright colors and interesting architectural features everywhere. Every corner is a Kodak moment and your camera is put to the test as you stroll through the pedestrian-only streets and stairways. Like a basket of wildflowers, Guanajuato provides the tourist and resident alike with a jumbled array of images both visual and historical that give special pleasure to just be there.
Today Guanajuato continues it’s cultural and educational leadership. There are also many language schools in Guanajuato.Young people, often attending local colleges and universities, relax in city squares and the market areas. It is a Mecca for travelers in the know who want to visit an historic silver city.
Driving to Guanajuato: Guanajuato is to the East of Guadalajara and the north of Mexico City. From Guadalajara drive North-east on Highway 86 and turn South-east on Highway 45 through Leon to Guanajuato. These are immaculate toll Highways. From Mexico City take highway 57 to Irapuato and turn North-west on Highway 45 to Guanajuato. Do NOT attempt to drive an RV (other than a van or a low-rise camper) in the city. The numerous underground waterways have been converted to underground road tunnels that will lop off the top of any tall vehicle. Best to leave your vehicle on the outskirts of the city and take a cheap taxi.
Where to stay
Hotels (Coming Soon)