Sojourn South of the Yellow Rio Grande
Posted on October 9, 2014
I awoke with a soft pillow under-head, but the smoke from my breath reminded me of the altitude of our Mexican little hamlet, belying my ideals of tropical Mexico. I waited a long time before testing the cold saltillo tile with my bare feet. The inn was still sleeping, so I ventured out onto the quiet streets Real de Cortorce with my camera hoping to capture the rusticity of the village in twilight. After an hour or so of wandering ruins and ancient graveyards, I made my way back to the hotel (and some hot coffee) to find Don ready to hit the road.
We unwound our way back down dusty roads to the main highway onward to the city of Guanajuato in the heart of Leon. As we passed farmworkers, in what appeared to be all-white pajamas, traveling by foot along the road and out working their fields, the scenery began to green; subtly at first, with ancient cedros dotting the hillsides, then occasional palms, until fan palms covered the rugged hillsides creating an odd and exotic juxtaposition of landscape to fauna. As we approached the city, the highway once again dipped into a mineshaft, yet this time we were joined by others at a quick pace of 50 miles per hour.
Soon, a complex of road systems was evident, day-lighted occasionally to steep rock walled apertures lined with colorful overhanging houses; Guanajuato’s road system was ingeniously laid out through the maze of mineshafts that lay beneath the city. Then, without warning, we emerged into the City Central- a cacophony of color and form.
We found a central hotel (a real hotel), dropped our gear and made for a lunch of tropical juice and chicken mole on the central square, with it’s lollipop fichus trees looking like a scene from Alice in Wonderland. We spent the remaining afternoon exploring the city’s historic streets, including Diego Rivera’s house on a small cobbled street.
The next morning after a hearty breakfast of huevos rancheros, we set out for what we had come for- a visit to Claire Alcazar. The road quickly wound out of central city and up the hillside towards a beautiful chapel on the hill.
We arrived, once again at a large rustic stone wall with a heavy wooden door. Knocking, we were greeted by a Mexican maiden. Once inside, the sound of fountains greeted us as we were led through bougainvillea draped courtyards of a grand 18th century hacienda, up wide stone stairways dressed in ivy, stopping momentarily to inquire about the ancient system of volcanic stone jars integrated into the walls for the purpose of filtering drinking water. Antique furniture and portraits of ancestors long gone decorated the great sky-lit vaulted halls, the thrill of a songbird echoing distant in another room.
After a brief welcoming visit, we were led next door to the voluminous vaulted basement level, where Claire’s production of handmade tin and copper lanterns took place. Soft light filtered huge steel windows from the jungled hillside to illuminate craftsmen intent on their work, cutting and punching metal patterns to create lanterns of every shape and size.
(To be continued)