A March 2005 trip
to Guanajuato by Coach Bear
Quote: Visiting the major cities is wonderful, but taking the time to visit the "common" places and villages brings about remarkable insights into the lives and beliefs of other cultures. This brings about a mystical quality in the place visited.
Attraction | "Plazuelas - Undefined History (Part 1)"
We drove toward the tiny village of Plazuelas until there was no more road. At this point, we were at the base of a mountain containing the modern village. We climbed upward through the town for another 250m to 300m in height. At this point, we came upon a plateau. In front of us spread the reconstructed city of an ancient culture, at least, what has been reconstructed thus far.
At the time of our visit, the site was not open to the public. It was because of my academic stature, and arriving with a group of university students, that the archeologist gave us a personal tour of Plazuelas. My understanding is that the site was scheduled to open to the public in late March or early May of 2005.
This special location was home to an unknown civilization from A.D. 500 until A.D. 900, at which time the entire area was abandoned. There are 18 buildings and other structures that have been identified and rebuilt at this time, with a larger area still being excavated. Even the imminent archeologist Carlos Castaneda Lopez has only been able to identify bits and pieces of the history of the site and its inhabitants.
Walking to the city's main entrance, we were able to see what was once the city's main gate. It contained an arced courtyard with 1.5m stone phallic symbols that could be raised or lowered when important visitors were present. This alone is worth the journey, but our 90-minute tour had only begun. Next came a structure believed to have been a waiting area for the visitors, who were representatives seeking to visit the ruler of this city. It had stone walls, with stone benches built into these walls. There were openings through which the archeologists believe water and sewage flowed out of the city.
This is only the beginning, but I need to continue in the next report about the marvels that await.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 29, 2005
Attraction | "Plazuelas - Undefined History (Part 2)"
After passing through the city entrance and traversing the "visitor waiting area," you can view the main palatial area. This building does not attain the heights exhibited by the structures from other cultures; however, it has a feature that cannot be found elsewhere. The walls are extremely thick, leading scientists to imagine that this may have been a fortress against enemies. Not so, says Dr. Castaneda. There are numerous layers to these walls. Radiocarbon dating of timbers and other artifacts found within the walls indicate that these layers were built 20 to 40 years apart. This indicates that when a new ruler began his regime, he placed his own outer layer of rocks and timbers. This gives a relative timeline for the civilization that occupied this area.
Further complicating the scene is the "ball field." This is somewhat similar to the areas found in the Mayan cities, but this is built a bit smaller in dimensions. There are no acoustic areas, such as those found in Chichen-Itza. There are no hoops through which the ball was to be played. Plus, this area is much too far north and to the west of any known Mayan cities. This leads one to wonder exactly what was going on at Plazuelas.
One of the major discoveries is an area in which over 1,300 maps/models of the city were found carved into stones. This leads the principle archeologist to believe that Plazuelas had an important school of architecture and design. These models were templates from which aspiring city builders learned the art of city building.
Other buildings abound throughout this major pre-Columbian site, but the most important discoveries are yet to be found. Even with all that has been found, evidence exists that there is more than 100 times more area that was covered by the city and has not yet been found. I believe that this major archeological site can only be appreciated by repeated journeys and viewing the progress of the materials found over the next 50 or more years.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 30, 2005
The cathedral in Salamanca was begun in the mid-16th century. Portions of the original building remain, but a fire in the 1880s burned a large portion of the cathedral. The present building was finished in 1904 and still is one of the most beautiful sites in the entire city. The murals on the walls and in the cupola of the dome match any in the world in their splendor. One of the special features of the church is its famous "Black Christ." Originally a wooden icon in a lighter-colored material, the fire darkened and stained the image. Even after extensive restoration, the image of the Christ remained black in color. To my knowledge, this is the only one colored as such in existence. Masses are held three times daily at this edifice.
Not only is the Catholic Church important in Salamanca, but so is the Protestant faith... especially the Methodist Church. Salamanca is the location in all of Mexico for the first convert from Catholicism to Methodism. In fact, the original church built by that first convert still stands and holds weekly services. I was able to meet the great-grandson of this convert, who was once a Catholic priest.
I attended Mass in the cathedral and Sunday morning service at the Methodist church during my stay. Also, I noticed several other churches, both Catholic parishes and Protestant churches.
There are at least four major pageants and festivals honoring different facets of the religious calendar that are held annually in the city. I missed one of these because I did not have sufficient time during my stay.
Walking through the city gives the traveler a sense of awe. The people are friendly and welcome visitors. I can only hope that I can soon return.
Because of lack of financial resources, approximately 50% of all male adults in Loma de Flores have found their way to the United States to work. In this way, they are able to earn money for their families and to help build a better home for that family.
As I mentioned, in many instances, poverty is a way of life in the ranches. There is very little money, and few prospects of finding significant work to change the financial circumstances. This does not change the inner strength and spirit of the people, though. People in La Loma have a tremendous pride in themselves, their community, their schools, and their churches. I had the opportunity to visit schools of three differing levels in the village. Especially impressive was the elementary school. I observed the students in competiion in a national test of reading skills. The students from the local school won first place at five levels of twelve in the competition. The community was extremely pleased with this result.
It was amazing to watch mothers of the students come to the school at meal times to share a small lunch with their son or daughter. The group of college students that I help to chaperone worked to paint the walls and make repairs to some of the buildings at the school. When the people of the community saw us working, they came out and joined us.
On Palm Sunday, the entire community mobilized to march in a parade through the streets and into the local parish church. There was standing-room only inside the building during the local mass that day.
I believe that everyone needs to experience a trip to one of the ranches when visiting in the country of Mexico. In that way, perhaps, we can all come away with a different perspective for the struggles of other people.
However, there are many positive aspects to life for the people of San Jose de Marañon. Family life is the strongpoint of the community. People within the community are aware of all that occurs within their area of the town. Because everyone is poor, crime is virtually non-existent. Most people who pass through the community become life-long friends.
For me, the experience of spending of few days of my time in the ranch of San Jose de Marañon was an experience that I will never forget. Meeting and spending quality time some of the local people such as Gordo, Lucho, Chaparita, and others gave me a greater understanding for the struggles that others work to overcome. From the experience, I come away with more gratitude for what I have and a greater desire to help others.
Other than taking the opportunity to visit within the ranch, there are no tourist sites for a traveler. However, we can educate ourselves to the needs of others by taking the time to listen and find out more about how they live.