Visit the pride of the Bajio! Added bonus; no swine flu
The purpose of this story is to tell you about the pride of the high Bajio plateau: Colonial Mexico, the real Mexico. It's to encourage you to come with your children to let them know there are other things in this world for them to experience besides their videos, computers and cell phone games.
It won't be a tale about beautiful beaches, posh hotels, mini-golf courses, or roller coasters. I think it's timely because the 24-hour TV news media very nearly destroyed the Mexican economy.
Our great-grandchildren will be paying for the bailout of banks and monster companies because our country's reason for living is to make enough money to purchase the American Dream - doesn't matter if we can't afford it. We can have it, at least until the banks take it away from us.
Your family will discover that not all Mexicans want to come to the U.S., illegally or otherwise. They are happy to live there and to carry on the ancient traditions of their heritage.
I am writing from Guanajuato, the capital of the State of Guanajuato. I am happily ensconced in Casa de Pita, a bed and breakfast located on one of the city's 3,000 alleys, or callecitas. They are all paved with cobblestones and are not wide enough to accommodate cars. Most of the streets are closed to vehicles. Tunnels snake around under the city for cars and buses as well as pedestrians, but I prefer to stick to aboveground routes.
Pita's family built this house 300 years ago. Pita is the latest in a long string of owner-descendants from those days of Spanish occupation. I always ask her to tell her family's history to newcomers at the breakfast table. She speaks little English, but everyone loves to hear the story, because of her animation and delight in telling it.
The weather here in mid-Mexico is coined "eternal springtime." Winter nights are sometimes a bit chilly, but not enough to warrant heating. It's cool enough in the summer to make air conditioners non-essential. Everyday life here is so different from the lives we are accustomed to in the U.S. There is what amounts to a party every night. Families get home from work and school every day, and that's where the similarity to our lives ends.
The whole family, including grandparents and the tiniest babies, head for the primary gathering place, Jardin de la Union, or the Garden of the Union. There are wide pavements lined with shops on one side and restaurants on the other. In the middle is a bandstand and beautiful flowers growing everywhere.
The night is filled with music provided by the strolling mariachi bands and the "Callejoneadas," professional singers from the University of Guanajuato who play medieval instruments and sing traditional Mexican songs. They are dressed in the lavish clothing of the period. After singing around the Jardin, they wander about the city playing and singing for the crowds of people following them. They accept donations, but it's not required.
Stands sell candy, balloons, newspapers, and cups filled with fruit. Sometimes the crowds are so thick it's difficult to get through them if one is going beyond the Jardin. Across the street is Teatro Juarez, where street performers delight the hundreds of people sitting on the broad steps.
When I first came to Guanajuato, I wondered what was being celebrated every night. Was it just because it was Tuesday or Thursday? No. The people celebrate family. They come to the Jardin together. All of their friends are there with their own families, and everyone is so happy to visit with one another. Many times the babies fall asleep in their parents' arms. The children's favorite sport is chasing pigeons.
The night air is intoxicating as the fragrance of the flowers weaves around the music and the laughter of families. I have wandered the streets of the city long after it was dark and deserted and I have never been threatened or felt the least bit afraid. It is still and peaceful.
Everyone who comes to Pita's breakfast table says Guanajuato is the most beautiful city they have ever seen. I agree. This is perhaps the sixth time I have stayed at Casa de Pita for varying lengths of time. I have met people from all over the world and made many lasting friendships. This, however, was the first time in all those years when I was the only guest. All reservations were cancelled because of the flu nonsense. I guess it made a good story, even if it was grossly exaggerated.
There is much more to Guanajuato than I can write here. Go to Columbus Parent's website for more reasons I think you should board a plane with your kids and bring them to see how other families live. It might take some getting used to for the kids, but at the very least, they should know it exists. And I guarantee they will never forget it.
I will be happy to answer any questions you have. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.