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Another tragedy seems to have happened in the area of San Roque, where a young couple of Spanish lovers lived in a house on the corner of Galarza and Positos streets. During the uprising of 1810, the couple went into hiding by crawling into a secret enclosure. Nobody suspected their existence except a servant who would bring them food and the latest news. Unfortunately, the servant was killed a few days later in the chaos of the revolt. Only many years later, when new proprietors repaired the house, did their bricklayers discover and demolish a false wall. Lighted by a candle, they saw two cadavers in the small space. In a matter of seconds, according to legend, the room began to disintegrate and turn into dust…

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I stay for a long period high up a hill in a barrio on the northeast end of Guanajuato, in the beautiful home of Ana, a concert pianist who gladly introduces me to her various neighbors and friends. When she had her place built against the rocks a couple of years ago, she was highly inspired by the simple forms, natural materials, unique landscape designs, and bold colors of the late Modernist Mexican architect Luis Barragán.

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From the many floor-to-ceiling windows, the unexpected open wall spaces and the immense rooftop terrace, I have magnificent views over the valley, the surrounding hills, and the ever-blue sky. During happy hours on the roof, I watch the sundown, listen to Ana playing the piano, and sip contentedly from a local mescal or tequila, drinks made from the maguey and blue agave plants.

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(2013) Anita Brenner and Illustrated Travel Magazines of Mexico (1995-1971). Presented at: Harry Ransom Center Research Fellows' Brown-Bag Seminar, HRC, University of Texas, Austin, USA.

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Buses without mufflers have their destinations hand-written on their windshields and add their own "music" to the street scene with their noisy engines and grinding gears. And so do university students dressed in garbs of Renaissance minstrels, guiding people through the historic center while singing, dancing, playing music (string instruments and tambourine), and reciting the city’s old legends. It is a Spanish custom called callejoneadas, in the old days performed by poor university students eager to earn some pocket money. Although it has practically died out on the European continent, it is a tradition kept fervently alive in Guanajuato. Sometimes, tequila is part of the "walking serenade" as well!

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Travel Guide to Guanajuato, Mexico: An Illustrated Visit

Opposition to Spanish domination had been brewing for decades before it culminated in “el grito de independencia“ by an unconventional and rebellious parish priest named Hidalgo, in the nearby city of Dolores. In 1810 Hidalgo called for the end of 300 years of Spanish rule. He incited fellow citizens to take up arms and demanded racial equality in a highly stratified caste system of Spanish noblemen, criollos (descendants of Europeans, born in Mexico), mestizos (those of mixed European and Native American descent), ameroindios (Native Americans), and negros (African slaves).

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The predominantly nomadic tribe of Guachichiles (meaning "heads painted red") inhabited the area before Spanish conquerors arrived and invaded the territory. Under Spanish rule, Guanajuato became home to some of the most productive silver mines in the world. The wealth generated by the mines filled the coffers of Spain and the pockets of the silver barons in Mexico (called New Spain at the time), who heavily exploited the locals to do the hard labor.

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With a growing following of peasants, miners, rebel soldiers, and looters in tow, Hidalgo slowly made his way to Mexico City. When he passed Guanajuato, one of his men, a miner called Pípila, is said to have set the large wooden doors of a granary (La Alhóndiga de Granaditas) ablaze, behind which the Spanish and loyalists had barricaded themselves. Trapping the Spanish that way was one of the first victories in the country’s struggle for independence, but it would take 11 more years to gain complete freedom from Spain. Hidalgo was unfortunately captured and hanged in 1811 before he could see the final victory, and his decapitated head remained in Guanajuato, hung in an iron cage for 10 years, from one corner of the Alhóndiga.