The summer is off to a traveling start. I have just returned from two weeks with my students in Mexico. The trip was awesome. The cultural and historical importance of the places and artifacts we were able to see is incredible. Here is just a bit of the highlights from the trek.
We spent Friday (5/28) visiting La Peña de Bernal and the city of Tequisquipan, and Saturday we spent two days and one night in the historically important town of Guanajuato. On our way home, we made short stops in Dolores Hidalgo, the heart of the Mexican Independence movement, and San Miguel de Allende, the heart of the Gringos moving to Mexico movement.
La Peña de Bernal is the world's third largest monolith. Part of the crew was able to reach a height of around 500 meters (that's right, meters...it is easier that way) while the actual peak (not reachable sans equipment) is much, much higher. In total we were around 2,000 meters above sea level and for us, being from Stanly County, the air got pretty thin. The views from the top of La Peña are spectacular. Although it was unusually hazy, we could see for kilometers. According to local lore, the town and rock themselves are supposed to be magical. Many people (well in their 90's) climb the stone to receive energy and experience its incredible powers. We actually felt it on our climb. On the way up, the trail that is covered by a lot of dirt, dust, and plant life completely wore us out. However, when we arrived to the heights where there was no debris, only exposed stone, we suddenly received a burst of energy which carried us to the top.
After Bernal, we visited the town of Tequisquiapan. Tequis, as it is called, is just a small, colonial town that features a lot of shopping and a great little restaurant called ''La Tajano''. Most just enjoyed the savory soup, while other had some exquisite enchilidas. Even the complementary bread and requeso were out of the world. Though we didn't have time to visit, the annual Wine and Cheese Fair was taking place while we were in Tequis. I heard from many people that this years expo was one of the best.
Guanajuato offered us the chance to see naturally occurring mummies, some of the original silver mines of central Mexico, and the museum of Spanish Inquisition torture devices. Due to the climate, soil content, and diet (very fresh and very natural) of the people of Guanajuato, it is very common that people are mummified through a natural dehydration process. After visiting the mummies, we made our way to the old silver mines. We were able to go down only 24 meters, but that was far enough. When the guide tells you how many people have lost their life in Mexico's mining history, you don't want to go too far. Going deep wasn't always necessary during the 17th and 18th century in this particular region. During this time period, it was not uncommon to find silver literally just below the surface of the soil. This is what brought so many Spanish conquistadors to the area, lending to its strong colonial history and attractions today. The torture museum was probably our favorite stop. There's nothing like learning just how people were stretched beyond their anatomical limits, fried like pork rinds, and had their heads compressed until their brains exited through their nasal passages simply for being homosexual or a single mom...good times!
Dolores Hidalgo is a very special place in the history of Mexico. It was here where the original ''grito'', or shout, for Mexican independence took place. This tradition is relived all over the country, but most importantly in the Zócalo of Mexico City. Nearly two million people gather every September 15th (not 5 de mayo) to join the president in celebrating the independence by shouting ''!!Viva México¡¡'' and ringing the ceremonial bell.
It was a whirlwind trip and it totally wore us out, but we rallied each other and made it to class. Our classes were great all week. The history class is absolutely amazing. We have learned about the time period of the pre-Colombian groups all the way up to the conquest. Our classes during the week carry us to the following weekend's adventures. Here is how weekend #2 went...