My first impression of Guanajuato was, “Wow, this city reminds me of Rome!” After two days of wandering around its pristine cobblestone streets, discovering one jaw-droppingly beautiful plaza and church after another, I was proclaiming it the most beautiful city in the world. By day five I was looking at apartments.
Guanajuato is a city that I could happily live in the rest of my life, and that is high praise from a vagabond like me. Aside from its astonishing colonial architecture, exquisitely landscaped plazas, and ideal weather, the city has a vibrancy unlike anything I have felt elsewhere in Mexico. This is partially due to the 20,000 students who attend the University of Guanajuato, located right in the city’s historic center; the university’s fine arts focus is the impetus behind many of the cultural seminars, workshops, and exhibits that occur throughout the year. But the vibrant energy of Guanajuato is also a result of its history.
It is said that in 1548, a muleteer named Rayas, who was camping in the hills around what is today the city of Guanajuato, found silver ore inside his bonfire. The land belonged to the New Spain Viceroyalty at that point and the King of Spain was quick to take note; by 1571 the city had been founded on the wealth of what would, for many centuries, be the richest mine in the world. Nouveau riche mine owners poured money into creating a city that would reflect their social standing, building theaters and mansions and funding churches that rivaled one another in opulence. Continue reading