THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JAMES A. BONDOUX

THE SILVER CITIES OF THE SIERRA MADRE
2004 DRIVING EXCURSION IN MEXICO

San Miguel de Allende

View of the plain surrounding pictureque downtown San Miguel de Allende.

Pancho Villa

Statue of Pancho Villa at the El Bufa museum celebrating his big victory in the 1914 Battle of Zacatecas. His win brought down the Presidency of Mexico.

Rug Merchant

Pleasant peddler of wool weavings in Guanajuato.We bought a thick blanket supposedly made by his mother.

Cathedral

Hidalgo, the main drag of Zacatecas rising uphill toward the Cathedral.

Police Department Marching Band

The Police band came out for a political rally in San Miguel's main square.

Monastery

Ruins of a Franciscan monastery in Zacatecas.

Guanajuato

The standard view of Guanajuato from the El Pipila butte. The Univerity is the large building in the center.

El Pilpila

El Pilpila. Statue memorializing the hero of the indepence battle in Guanajuato.

Alley

A steep, narrow alley in downtown Guanajuato.

Hotel

The former bullfight ring is the ocher-colored structure in front of the aqueduct, and the best hotel in Zacatecas at the time.

Aqueduct

Decommissioned aqueduct that used to supply municipal water to Zacatecas.

Ancient mask

One of the fierce masks in the huge collection of the Zacatecas mask museum.

I have always been drawn to the Mexican culture, because it seems so animated, colorful, lighthearted, festive, and so on… possibly an overly romanticized perception on my part, but there you have it.

Our cruising days took us to coastal cities that cater to gringo tourists, and therefore particularly oriented to noisy fun – nothing wrong with that – but sometimes leaving me with the feeling that we weren’t seeing the "real" Mexico.

A road trip in 2004 to the "Silver Cities" of the Sierra Madre filled that particular void, as we discovered the heart of old Mexico – we were definitely "South of the Border, Down Mexico Way".

There we found the colonial architecture, the traditions, the food and the celebrations that so well describe Mexico. The trip was completely fulfilling, and yet my romanticized yearning remains as strong as ever. I look forward to a return visit, perhaps some day not too far in the future.

Dolores Hidalgo –

here we made only a brief stop, but our must visit was the church from whose pulpit the war of independence was launched – the famous "El Grito" of 1810 – one of the triggers for the disintegration of the entire Spanish Empire.

San Miguel de Allende –

kind of a hybrid between a true Silver City and a coastal gringo destination, with lots of colonial flavor but also a very big gringo presence. The invasion of Norteamericanos has caused an expansion of spoken English in the community. Since it is only an 11–hour drive from San Antonio, we weren’t shocked to see a lot of Texas license plates on Ford F-150s all over town!

Guanajuato –

the highlight of our trip. We stayed in a lovely boutique hotel by the dam. This is noteworthy because the dam is part of the flood control system, which has let the city convert the old floodwater drainage tunnels into underground roadways, and amazing infrastructure for getting around by car or taxi.

The ancient university is a world center for Miguel de Cervantes study, and puts on a massive Cervantes festival every year in October which features a week-long series of performances all over town. There were still performance groups wandering the city in medieval costumes during our January visit (brrr – the place is at 6,000 feet), so I think the Cervantes thing actually runs all year, including rehearsals…

It was fun to see the St. Olaf Band from Minnesota put on a performance at the landmark Teatro Juarez in the heart of town, followed the next day by an answering performance in the Zocalo by the municipal band.

Zacatecas –

this place is a landmark of Mexico history, as Pancho Villa defeated the Federales on the edge of town. There is a significant museum describing the battle on the La Bufa hill, with access by a cable car ride.

We stayed at the picturesque Quinta Real hotel inside of the converted Plaza de Toros adjacent to the old aqueduct.

Taxco –

we made a side trip a few months later to this other Silver City in a different part of the Sierra. A place renown for its artistry in working the silver from the mines. Also an interesting and authentic Mexican city, although benefiting from a strong tourist trade due to its proximity to Mexico City.

Also, to me, a kind of pilgrimage, as we chose to stay at the Hotel Victoria, a decrepit old place that had once been the "deluxe hostelry" of Taxco, and whose glorious poinsettia plants had been remarked on by my grandparents after their stay there way back in the 1950s.

Streets of Taxco The streets of Taxco – windy and without sidewalks.