Big Things Come in Small Packages

We had a couple of hours on our own to explore Cerocahui before our “official” introduction, but honestly, we only needed about 15 minutes.  The town, nestled in a fertile valley on the edge of the Urique Canyon, is very tiny.  It is home to maybe 900 people.  A few small, independent grocery stores surround a central plaza.  A cluster of homes are located just off the main area.  In spite of its size, there are three local schools.  Formerly a mining town, forestry, farming (orchards and vineyards), and tourism are the primary sources of employment and income today. 

 

The Jesuits arrived in 1679.  Slowly, they introduced Christianity to the Rarámuri Indians, the indigenous peoples of the Copper Canyon.  (Tarahumara is the name given to the indigenous people of the Sierra Madre by non-Indian peoples.  The correct name is Rarámuri, meaning “light feet”.)  The Jesuits stayed until 1767, when they were expelled by the Spanish king, who much preferred using the Indians for free labor in the mines.  

Cerocahui does not appear in any history books again until 1937, when a Jesuit priest, Padre Andres Lara, returned to the area.  Padre Lara built the first roads making travel into and out of Cerocahui easier, though horses and mules were used up until the 1970’s.  The Pacific Chihuahua Railroad, completed in 1961, was truly the first public transportation in the area.  Long distance telephone service and electricity were slow to arrive, owing still to the isolation of Cerocahui due to the geography of the area (late 1990’s-early 2000’s).  

The roads only made it easier for the Rarámuri people once they arrived in town.  Even today, access to their homes high in the Sierra Madre or deep in the canyon is granted  via nearly invisible pathways.  Many of the Rarámuri prefer to remain separated from the modern community.  They do not speak Spanish or possess official documents like birth certificates.  They do not own cars or telephones.  They do not have electricity.  Distances are covered and messages communicated by moving up and down the canyons on foot.  As a result, the Rarámuri are strong and gifted runners.  Some men, identified from an early age with the gift, compete in and win long distance races around the world.  Any money earned is shared among the members of their communities.

Unfortunately, they have not remained as separate as they would have liked.  The isolation of the Copper Canyon appeals to others for more nefarious reasons.  The Rarámuri have been forced by drug cartels to grow illegal crops instead of the food that sustains them- -or their land has been stripped from them.  They are forced to move to areas where the earth is not as suitable for farming.  Their children are threatened, harmed, or even taken from them.  As if that is not enough, the Rarámuri are suffering from a decade long drought.  Many of their children have died from starvation.

Rarámuri families may have 14-15 children.  The boys work with their fathers learning skills in the fields and around the homes.  Some are chosen and trained as runners.  Typically, it is the women who have more interaction with the outside world.  They sell their beautiful woven baskets, carved walking sticks, and copper jewelry to the tourists who come through the Copper Canyon on El Chepe.  An education grants the women an opportunity to learn the Spanish and math skills they will need.  However, the truth remains that many families choose to enroll their daughters, aged 4-13, in the Virgin of Guadalupe/Tewecado Boarding School in Cerocahui to keep them nourished and safe more than anything.  

IMG_5337Our “official” tour began at the Tewecado (“Place of Girls”) Boarding School.  The school was established in the 1941 by four sisters from the Servants of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Poor.  It is a private school and receives absolutely no government support.  Incidentally, the school receives no financial support from the church either.  Day to day operations and maintenance costs are covered by private donations only.  Nuns care for the nearly 100 boarders, providing them with three daily meals, safety, and an education.  Yes, this is the order of importance, as the Rarámuri live very much in “today”.  Parents bring their daughters on foot from as far as 4-5 days away; therefore, visits with family are often infrequent.  The site is also a day school for as many as 250 students within walking distance.

The students in residence were playing in the center courtyard when we arrived, enjoying a bit of IMG_6467downtime before afternoon Mass.  The girls drew, played soccer, and ran races across the courtyard.  Their skirts and blouses were a riot of bright colors, designed to reflect the Rarámuris’ joy of living.  Most of the girls kept their hair covered at all times, and all covered their hair upon entering the church for services.

Learning responsibility is also a focus at the school curriculum.  The girls wash their own clothes and own dishes.  Immediately after eating, they reset their places at the table for the next meal.  In their homes, the girls sleep on the ground.  The Devil lives underground, and the Rarámuri believe that by sleeping closer to him, their troubles will go down, leaving them.  At the boarding school, everyone has her own bed in a dormitory.  And every single bed was made!

Donations recently paid for a new, modern kitchen area- -a necessity for sure, with so many mouths to feed.  We left candy with the nuns to distribute to the girls as a treat, and many of us made monetary donations as well.  So much good was being done with so very little. 

IMG_0007The girls began lining up for Mass, so we hurried to the church before their arrival.  Padre Lara completed reconstruction of the mission as well.  The entrance into the grounds is as large as it is to provide room for dancing, as the Rarámuri always danced when they came to Mass.  The alter area and supports for the center dome are all that remain of the original mission building.  And today, the Cerocahui mission serves as the center of Easter season celebrations for the Rarámuri people; many walking great distances to participate. 

Cerocahui is a small town in the center of an enormous landscape.  How easy it might have been to pass it by, not ever knowing it was there.  But what gifts its discovery held- -a rich history, a resilient people, celebration, and hope- -shining brightly in the eyes and smiles of the Copper Canyon’s future.

If you would like to make a donation to the school, you may do so here.

On the Right Track

IMG_6435I think the one thing my husband most appreciates about me is that I am a pretty cheap date.  Um… I mean that I have the ability to find immense joy in seemingly simple pleasures and pastimes.  You know, like a van ride to the train station in El Fuerte.  I managed to secure a window seat for the trip (of course I did)  and kept myself entertained watching the world go by.

As we left the hotel, parents were dropping their children off at the school across the street.  On mopeds.  Like all of their children.  At the same time.    It was inexplicably fascinating and quite nerve wracking for me.  I get a little spooked alone on a bicycle now and then.  And here were three elementary aged kiddos, completely relaxed, as they shared the moped seat with dad. 

The town was waking up as we made our way to the train station.  Vendors pedaled their snack carts into and around the plaza.  Tarps were rolled back on the tables where handicrafts and souvenirs were displayed and sold.  Men and women, headed to work, crisscrossed the streets in front of us.  And slowly, all of the busyness slipped away as we moved away from the center of town and into the countryside en route to the station. 

The train was scheduled to arrive at 8:00 am, but… that was not a guarantee.  We were there by 7:30, as were many other passengers- – just in case.  I used my time to review what I knew about El Chepe so far.  Yes, Ruth, ever the teacher, had provided us with a packet of information about the places we would visit on our trip, including the complete history of the railroad in the Copper Canyon.  And I am pretty sure I am the only one in the group who read it.  That is just the “cheap date” in me!

The railroad was first visualized by Albert Kimsey Owen.  It would begin with the development of a harbor in Topolobampo Bay near Los Mochis in Sinaloa.  The grand plan was that the railroad would run from the port through northern Mexico and into Kansas, making trade easier between Asia, Europe, and the United States.  Part of the plan also included the development of a utopian colony, funded by people who bought stock in a corporation Owen set up.  Eventually, Owen became more focused on his colony (and fighting to control his role as its leader).  So, Arthur Stilwell joined the cause and carried on Owen’s vision, receiving funding from the government of Porfirio Diaz and U.S. communities and oil companies.

Work began in the 1890’s and continued slowly up until 1910, the start of the Mexican Revolution.  Mexico was not able to fulfill its financial obligations as a result.  And that pesky Pancho Villa kept attacking the trains.  All work ceased.  The project languished until the nationalization of the railroads in 1940.  The Mexican government spent over a billion pesos between 1940 and 1961, when the line was completed.

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The Chihuahua Pacific Railroad (El Chepe) is without a doubt, one of the engineering marvels of the world.  The line from Los Mochis to Chihuahua includes 37 bridges, 86 tunnels, and rises 8,000 feet in a 410 mile trip.  At one point the track even crosses over itself to gain elevation.  And El Chepe is almost as fun to say as Los Mochis!

El Descanso Tunnel is 6,000 feet long.  Chinipas Bridge is 335 feet high.  The Rio Fuerte Bridge is 1,600 feet long.  What was accomplished by the Mexican engineers and railroad workers was a feat beyond the capacity of many developing nations at the time.  They were dealing with the Sierra Madre Occidental after all, a mountain range that had baffled engineers during the earlier phases of the project.  

I was interrupted from my review by the sounding of the train’s whistle.IMG_6433  The next part happened quickly, and it was a little like a free for all, as there were no railroad employees organizing the crowds.  We lined up right next to the tracks where we anticipated our assigned car would be once the train stopped.  Well, there was a yellow safely line we were supposed to stay behind, kind of like the one they paint on school sidewalks to keep kids out of the way of buses… You know how that goes.

The next part was very similar to the congestion experienced at elevators- -the people waiting to get on crowded the train doors, overwhelming the people trying to get off.  The crowding was necessary though.  This engineer did not mess around.  The loading and unloading was finished in less than five minutes.  The engineer blew the whistle twice.  That was the signal to move fast and now.  Fortunately, having read the background info, I was not one of the folks who was now making a sprint for the railroad cars.

My luck continued.  Yep, snagged another window seat!  A couple of folks in our group settled in for a nap.  Another group headed for the bar.  Me?  I pulled out my “Authentic Copper Canyon Guide to El Chepe”, a kilometer by kilometer detailed explanation of what I would be seeing between El Fuerte and Bahuichivo, our destination that day.  I had five hours of simple pleasures coming my way!

All Aboard!

I am not exactly sure how old I was when I learned about the existence of the Grand Canyon.  Probably much older than I should have been.  And I did not have the opportunity to see it for myself until I was almost 50!  So it is really no surprise, I suppose, that I was as equally unfamiliar with the Copper Canyon in Chihuahua, Mexico.  Here I was again feeling completely overwhelmed by all I did not know in the world.

IMG_6366When I heard that my good friend, Ruth, had a trip to the canyon planned for early spring, I begged and pleaded with Steve to go.  The begging and pleading was necessary because of his status as the only male in the group the last time… and the shopping.  In fact, the strongest argument I made was that since we were traveling by train, small suitcases were recommended.  And small suitcases seriously limit your shopping load.  It did not even occur to me to point out that the Copper Canyon is four times bigger and ten times deeper than the Grand Canyon or that it is home to the Rarámuri Indians, known for their long distance running abilities.

Ruth has a passion for the history of Mexico, and I knew we would learn a lot from her.  In addition to being a historian, Ruth and her husband Rudy own and operate one of the best bakeries in San Carlos.  Steve knew he had made the right decision in joining the trip when minutes into our van ride to El Fuerte, Sinaloa, Ruth showed us how the Sierra Madre Occidental were formed using her delicious banana bread to demonstrate the shifting of the plates.

The town of El Fuerte was once the capital city of Sinaloa, Sonora, and Arizona. It is IMG_6370named for the Spanish fortress, El Fuerte, built in the early 1600’s after Mayo Indians destroyed the first Spanish settlement.  General Diego Martínez de Hurdaide was responsible for its construction after being sent to the area to quell further uprisings. Hurdaide was cruel and ruthless.  He believed that Indians had no souls.  And he actually had them baptized… before he killed them.  After silver was discovered in the Copper Canyon, the fort served to protect Spanish mining interests.  The Camino Real runs through El Fuerte to Alamos in Sonora.

Our hotel, La Posada de Hidalgo, was a combination of several old homes, including the mansion of former mayor and trader, Rafael Almada.  The Almadas spent five years building their home at a cost of 100,000 gold pesos.  It was considered the finest home in El Fuerte at the time.   Pine wood used for ceiling beams was shipped from Seattle, Washington, and Rafael’s wife, Rafaela, originally planned to cover steel columns in the center courtyard with gold.  The government refused her design, as it was a blatant abuse of wealth.  I was glad to hear the government was against some abuses after all.

IMG_7047It is also believed that Don Diego de la Vega, El Zorro, was born in a small home that is now part of the hotel.  In fact, Steve and I actually stayed in the very room where he may have been born.  Never mind “believed” and “may have been”.  I was certain I was standing in another spot where history was made.  And even though Don Diego moved to California long before he became El Zorro, I still zipped around the room making Z’s with my pretend sword and basically annoying the hell out of Steve.  And when Ruth mentioned we would be seeing a Zorro show… Whew!  You cannot buy that kind of excitement and take it home in your suitcase!

 

Beautiful, brightly painted, colonial buildings surround the main plaza.  The walkway to the gazebo is lined with palm trees, gifts from Cuba and California.  The church and municipal palace are also located on the main square.  Visitors can ride a small train throughout town checking out the sites.

Wait.  A little train?  It took me a minute to figure that one out.  Yes, it most definitely should have been obvious.  El Fuerte is the first stop on the El Chepe railroad line running east into the Copper Canyon.  And the reason we were there to begin with!

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The World May Be YOUR Oyster, But the Oyster Is the World to Guaymas Pearl Farmers

I tend to be an over planner when we have visitors to our home in San Carlos.  I simply want to highlight all of the attractions in our community that make Guaymas/San Carlos such a special place.  I also want my guests to look beyond the unfinished building projects and the trash blowing around in vacant lots.  Unfortunately, it is sometimes easier to see the negatives than the positives, and it is important to me that friends and relatives are given the opportunity to see past what may be right in front of them.

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One of my very favorite places to take visitors is La Granja de Perlas del Mar de Cortez, the Pearl Farm.  And no, it is not because I am hoping they will thank me for my hospitality with a necklace or a bracelet.  I am most definitely not a jewelry person.  I typically wear the same pair of earrings for at least six months before it even occurs to me to change them.  It is the story behind the success of this business:  the history, the science, and the sheer will and patience, that makes this a must stop on any Guaymas tour.  The jewelry just happens to be an incredible bonus.

That story begins in the 1600’s, when Spanish conquistadors first arrived in this area of the Sea of Cortez.  They could not help but notice the beautiful pearls worn by the Seri and Yaqui Indians.  At first they were content to trade for the gems, but eventually, as demand increased, the Spanish enslaved the Indians and began fishing for the pearls “”themselves”.  The Yaqui were known to be the best pearl divers, and the Spanish took full advantage of their skills.  By the 1800’s, the oyster beds between Kino Bay and Guaymas were completely wiped out.  The Spanish simply moved across the sea to the Baja peninsula.  In 1940 the Mexican government  completely banned pearl fisheries, hoping to preserve the oysters that remained.  It looked like the end for the Sea of Cortez pearls.

Fortunately, two students at Tec de Monterrey University in Guaymas had other ideas.  Douglas McLaurin, a biochemistry engineering student, and his partner, developed a business model based on their belief that the cultivation of Sea of Cortez pearls was possible.  Based on his own research, their professor had little faith that their endeavor would be successful.  The pair earned a “C” on the project.  They did not let the mediocre grade deter them.  In 1991, they began experimenting with the Rainbow Lipped Oyster on the campus of Tec de Monterrey and in Bacochibampo Bay in Guaymas.  

IMG_1510The intricate and time consuming process is detailed here.  In short, it takes four years from start to finish for a Sea of Cortez Pearl to grow.  The oysters are moved four different times, as they develop, starting out in “kiddie condominiums” and eventually graduating to individual “apartments”.  Their shells need to be cleaned every eight weeks, as barnacles andIMG_1505 other sea creatures can attach to them and cause damage and/or death.  Talk about labor intensive!  The team today still relies on the expertise of the Yaqui people in providing care to the oysters as they grow.

At the age of two, the oysters are strong enough to handle the introduction of a nucleus.  A 30 second operation is performed, where a spherical nucleus is implanted into the mantle of the oyster.  A hemispherical pearl may be cultivated by cementing a flat-sided nucleus directly onto the shell.  The shell is opened just enough for a very small tool to be inserted inside.  Quick, steady, and precise.  The grain of sand myth is an insult to the skill required of these men.  And there are no guarantees.  The oysters go back into the water for another eighteen months!

Today, Douglas and his partners, Enrique Arizmendi and Manuel Nava, farm one square hectare with 200,000 oysters under cultivation.  Their process has been honored with a Full Product Integrity Rating from the Fair Trade Gem Federation- -the only pearl farm in the world with this designation.  This is due to the fact that their pearls are not processed with chemicals, bleach, or by burning.   They are merely rinsed under tap water once harvested.  The owners also recognize the importance of being good environmental stewards and promoting a respectful labor environment.

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La Granja de Perlas typically produces about four kilograms of pearls a year, making them the rarest in the world.  Any pearls that do not meet product standards are returned to the ocean.  And those that do make the cut are used in the design of some of the most beautiful jewelry in the world.  The partners work with artists in the creation of very unique pieces, all available for purchase on site.  And I have to admit, each time I visit, I become more of a jewelry person.

I scheduled a nine o’clock tour for my aunt, uncle, and myself.  The two of them looked at me like I was crazy.  Fortunately, Perlas del Mar de Cortez offers multiple tours daily to accommodate all guests, even those who like to sleep in!

 

The Cost of a “Silver” Lining

So standing on top of the scenic mirador, all of Guanajuato spread out in front of me, it was pretty obvious that one day would never be enough to experience all the magic this city held.  Heck, a lifetime might not even cut it!  It was for this very reason I was so grateful that we had come with a group that included “professionals”.  They gave us a place to start, and well, honestly, provided us with a driver who knew his way through the tunnels!

Our first stop was La Bocamina San Ramón.  This was one of Guanajuato’s smaller silver mines and part of La Valenciana system.  (La Mina Valenciana was the wealthiest of all mines in and around the city.  80% of all silver mined in Guanajuato was produced here.)  From the site of Bocamina San Ramón, we had an stunning view of the surrounding mountains, responsible for giving Guanajuato the nickname “City of Frogs”, as some of the mountaintops resemble them.

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We were able to descend about 60 meters through an old shaft into the mine.  Today there is a a well-lit staircase that makes this a little bit easier.  In the 1500’s, miners, some as young as 14 years old, relied on candles to light their way, as they made their steep descent over rock and dirt on a tree trunk fashioned into a ladder.  All work was done with a sledgehammer and/or a chisel.

Climbing out, even with a lighted staircase, was somewhat strenuous.  There were 60+ steps, some much higher than others.  I kept myself in check by thinking of the young boys and men who shimmied up a tree trunk, often times carrying more than 70 kg of rocks.  Children much younger than 14 worked outside of the mine, carrying buckets of water and sorting.

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Needless to say, the life span of a miner, in or out of the mine, was short.  Serious injury and death from falls, explosions, and cave-ins were frequent.  Others developed respiratory and vision problems from the dust floating around in the air.   Many miners were maimed during accidents with the chisels, drills, and dynamite.  Believe me, I felt a little silly wearing a hard hat to protect my head just in case I bumped it on the rock wall while climbing the stairs.

The Spanish owned the mines and benefitted from the silver produced.  This may explain why the first battle of the Mexican War of Independence was fought in Guanajuato.  Infighting long after the War of Independence contributed to the continued inactivity in the mines.  Porfirio Diaz, president in 1870, is credited with reactivating the industry.  He invited French, British, and Americans to invest in mining.

While the money generated led to incredible cultural advances in Guanajuato, the working class and poor were truly paying for it.  They were not allowed to take advantage of many of the improvements either.  It is no real surprise that production completely stopped again during the Mexican Revolution.  (And ironically, the very first statue of Padre Don Miguel Hidalgo was erected in the historic lake district, where once, only the wealthy of the city could enjoy boating and picnics.)

Today there are 16 active mines operating in and around Guanajuato.  They are run by Canadian companies.

So, I had been to the very top and to the very bottom of the city.  I was restless to get to the middle!  But that group I was so grateful for before we started?  They were now insisting we take a break for lunch!

Having a “BOWL” in Guanajuato

You know that saying, “saving the best for last”?  That is exactly how I felt about Guanajuato, the final city on our central highlands tour.

Guanajuato was a silver boomtown.  It was discovered almost by accident by a group of men moving through the area.  They stopped to rest overnight during their travels.  They built a fire to keep themselves warm.  In the morning, they found molten silver under the rocks they had used in their campfire ring.  Word quickly spread, and the city grew like mad, as everyone wanted in on the riches silver mining could bring.  

IMG_0876It was that seemingly overnight growth, a city planner’s nightmare, that gives Guanajuato its rich character today.  Separate communities were built around each of the mines, complete with their own churches and plazas.  Where one town ended, another began. As a result, there are many areas of the city where there are no streets – -just alleyways or sidewalks – – connecting the neighborhoods and making a lot of places throughout the city completely inaccessible to cars.  Miners designed elaborate tunnels under the city to move their silver, not roads

And today, believe it or not, that tunnel system is the road system!  (So maybe the miners built roads afterIMG_0863 all…)   Every time we needed to move from one side of the city to the other, we headed underground.  I was utterly amazed to see cars parked along the curves of the old tunnels, as their drivers waited for buses to bring them to the surface and drop them off as close to their destinations as possible.  Had I been driving, there is no doubt in my mind that I would still be down there.  The majority of tunnels/roads are unlit and signage is at a minimum.

To better appreciate Guanajuato we headed to the scenic mirador.  We were greeted with the most impressive view.  The city is shaped like a narrow bowl.  The bottom is filled with churches, plazas, schools, museums, and theaters, while homes and buildings in every shade on the color wheel creep up the mountains which make up the sides.  Most of these homes are reached by steep staircases built into the side of the mountains.  Of course, living in a bowl has its downside, particularly during the rainy season.  The Guanajuato River used to flow under the city, leading to very frequent flooding.   A dam was built in the 1960’s that finally put a stop to this.  Today, Calle Miguel Hidalgo, one of the underground roads built using the mining tunnels, follows the river’s original course.

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The scenic mirador is also the site of the statue, El Pípila, in honor of a local hero during Mexico’s War of Independence.  Juan José de los Reyes Martínez Amaro, el Pípila (so nicknamed for his freckled face) was a miner originally from San Miguel de Allende. IMG_5917 Shortly after Don Padre Miguel Hidalgo rallied Mexicans to rise up against the Spanish, the first battle took place in Guanajuato.  The Spanish barricaded themselves (and all their riches) in a stone grain warehouse.  Their fortress had one weakness; a wooden door.  Legend has it that el Pípila strapped a stone tablet to his back for protection from musket fire and snuck up to the door of the granary.  Once there, he tarred the door and set it on fire, clearing the way for the freedom fighters to gain entry and bring defeat (and death) to the Spanish hiding inside.  I did not locate any of the 260 “Road to Independence” markers on this trip, but I am certain they are there.

Standing above the city, I could not help but fall in love.  Gunajuato looks like I feel most days:  chaotic (in a good way), creative, and festive!  I finally pulled myself away from the view.  I was ready to take my chances in those tunnels again.  Ah… to stand in the middle of the bowl, and to add my own colors to the mix.

¡Viva Hidalgo!

IMG_E5847I am not sure when exactly I became such a history nerd.  And by history nerd, I mean the kind of person who actually cries tears of excitement when she learns she will have the opportunity to stand exactly where Padre Don Miguel Hidalgo did when he made his famous “Cry of Dolores” speech on the steps of la Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores (Our Lady of Sorrows Church) in 1810.  Or the kind of person who pulls a notebook out to jot down all the important information the guide shares with the group, while everyone else looks around for the ice cream cart.  

Somehow, I had completely missed the item on our itinerary that indicated we would have half a day to spend in Dolores Hidalgo.  That meant I did not have the opportunity to do a little pre-tour research like I had for many of our other stops.  Fortunately, I had become incredibly interested in learning about El Día de la Independencia several months ago and knew exactly what had happened in this very small but mighty town many years ago, and the role Don Miguel Hidalgo played here.

The now famous church was built in 1710 by the Spanish in the town simply called IMG_E5850Dolores.  It was primarily an Indian town with very little opportunity for its population because of of the presence of the Spanish.  Things changed for the better when Miguel Hidalgo, a Mexican Roman Catholic priest, arrived in 1803.  He brought hope and training to the indigenous people.  He introduced vineyards, the now famous pottery of the region, beekeeping, and smithing.

Miguel Hidalgo was not at all a typical Catholic priest.  He challenged not only the power of Spain, but also many of the doctrines of the Catholic church itself.  He had studied French, which made it possible for him to read works on the period of Enlightenment in Eurpoe, expressly forbidden by the church in Mexico.  Don Miguel Hidalgo was a businessman, not bound by an oath of poverty.  He was a dancer, a gambler, and he ignored his vow of celibacy.  He had at least eight children with four different women throughout his life.  In fact, he had to move to a larger home in town to just accommodate his growing family.

Once assigned to la Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores, Don Padre Miguel Hidalgo passed on his clerical duties to another man and focused his time and energy on humanitarian efforts and advocating for and improving the lives of the Indians who lived in town.  Ultimately, he became involved in the secret planning of the Mexican fight for independence.  The Spanish were suspicious of him based on his activities long before they discovered the conspiracy plotting a revolution.  

IMG_E5851Rather then going into hiding once discovered, Miguel Hidalgo called for the release of eighty prisoners, and then facing his own arrest, he rang the church bells at 6:00 a.m. on September 16, 1810.  He called on his 300 parishioners to join the fight against the government, in what is today known as El Grito de Dolores.  The support was overwhelming!  The very first of Mexico’s 260 “Road to Independence” markers is found in Dolores Hidalgo.  

The famous bell rung by Don Padre Miguel Hidalgo is now at the National Palace in Mexico City.  It is rung every year on September 15, as the Mexican president reenacts El Grito de Dolores, honoring all of Mexico’s freedom fighters.

We visited the church (and yes, I stood on the steps, fist in the air, and shouted “¡Viva Hidalgo!”), saw the old jail, and toured Hidalgo’s home.  There were a number of students visiting “the cradle of Mexican Independence” with their teachers that day as well.  Truth be told, they were most likely looking for the ice cream cart too.