Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Guanajuato, Mexico -- Historic or Modern Center?

I have to be honest. As embarrassing as it is to admit, I must fess up. I have never understood exactly what a historical center is suppose to be in a Colonial Mexican town.

I am humiliated to admit this.

Guanajuato has, as do most Mexican cities or towns, a "historical center". About all I have been able to figure out is that GTO's historical center is a place where the architecture has pretty much been preserved in its original, or as close as possible to the original, baroque and french provincial forms.

A more clinical definition might be something like this:

Historical centers have the potential to unite: different cultures, architectonic and intangible patrimony, goods and services formally and informally produced, financial capitals, different levels of salaries and rents, real estate investment and patrimonial renovation projects, amongst others.

You would think, however, that from what one reads in the online forums, written by American wannabe tourists, is that a Historical Center is a center of fake facades that give an appearance of being like the original town and which is constructed for American tourists as a form of entertainment.

In other words: Disneyland.

Gringos, for the most part, are the tourist and fakepats who take great offense at this. It is, nevertheless, true.

I went to Disneyland in California in 1973 and to Disneyworld in 1975. At that time, when you get through paying for the tickets, equivalent of your kid's college tuition, you begin the walk through Germantown, Mexicotown, Chinatown, etc... You see a series of store fronts and house fronts which are essentially fake. They are made to look like what the Disney people thought the consumer wanted to see or conceived the different countries to look like.

If you believe what forums posters write, this is exactly what the coming wave of tourists to Guanajuato, Mexico expect.

They write questions like this:

"Will I be able to find bars and restaurants in the historical center or will I have to go to the modern part of Guanajuato to find these?"

I would love to tell you this is a rare question but it is not.

Often Americans seem to indicate with their questions that they think the "historical center" is a collection of streets devoted to presenting a series of buildings and shops made up to look like the original Mexican cities or towns.

One lady in San Miguel de Allende asked of downtown if their buildings were real or made to look that way.

So, where does this thinking come from? How about starting with abject ignorance. I cannot begin to imagine a European asking that question. But, I suppose anything is possible.

The Historical Center of Guanajuato is just a location within the city in which the original architecture is more or less preserved and in which modern life goes on. In other words, modern 21st century Mexico goes on, day and night, in its historical center. People live, work, worship, play, buy things, sell things, operate their businesses, etc..., in Guanajuato's Historical Center. This very, very Modern Life goes on in historically significant buildings.

What a historical center is as opposed to a modern center is anyone's guess.

You would wonder by the question that Americans must think there is the "real" city's center--The Modern Center--and then there's the Historical Center--The fake, Disneyland Park--but who can say what this means?

I certainly can't!


Please check out my new book, A WALK THROUGH MEXICO'S CROWN JEWEL: A Guanajuato Travelogue...Click Here.


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