For the second year in a row, Hoffy Tours lead a group of adventurers to central Mexico for a "Dia de los Muertos" Colonial Mexico eight-day tour.  Just like last year, the beauty of the Mexican culture, the gorgeously preserved historic architecture, the lively streets, the tasty food, and the kindness of the Mexican people won our hearts.  All three towns we visited - San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, and Dolores Hidalgo - played key roles in the beginning of Mexico's independence from Spain.  Here's a summary of the tour highlights:

1.  San Miguel de Allende- This beautiful, historic town was our home base, and the street pictured below was where we lived in spacious rental homes for the week.  Living in homes was so much more relaxed than staying in hotels.  Notice the beautiful "parroquia" in the background.  The town plaza, called the "Jardin" was only two blocks away and it was so much fun to live in a city where you could walk everywhere!  In fact, I highly recommend it!

Notice the narrow, cobblestone streets where the buildings come right up to the narrow sidewalks.

Day 1 - Orientation to San Miguel Walking Tour - Pictured below is our wonderful guide Angelica,
whose touring company took great care of us.  We learned on our walk through the cobblestone streets that there are only seven permitted colors in historic core of San Miguel de Allende, a requirement which is part of the  UNESCO World Heritage site status.  The town's many churches and baroque and neo-classical buildings were a result of its location as a supply route on Mexico's lucrative silver trade.

San Miguel's "Jardin" is always hopping.  Plazas and streets are the social heart of the city.
Notice the earth colors on the buildings in the historic core.

Day 2 - A trip to the archaeological site - La Canada de la Virgen - Close to San Miguel is the northern most site of a Meso-American, pre-hispanic ceremonial center.  Our able guide and archaeologist Albert Coffee fascinated us with his description of the architectural, astronomical and ceremonial aspects of this important site.  These pre-hispanic people, much like the Toltecs, Aztecs and Mayans, had an elaborate knowledge of the cosmos, a complex calendar, a rigid social hierarchy and some gruesome sacrificial rituals.  Much research is yet to be done, but we were fascinated with Albert Coffee's detailed knowledge.

Day 3 & 4 - Two day trip to Guanajuato - This lovely capital city, made wealthy from the extraction of silver beginning in the 1500s, is another UNESCO World Heritage site.  It is located in a deep valley, and unlike San Miguel de Allende, there are no building color restrictions.  The result, pictured below, is one of the most vibrant cities in the Americas.  The city is also famous for its Cervantes Festival, Diego Rivera Birthplace and Museum, beautiful churches and Mummy Museum.

No color restrictions here! Guanajuato is a fun jumble of narrow streets, hills and great architecture.
The Cervantes Museum has the world's largest collection of Don Quijote art.

Guanajuato's historic core features strolling minstrels who lead their guests on a delightful music stroll -
called "callejoneadas" - through the narrow alleys. 

Guanajuato's basilica - the largest church in the state - is located in the historic core.

The Mummy Museum is a major and graphic attraction.  The bodies were preserved, in part,
due to the mineral content of the Guanajuato soil.
 Day 5 - Day of the Dead Parade: El Desfile de las Catrinas - On the first day of the Day of the Dead celebration, San Miguel sponsors a "catrina" and "catrin" ("skeleton dandy") for tourists.  So my wonderful group signed up, got our faces painted, and then marched through the narrow streets to the delight of the locals.  It was so much fun having local artists come to our houses to work their magic on our faces, but some of us went to the parade staging area for our makeup.  Every face was different and it wasn't hard to wash off the make-up later that night.

Day 6 - Day of the Dead - Dia de los Muertos II - This celebration is touching and joyful, and certainly colorful.  Mexican families go their local cemeteries to decorate their loved ones' gravesites and also build altars ("ofrendas") to celebrate the departed.  Despite the skulls and decorations associated with the holiday, it seemed to our group a beautiful way to remember and honor those who have passed away.  The gold marigold - the "cempacuchil" - is the symbolic flower of the holiday, originating during the Aztec period.  In fact, the entire holiday is an amalgam of Aztec rituals celebrating their dieties of death with the Catholic All Souls Day.  Notice the marigolds decorating the gravesites below.

A particularly poignant altar was this one remembering the 15 journalists shot in
Mexico in 2017.
Altars or "ofrendas" surround the outside of many Mexican plazas during Day of the Dead.

Even pastries and bread - "pan muerto" - are baked to remember the deceased.
Day 7 - Tour to Dolores Hidalgo - birthplace of Mexican Independence and leading ceramics center:
We enjoyed a wonderful day visiting nearby Dolores Hidalgo, the town where Father Hidalgo first shouted for independence from Spain.  The church where the "Grito (shout) de Dolores" is gorgeous and faces a wonderful plaza where we enjoyed crazy flavors of ice cream (shrimp, octopus, shrimp and cactus, among others!).  The other attraction of the town is its beautiful pottery - the talavera style.  The ceramic art that we saw was some of the most beautiful pottery I have ever seen, and it was interesting to see the artisans in action in several workshops.

Mexico does plazas well.  They are colorful, historic and joyful social places for the entire community.

Our wonderful guide, Mario, delighted us with his passion, knowledge and sense of humor.

Summing it up: A wonderful experience in a beautiful setting - This second tour to San Miguel de Allende was once again a huge success.  My group was charmed by the vibrancy of Mexican culture and the warmth of its people.  We loved the art, the history, and the colorful street life.  The tours with our wonderful Mexican guides gave us a perspective and a historical context was invaluable.  The pictures below sum it up.  Here is a wedding procession moving down our street with a mariachi band, decorated burro, "mogigangas" (tall paper mache figures that lead the procession and only found in San Miguel), the bride and groom, and the guests.  Mexico treasures its traditions and public spaces.  We were lucky and happy to experience it with them.  Que viva Mexico!  I can't wait till the next tour!

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