Tag Archives: Guanajuato

August Updates

The topic of COVID-19 has me a bit overwhelmed. So I’ve been avoiding it, well, like the plague. However, to try and unravel the current situation in Guanajuato, I thought I’d take up the gauntlet today. 

Unless you’ve been sheltering under the proverbial bushel basket, you should know Mexico has moved up in the death race. Mexico now has the third-highest death rate from Covid-19, right after Brazil and the U.S. 

To celebrate this grand event, the state of Guanajuato has moved into orange. This means, places like movie theaters, churches, and gyms can reopen, with precautions, of course. The church has disinfecting mist spray entrances, requires face masks, and is limiting occupancy to 125 people to allow for social distancing. The gyms are taking temperatures at the front door. 

These reopenings are going full steam ahead despite the Pan American Health Organization predicting a new peak in new cases in August. In fact, July 31 saw a new high of 8,458 cases that was topped August 1 with 9,556 cases. The accumulated case tally in Mexico is the sixth-highest in the world. 

Mexico City, of course, has the most active cases, followed by Mexico State. Guanajuato is in the third position, followed by Veracruz, Coahuila, San Luis Potosí, and Nuevo León tied for fourth. As if these statistics weren’t alarming enough, it’s important to take into consideration that these numbers are completely inaccurate. There is no widespread testing taking place, so it’s really anyone’s guess on the true count. 

More or less SEP’s plan for back to school

Mexico made the decision a few days ago to not return to classes. Instead, school will be available online, on the television, and through radio broadcasts. As prudent as this seems, there are some economic repercussions. On the 15th of this month, teacher contracts expire. If they will not be teaching for the foreseeable future, will they get paid? Then there are the small businesses that earn their pesos providing school uniforms and school supplies. What will happen to their livelihood? The future seems bleak for these sectors. 

Moroleon, you survived looting, flooding, the devaluation of the peso in 1995, Chinese clothing imports and you will make it through the pandemic.

Coronavirus aside, Guanajuato has also been declared a safer area with the capture of Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel leader “El Marro” this week. Apparently it took all of 15 minutes to make the arrest. Personally, I have some doubts about the whole situation. Perhaps El Marro felt it was safer in police custody for the moment. The cartel-related violence in our town hasn’t diminished with his arrest, that’s for sure. Last week a man was killed at the barbershop, another in the market, and a third in a moto-repair shop. 

So how is this affecting our daily lives? More of the same really. We dash to town as early as possible and pick up our supplies, then hunker down in La Yacata for the rest of the day. More and more groups have also been gathering in our little corner of the world, since gatherings are still prohibited in town. In fact, this weekend, there were so many people sitting around on buckets, that my son felt the need to put on his mask to bring the horses in from the pasture. 

Fortunately, we have plenty to do to keep us busy. I am still writing and teaching to make ends meet. My son continues with his online prepa courses. Our animals entertain us when they can. Plus we have plenty of good movies to watch and unlimited books via kindle. Overall, we are in a much better position than those that tried to avoid the plague in the middle ages. Wouldn’t you agree?

Leave a comment

Filed under Economics, Education, Health, Politics, Safety and Security, Small Business in Mexico

The New Normal

Last month we had quite a few shootings in town. I’m sure there were more, but these are the ones I know about.

A teenager sitting on the curb in front of his house was gunned down not a block from my sister-in-law’s tortilleria. The guy who sells raw chicken whose stand is next to the woman that we buy our raw chicken from was shot 22 times. The chicken lady and the fried fish lady who had stalls on either side packed up their wares that day and haven’t returned.

We had a coordinated attack straight from a bad action film in town a block from where we had gone to buy our vegetables. We missed the action by 15 minutes. A car was set fire near the glorieta (roundabout) on the edge of town. A string of fireworks was set off in the mercado (market). Someone shot the employee of the shoe store on the corner. At the same time, several masked marauders ransacked the jewelry store in front of the presidencia (town hall). The military hummveed into town about an hour later. I have no idea why. The perpetrators were long gone.

Tuesday, the guys that ran the “auto paint shop” were shot. We drive past there every day on the way to town. Then the person running the “auto lavado” (car wash) next to Soriana was shot on Thursday. Both were obviously front businesses. The other shootings were reportedly all drug-related as well. Does that reassure me any? Hell no!

Our area is still in the midst of a turf war that began a while back. Guanajuato, being a center state, is considered an easier passage north than the mountains of Michoacan, although Michoacan has its own issues. 

The Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), under the leadership of El Mencho, el rey de metanfetamina (meth king), wants clear passage through the state which is currently held by the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel, headed by José Antonio “El Marro” Yépez, el rey de huachicol (fuel theft king)

Last week, El Marro’s mother and sister were arrested but released because of “insufficient evidence.” Retaliations for the arrests include a few bombed cars and a bomb attempt at a PEMEX facility. Police tried to rearrest dear old mom a few days later. Three of the four officers attempting the arrest were shot and killed. Odds are the authorities are working with El Mencho to clear the area for takeover. It’s not going to well so far.

It’s enough to stretch already taut nerves to the breaking point. The local police and government are silent about the shootings in town. Their broadcasts focus on wearing a mask in public and using an antibacterial gel. Businesses have been given the green light to open up with precautions. We mustn’t let the economy collapse now, right?

Our personal strategy is to go to town as little as possible. We try to go to the grocery, carniceria, and fruteria stores as soon as they open in the morning. In and out, then back home. The idea, at least in my mind, is any shootings will occur a little later in the day, once the thugs rolled out of bed. This is the new normal in our area where masks and bullet-proof vests are suggested daily wear. 

***

2 Comments

Filed under Safety and Security

Playing Tourist–Guanajuato, Guanajuato

Every now and then we have a chance between disasters to have a mini-vacation or two. Unfortunately, they never seem to be as relaxing as we would like.

gto

Guanajuato, Guanajuato

Some time ago, we had some business to complete in Guanajuato, Guanajuato. Our business was done early, and we had the whole day free. So we pulled over to this side-of-the-road tourist booth to get the grand tour. We followed the guy into town to a parking garage where we could leave the truck and hopped in a minivan with about 10 other people, all Mexicans (except for me) strangely enough.

tourists

Tourists!

Our first stop was the Museo Ex-Hacienda del Cochero built in the late 1600s. It seemed mild enough from the outside. However, we were in for a surprise. Our guide, dressed in monk robes, led us from a beautiful garden to the dungeon to see the devices the Spanish Inquisition used to torture infidels, indigenous, political dissenters and anybody else that was in need of torture.

torture

Chained to the wall!

We saw iron maidens, chastity belts, guillotines, garrotes, hanging cages, the rack, and even a person’s remains that had been walled up alive. Our guide explained that some of the mummified remains (I wasn’t sure here if these were really mummified remains or just props) were identifiable as witches because of the red skirt and artifacts they were buried with. There was even a graveyard in the back. I guess they had to put the bodies somewhere. All this torturing supposedly went on without the neighbors knowing anything about it for years due to the thickness of the stone walls.

thick walls

The walls were 2-3 feet thick and kept the screams from bothering the neighbors.

So we were a bit creeped out by that, but surely the next stop would be better.

mummy

Yep, it’s a real mummy.

Nope–we headed to the Museo de las Momias de Guanajuato. Yep, mummies. Lines and rows of naked, crumbling mummies. It seems between 1865 and 1958, the local government required relatives of interred patrons to pay a tax to provide maintenance for the tombs. Those who had no family members, or whose family members did not pay the tax were dug up. The grave diggers discovered that the bodies had been naturally mummified due to the unique soil composition of the area. They started charging a few pesos for entrance into the shed where the bodies were stored. Eventually, the present museum was constructed.

So basically, it was horrible. The clothes had been cut off most of the mummies to cut down on the stench–although most still had their shoes on. There was a horrible section of infant corpses and the mother and child buried together after dying in childbirth, and the woman whose final resting position gave rise to the speculation that she had been buried alive. And did I mention the rows of glass cases with the naked men and women left without a shred of dignity between them?

outside mine

Outside the mine in GTO.

We hurried through that museum and waited outside with the tour van driver. Next stop, the San Ramon Boca Minas, silver mines where the Spanish exploited the indigenous men, women, and children for private gain! By this time, we were out of money, so couldn’t go on the tour, which was a disappointment as it seemed the only one worth taking.

cheesy smiles

Outside the sweet shop.

The tour van also took us to a regional sweet shop and an artesian store, which would have been more exciting for us if we had any funds to purchase anything. After all, each museum was about 35 pesos, plus the tip for the tour guide and the bus guide and the parking garage where we left the truck. It added up. We did take a picture or two though as mementos.

pipila

Pipila

The driving tour also took us past the giant statue of El Pipila. This statue was in honor of Juan Jose de los Reyes Martinez Amaro. He was a miner who became a revolutionary hero when he carried a giant stone on his back to protect him from musket fire and used a tarred torch to set fire to the door of the granary known as the Alhondiga de Granaditas. Once the door was destroyed, the rebels entered the storehouse and killed every single man, woman, and child who had taken refuge there. This occurred on September 28, 1810.

heads

Alhondiga de Granaditas

We were also driven past said building where the blood from the massacre could still be seen as late as 1906 on the pillars and main staircase. The morbid history of this building did not end there. The revolutionary leaders Miguel Hidalgo, Ignacio Allende, Juan Aldama and Jose Mariano Jimenez, were executed by the Spanish firing squad on July 30, 1811, and their heads hung on the four corners of the Alhondiga de Granaditas for 10 years, the time it took for Mexico to finally win its independence from Spain. In 1867, the Alhondiga de Granaditas was converted into a prison by the reigning French emperor Maximilian. It remained a prison until it was converted into a museum in 1958.

gto 1callejon

Thus ended the tour. This wasn’t the Guanajuato I remembered! I had visited the city as an exchange student some years ago and was charmed by the picturesque architecture and romantic stories like the Callejon del Beso. I even took the walking tour of the callejones (alleys) carrying a jug of sangria and listening to mariachis. After all, Guanajuato is a UNESCO World Heritage Site! I guess it just proves the truth that for every beauty there is an equally ugly underside.

student singers

Student singers

charming gto

Charming Gto.

**********************

 

disclosure

4 Comments

Filed under Mexican Cultural Stories, Mexican Holidays, Tourist Sites in Mexico