Guanajuato: City of Legends

Juan Pablo Martínez


Guanajuato leyendasAccording to dictionaries and encyclopedias, the word "legend" has as its definition: "an oral or written narration, either in prose or verse, with a greater or lesser proportion of imaginative elements and which generally is taken to be true or is based on a true story. It is usually passed on from one generation to the next orally often with some additions or alterations."

GuanajuatoThe magic touch of these stories is that, despite being outlandish, they are credible because they are transmitted orally as if they were unquestionably real. Guanajuato is a city whose legends began in the 16th century during the Spanish conquest. Its strange architecture and location made it very easy to create myths about this mining town as people spoke about a huge quantity of gold and precious stones there as well as exquisite and unknown food. Thanks to the narratives that reached the European continent, a large quantity of migration arose in search of gold and wealth.

Guanajuato leyendasAt this time many marked social classes appeared, such as mestizos (children of Spanish fathers and native mothers), creoles (children of Spanish parents), natives and mulattos (children of Spanish fathers and black mothers). There was a lot of racial discrimination among themselves and people were allowed contact only with others of their same class; those ideas gave rise to a great number of legends. One of the most famous and traditional legends in Guanajuato is "El Callejon del Beso" (Alley of the Kiss), which has as its setting a narrow alley, just 27 inches wide at the end , where two balconies are located, one in front of the other, at a distance that allowed a romantic kiss.

Alley of the kissIts name is taken from the legend of two lovers, a daughter of a rich landowner and a humble miner, who secretly meet on the balconies. When the father discovers his daughter kissing her lover, he takes a dagger and sticks it into her heart. As she is lying dead, one of her hands is being held by her lover who gently kisses it. The legend says that couples who kiss while standing on the third step of the staircase under the balconies will enjoy 15 years of happiness, while those who forget or avoid doing so will go through seven years of suffering.

Guanajuato mummiesAnother legend you will witness is that of the Mummies of Guanajuato. This legend says that, due to the number of people who died in 1833 from a cholera epidemic and out of fear of this illness spreading over the city, some people were buried alive. That is the reason why some of the mummies have faces of pain. They are exhibited in a mausoleum located just under the place where they were found.

La LloronaAnother ancient legend of this zone says that a woman with messy and abundant, long hair breaks the silence in the middle of the night when everything is absolutely calm with her cries of grief: La Llorona (The Weeping Woman). The legend says that La Llorona leaves a house located on Hidalgo Street exactly at midnight, wearing a beautiful white nightdress and carrying something wrapped in her arms. She walks down Cantarranas Street to Hinojo Square and there she puts that "something" in front of an old house. After that, regretting what she has just done, she starts yelling and crying loudly in despair, piercing frightened people's ears. It is said that you can still hear her at midnight walking, yelling and crying through Guanajuato's streets. The actual reason given why she suffers so much pain varies from place to place and from person to person.

GuanajuatoBecause Guanajuato is very rich in legends, when you visit it, you will hear stories such as that of Jose Carpio, a very humble person who, after living many tragedies, became a very rich man, or the story of "El Truco" ("The Trick"), a man who lost his wife to the devil on a bet.

Legends... mysticism or reality? We will continue to hear these tales with a certain ingenuousness and apprehension of the unknown. Come to Guanajuato and feel the special vibes that come from this colonial city.