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Day 216 – The Heart of Mexico + Diego Rivera (Guanajuato)

May 14, 2011

Location: Guanajuato, Mexico

Date: Saturday, May 14, 2011

Over the past year, I’ve grown a little skeptical of things you hear on the road.

Avenida 9 de Julio in Buenos Aires is the widest in the world.” Sorry portenos, it ain’t true. (If nothing else, there’s at least one wider .)

“You can see the Great wall of China from space.” Umm. . .only if you have binoculars.

“Americans and English are the most obnoxious tourists.” I can tell you right now that the Chinese and Israelis aren’t any better.

So when I heard that the geographic center of Mexico outside of Guanajuato just so happens to be at the top of the hill, you’ll have to color me skeptical. What are the odds that the center of one’s country just so happens to be on top of hill that provides stunning views of the surrounding valleys?

It’s just too convenient.

The dubious accuracy of the country’s center does not stop the place from being an important landmark and tourist stop for Mexican tourists. See what I did there? I said Mexican tourists.

That’s because, when I went, there wasn’t a gringo in sight. It’s fascinating what natives find interesting in comparison to foreigners. For instance, does any non-American care about visiting Gettysburg? I’m guessing the natives there vastly outnumber foreigners compared to someplace like, say, Yosemite.

Mexicans find El Cristo Rey significant. It also says something about the country that they’ve decided to erect a giant statue of Jesus at the nation’s heart. I can only imagine the bricks that people would poop if someone put a hulking Star of David or a mosque at the center of the U.S.

The complex also has a sanctuary where they conduct mass. The base of the statue is also ringed with a giant crown of thorns. The recent beatification of Pope John Paul II has led the caretakers to hang giant pictures of the new almost saint around the building. This is like a Catholic conspiracist’s nightmare come true.

The journey to the site itself feels like a pilgrimage. Even though it’s only 15 km (9 miles) away the bus trip takes an hour along a winding, dusty dirt road. The arduous journey doesn’t stop hordes of Mexican tour groups from taking a four-hour guided trip to the monument.

Jesus at the center. He’s totally worth it.

A bit more my speed is the Diego Rivera museum. That’s the same Diego Rivera that painted the murals in Mexico City. The one that used to be more famous than his lover, Frida Kahlo.

The Rivera museum is indoors in the house where the man was born. You can see some fascinating stuff including sketches Rivera used in prepare for larger murals. Even found out he painted a mural in the old Stock Exchange in San Francisco. I also discovered that San Francisco had a stock exchange.

Wonders never cease. Filipino wood in a Guanajuato church. A famous Mexican artist paints in San Francisco. And San Francisco used to not be communist.

The things you learn while on the road.

GALLERY: Click through to see some more pics of Diego Rivera’s early work which may or may not have been taken in camera prohibited areas.

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