Deep Roots - A History of Guanajuato by Jesús Cardiel

Jesús Cardiel
This is a translated recorded interview that I did in May 2018 with  Jesús Cardiel, a resident of Guanajuato, friend, and master massage therapist, whose family roots go deep here. His mother's family has lived in Guanajuato for two hundred and thirty years, and on his father's side one hundred and ninety years. Stories have been passed down through generations. This history of Guanajuato combines some stories about his family as well as some history of the city.
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"For the people of Guanajuato, the foundation of their history is the family base. Our family base derives from the religious beliefs which is the main factor to the strength of many families. I believe this is how Guanajuato came to be, with strength, hard-work and union from many families that work together to create that family base.

“La Mama” the grandmother was that strong figure, she was the matriarch, she was the person in charge to keep the family together, she was the one to lead that family base.

Going back to the history of Guanajuato, in the time of the conquest when Spain invaded Mexico, the people of Guanajuato was extremely poor and were going through scarcity. The Europeans came and made the people work hard with low salaries, they governed us for a very long time. Going through all these encouraged the people of Guanajuato to work together to become the Mexican nation.

From 1902 to 1908, the King of Spain gave Guanajuato the name of La Ciudad Real de Santa Fe. In 1908, Guanajuato was proclaimed the Capital of the Mexican Republic because Guanajuato was the city that produced the most Silver, producing ¾ of Silver of the entire world. After this, people started thinking about freedom.  The Criollos (Creoles) helped the Mexican native people after seeing all the abuse they suffered from the Spaniards, and this is how the revolution started until we got our independence. Once we got our independence, small families unified and formed the Guanajuato City.

In Guanajuato there were 12 strong families that helped with the formation of the city. Everything was supervised and ran through those families. They helped to the growth of Guanajuato.

There many stories from our grandparents who used to tell us about the revolution, and all the abuse they had to go through. One of the stories my grandfather used to tell me was that the revolution helped many people, but it also affected many farmers. Farmers at that time suffered from looting, many of their wives were abused and raped, some were killed, and many lost their properties. That was the case of my Father’s Father, he was a farmer and he was stripped from his land. He ended up having to work as a miner for the Spaniards. Having said that, mining and ceramic production was strong in Guanajuato, it was the base of the economy.

Families built fortresses in their own houses, they built tunnels underground, hidden rooms, to protect their families. Currently, you can see in the tunnels around the city stairs coming from those houses above. Those tunnels used to be a river, so people would build those stairs underground to hide their families there. Those were years of terror, my grandfather told me once that any violation to the law or crime was punished by death (hang or shot).

My great grandmother died at 105. She was called a “FAVELITA” or guerrilla girl because she supported her husband with firearms, ammunition and things like that.

I can say that thanks to my great grandmother and grandfather, thanks to their hard-work, and their love to their family, I now enjoy a country of freedom and I don’t have to worry about the same things they had to worry about in the past, but I am able to do other things. Thanks to their sacrifices I am now a very happy person and I have a better quality of life. I also must thank the good intentions from the different governments we had in the past, we are now able to progress, and we have a much better justice system.

Let’s talk about our beautiful Guanajuato. We have 108 places to visit here in Guanajuato. We have many authors, poets, bullfighters. Closed around here, in Santa Teresa, the person who invented the Color Television was from there. Guanajuato is the cradle of many personalities such as Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Jorge Negrete (a famous Mexican singer), David Silveti (bullfighter) and many poets, who had helped Guanajuato become an important spot for art and culture. We also have important festivals such as the Festival Internacional Cervantino. The first festival cervantino arises from the Templo de Mineral de Cata, where Miguel Cervantes de Saavedra starts the “entremeses cervantinos” and the idea of creating a huge festival of culture.

Guanajuato is characterized for the customs and religious beliefs. Every year there many festivities celebrating different saints, and the Virgen de Guanajuato. We have many religious people, very devoted. Guanajuato is just a party all year long. Mexicans love to party.

Mexican people are very polite, kind and educated. Those are the main reasons why people from other states and countries love to visit Guanajuato. That is why Tourism has become the source of our economy nowadays. There many places people can visit in Guanajuato. Guanajuato is also the main connection between the Bajio and other cities and municipalities.

Another thing I would like to mention about our foundation is that we have El Cerro de la Bufa, this is where the Otomis (indigenous group) established themselves and helped formed Guanajuato. The term QUANASHUATO stands for Ciudad Montuosa de Ranas (A hilly city full of frogs), that’s the term given to Guanajuato.

There many stories about El Cerro de la Bufa, el ahorcado de Mexiamora, and many more stories. Another common story is La Llorona (the weeping woman). Long time ago, the clergy had vetoed things like exorcism, black magic, people who practiced those kinds of things were burned in Guanajuato in a places call Plaza San Roque. My grandfather told me this was a true story. The church was very strict in cases of witchcraft.

Another thing I can talk about is the origin of the jails. The Mercado Hidalgo was meant to be a train station, but it became a jail in times of the revolution. The museum Alhondiga de Granaditas (the name stands for grain storage), was called granaditas because in the center there is a pomegranate garden. It used to be a jail but the Spaniards thought it was too elegant to be a jail, so they converted into a storage for all types of grains. They used it to control the distribution of grains to the entire city. They loved to have the people under control. The street around the Alhondiga de Granaditas is called Calle de Positos, on that street there was houses that served as a storage for corn.

There were also places called Haciendas de Beneficios that served as pawn shops. They would give you food and other products and the way you pay for it was with labor. People had to work hard for these haciendas to pay for food. People was always in debt with this pawn shops, they were treated as slaves. Thanks to the revolution and the independence all those abuses started to disappear. People started to prosper.

Guanajuato is known as the old Quanashuato. My grandfather used to tell me there were 50 floods, the most important flood was in 1905. The houses were buried due to the flood. Later, people decided to build on top of those buried houses. For example; next to the Juarez’s Teather and the Temple they were doing an excavation to build a tunnel and while digging they found a buried convent of nuns. Part of the center of Guanajuato was built on top of ruins of the old Quanashuato. They have also found small treasures at the ruins, people in the past used to keep their money and gold hidden in their houses. The farmers used to have servers who would hide the gold for them and then the farmer would kill them to keep their fortunes secure. At that time they used Centenarios (gold or silver coins)." - Jesús Cardiel

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