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Notes on the Geography of Mexico: Guanajuato: Photo 27

world pictures Mexico: Guanajuato

Here she be up close, with a population pushing 200,000. That's a lot more than the 30,000 (50,000 if you count nearby villages) in the glory days just before 1800. (Or the 40,000 in 1900.) Relics from those days include the mustardy basilica, the domed Jesuit church behind it, and the line of mansions stretching left from the cathedral.

A hardy Englishman named Henry Ward (who went on to become governor of Ceylon) made a tour of Mexico in the 1820s with his equally hardy wife, Emily Elizabeth. Looking at those mansions, he wrote that the town "contains many splendid memorials of the former wealth of its inhabitants. The houses of the families of Otero, Valenciana, Ruhl, and Perez Galvez are all magnificent." The word "former" springs out from the page. (See Mexico in 1827, vol 2, p. 459)

Alexander von Humboldt, who lived in one of those houses for a month about 20 years earlier, wrote that "the house of Colonel Don Diego Rul, who is one of the proprietors of the mine of Valenciana, would be an ornament to the finest streets of Paris and Naples." (Political Essay on the Kimgdom of New Spain, vol. 3, p. 171)

Yes, that's where he stayed. You can just make it out here: it's six houses to the left from the cathedral. It's the one with a tiny cupola on one side. You can also make out, in the central distance, the Mellado church near the vein of silver that sustained the Rul family, Guanajuato, and--only a slight exaggeration--the power of Spain.

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