Central Highlands, Mexico – After our beach adventures we headed to the cooler weather and colonial towns in the Western and Central Highlands. Our first stop was Guadalajara. We spent a couple days exploring the town’s squares, museums and colonial architecture.
But the highlight of Guadalajara was definitely the Luche Libre (Mexican wrestling). We tore ourselves away from the computer where we were anxiously watching the election news and headed to the Arena Colisio for the match. We had no idea what tickets to buy – a guy in line who was actually from Oakland tried to help, suggesting we sit with the “rudes”, but somehow we ended up getting second row seats. We weren’t sure what he meant by “rudes” but we soon found out.
“Rudes” the cheap seats, separated from our “richie” seats by a fence. Turns out all the fun of Luche Libre is not watching the “wrestling” (which is as fake and overlly dramatic as WWF), it’s the heckeling. The “rudes” heckled us and we heckled them back. Sometimes we joined together and heckled the people on the other side of the arena. We’re not really sure what all the chants were, but we knew enough Spanish to know that people’s mothers should be very offended.
Every so often we paid attention to the wrestling, which was well worth it. There were crazy costumes, “fights” that spilled into the seats in front of us, little people, and the last match was in a cage. Towards the end, the crowd all turned to Stuart and staring chanting something at him. At first we were like “what did we do?!”, but a couple people next to us made sure we knew it was all in good fun – and that the crowd had decided to turn against all the blond people because the blond guy sitting in front of us was being overly cocky. It was SUPER fun, and great to be at a “sporting” event where the crowd can spend the whole time heckling each other and keep it light and fun, without any real aggression.
On the way back to our hostel after the match, we kept seeing more and more men dressed in Mariachi outfits standing on the streets. It looked to me like they were soliciting drivers – like “hey, do you need a band for the night?” and it turns out that is EXACTLY what they were doing – they stand out on the streets waiting to be hired.
Our next stop in the highlands was Zacatecas. This town on a hill reminded me a lot of San Francisco, with colorful houses stacked on the hillside. There is a cable car that you can ride over the city to the top of its highest hill – a nice ride with a good view. We rode the car up and then walked down the winding streets back down.
When we arrived at the bottom, we saw a Canadian couple we had met at the top talking with the police. (Note to parents, stop reading here) Turns out they had been robbed by knifepoint on their way down the hill. This really freaked us out for two reasons. First, Mexico has thus far felt really safe and this was a big wake up call. And second, we had actually been ahead of this couple on the trail, but we stopped to look a a cactus and the Canadians had passed us. I guess it was a close call. However, something that was reassuring was the reaction of the local people who heard that this couple had been robbed – they were really upset about it, this is clearly not something that happens frequently and is just tolerated by the residents.
In both Zacatecas and in the next town we visited, Gunajuato, people hire bands to take them on roving parties called, Callejaneads, through the cities. The bands play music, tell some historical facts about the city or jokes as they wind their ways through the city streets. We spent a few evenings following these around. And even though we didn’t understand them, we still found the jokes funny.
Guanajuato was a city full of music. In addition to the Callejaneadas, there were musicians playing in restaurants and in the plazas. Music in Mexico is everywhere. Sometimes it feels like we are traveling with our own personal soundtrack.
The other “highlight” of Gunajuato was the Muese de las Momias. Apparently, the church needed more room to bury people, so they removed several bodies from the tombs and discovered that due to the dry climate they had not decomposed. Instead they had been mummified. So they build a museum and put them on display. It’s a pretty morbid display, with babies, and a women who was most likely buried alive included amongst the exhibits. I’m starting to think we’ve seen far too many dead babies during our travels than any one person should be exposed to in a lifetime.
Our last stop on our tour of the highlands was Morelia. This town was the least touristy and had a stunning cathedral, a cool natural history museum (with more dead babies!) and the best find of all: 20 peso tacos (that’s like 15 cents).