If you were looking for heaven and found Guanajuato you wouldn’t be far off. Matter of fact, you might like it so much your journey could end right there.
Guanajuato has a colonial pueblaesque feel. It has strong traditional ties and is an important cultural center of Mexico. The Centro is built upon antique tunnels and adorned with traditional houses every color of the rainbow. Walking through the downtown is likely to make you feel as if you are in an elaborate movie set or some sort of Disney facade. Mountains surround you and everywhere you look there is an alley accompanied by crooked stairs leading to a web of balconies.
Since 1972 this cultural gem has hosted the Cervantino International Festival which is touted to be Mexico’s number one cultural affair. Named for the famous Spanish writer, Cervantes (Don Quiote) this festival is a vivid artistic experience. Approximately 2000 artists from 25 countries converge from around the world to present dance, music, theatre, visual art, and more in the Teatro Juárez, the Cervantes Theatre and other venues.
Feast on art of every genre from music to modern sculpture, jewelry, traditional ceramics and blown glass. All countries are represented and there are abundant museums and exhibits. Musicians line the streets and fill the restaurants. You will hear folklore, traditional mariachi, and acoustic within minutes of one another. Dance cumbia in the street or throb to the electronic beat in any of the abundant discos. Street performers abound, and the city hosts several theatrical and musical performances for the public.
The festival is a unique living art variety show of sorts. Art ceases to be something for spectacle and is opened to streets inviting you in. Writers recite poems, the local university gives musical guided tours of the winding alleys, rock bands play at different outdoor theatres, dancers spin in traditional dresses, dulcerias abound with candies that easily rival Willy Wanka, and the centre is filled with people from the entire world.
Typically the festival is starts the second week of October and continues to the end of the month. However, check the official website for a complete list of opening dates and a full program of events. (http://www.festivalcervantino.gob.mx/Public/Index/)
Getting to the festival is quite easy. It is located in the middle of Mexico approximately and easily reachable from multiple destinations. The international airport at Leon is approximately 17 miles away. You can fly in from major US cities as well as from cities around Mexico and Europe. Driving from Mexico City will take you approximately 4 ½- 5 hours non-stop. The bus system of Mexico City is extensive with buses of all classes frequently going between cities.
Although activities need not be planned ahead, do book a hotel accordingly. This is a very popular festival and most hotels will be reserved in advance. There are many local places to stay and a simple Google search will provide abundant accommodations.
There are few events in the world that hold the cultural charm of the Guanajuato Cervantino International Festival. Stroll through fairy tale alleys eating traditional candies, kiss your loved from across a balcony, and be serenaded by a medieval lute all while enjoying one of the most culturally significant events of the world.