Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Dolores Hidalgo and Atotonilco

Historically speaking, Dolores Hidalgo and Atotonilco are among the most important places in Mexico, considered to be the cradles of Mexican Independence.

dolores hidalgo and atotonilco header

Today we took a day trip to Atotonilco and Dolores Hidalgo. We booked a private day tour with our own personal guide from an agency in the main square of San Miguel. Dolores Hidalgo is a very small town, so if you want to visit it is better to do it in a day trip rather than stay there for a night or two. Our tour guide, Jose was enthusiastic and lively, and really made us revved up and excited from the moment we stepped in his black cruiser. Of course, you could hire your own car and take your own personal trip to these places, but one of the things I really like about personal day tours is the guides always make the tour more fun by telling you anecdotes and bits and pieces of information along the way. Plus its nice to sit back and relax while someone else drives you around for once in a while.

From San Miguel it took us only 20 minutes to drive to Atotonilco and the first thing we were greeted with was a statue of Don Miguel Hidalgo, one of the leaders of the war of Independence, and the white visage of the sanctuary of Atotonilco.

atotonilco white church sanctuary outside


Atotonilco is a church complex famous for its elaborate murals which cover the entire interior of the Sanctuary. The interior took 30 years to complete by a single artist. Dayymn. For this reason, it is dubbed "The Sistine Chapel of Mexico". Apparently they do not allow visitors inside the Sanctuary at the time we went, but because our tour guide was friends with the nuns they let us sneak in for 10 minutes when there were no visitors near the entrance. Just enough time for me to grab a few shots.

atotonilco inside beautiful mural

The painting style is known as Mexican Folk Baroque because it incorporates both indigenous and European artistic styles. For this reason it is a UNESCO World Heritage Sight since 2008 and has been described as an "exceptional example of the exchange between European and Latin American cultures" and "one of the finest examples of Baroque art and architecture in the New Spain".

atotonilco inside beautiful mural

After perusing the stalls next to the sanctuary and having a street taco each we drove to Dolores Hidalgo. Dolores Hidalgo is famous for 3 things- being the birthplace of Independence, pottery and ice cream. Apparently Dolores Hidalgo is the best place in the world to buy Talavera ceramics, and they export it worldwide. We visited Talavera Castillo which is a combined factory and shop that manufactures ceramics.

dolores hidalgo shop storefront pottery talavera
dolores hidalgo shop pottery talavera rooster

Apparently half of Dolores Hidalgo is involved in the ceramics industry which was started by Father Hidalgo. We were shown the entire manufacturing process from the clay in its most primitive form, to how its shaped, painted and all the finishing touches. It was interesting to see the ceramics made from scratch to ready to be shipped.

dolores hidalgo shop making pottery talavera

We made our purchases and headed to the city centre of Dolores Hidalgo. This compact town has a quiet atmosphere, but there is history spilling from every corner of the main plaza. In front of the church below was where the fight for Mexican Independence began led by the priest Miguel Hidalgo. The church is aptly named Church of the Grito after Grito de Dolores (meaning the Cry of Dolores), the event considered to be the beginning of Mexico's War of Independence. Even if you're not into history the church is impressive with religious art and immaculately kept.

dolores hidalgo grito church yellow

The main plaza, which is directly in front of the church, is bursting with trees and nature. In the centre of the park is a statue of Miguel Hidalgo, surrounded by benches. This area is definitely one of the main hubs of activities. Although small, Dolores Hidalgo is charming and the lack of tourists make it stand out from the usual hustle and bustle of tourists towns.

dolores hidalgo beautiful garden in the main square
dolores hidalgo beautiful garden in the main square

Walking to the other side of the plaza you will see many carts selling sorbet and ice cream. You can find the most bizarre and exotic ice cream flavours here from mole, avocado, beer and cactus. We each had a cup and sat in the plaza to enjoy our exotic flavours. We spent the rest of the day wandering around until sunset. One of the most noticeable things about this town is how clean and immaculate the streets are kept, even without expecting hordes of tourists. We stayed until sunset when our guide drove us back to San Miguel.

dolores hidalgo ice cream many flavours

Image attribution:
"Catedral de Dolores Hidalgo" by José Juan Figueroa // CC BY 2.0 * ; "DSC03610" by Patrick Denker // CC BY 2.0 *
* changes were made to the original materials

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