Tuesday, February 11, 2020

San Juan del Río

The hotel where we stayed on Saturday was located just outside of the city of San Juan del Río.  With a population of over 200,000 people, it is the second largest city in the state of Querétaro.  (The state capital, also called Querétaro, is the largest.)  San Juan del Río was founded in the 1500s along the "Camino Real" (Royal Road) heading north.  All commerce between Mexico City and the northern regions of the colony passed through the town, including the silver from the mines in Guanajuato and Zacatecas.

After checking out of our hotel we spent a couple of hours in exploring the city before heading back to Mexico City.  In spite of its long history, there is not a great deal to see.  As we were entering the city we passed the "Museo del Nacimiento" (Nativity Scene Museum).  It sounded interesting, so we parked the car and went in.  

The museum was founded by a lady by the name of María del Pilar Barona de Beltrán who over the course of twenty five years collected more than two thousand nativity scenes from Mexico and all over the world.  She also made her own nativity scenes from recycled materials.  The museum has a rotating exhibit of around 800 pieces from her collection. 

One of the nativity scenes which she made from recycled materials, in this case primarily plastic bottle caps.

The museum was interesting, but I found it annoying that there was no information given on the individual pieces.  In some cases one could make a guess on the origin of the nativity scenes.

For example, this one was obviously from Amealco, the "doll town" that we had visited the day before.

And I could recognize this one as obviously being from Yucatán.

These beaded figures are most likely the work of the Huichol tribe from the Mexican state of Nayarit.

Probably from the Lake Titicaca region of Bolivia or Peru...

Probably from somewhere in Africa...

But in most cases you were left wondering… Where is it from?  What is it made of?  How old is it?

After visiting the museum, we got back in the car, drove downtown, and then walked around the historic center of the city for a bit.

The town square is dominated by a monument which was erected in honor of Empress Carlota, the wife of the ill-fated Emperor Maximillian.  After Maximillian was defeated and executed, and the Mexican Republic was restored, the monument was rededicated in honor of the independence of Mexico.

Facing the town square is the parish Church of St. John the Baptist, the city's patron saint.  It dates back to 1689.  It was later dedicated as a shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe.  We thought that the structure adjoining the church might have been a monastery.

In fact, it was a separate portion of the church which was reserved for the indigenous people.  Heaven forbid that the Spanish should have to mingle with the Indians during mass!

The interior of the former "Spanish" section of the church with the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe on the main altar

A few blocks away is another plaza. It's called the "Jardín de la Familia" (Garden of the Family).  Facing it is the Church of the Sacromonte.

And that was about it for the city of San Juan del Río.  We hit the road and made it back to Mexico City before nightfall.

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