This photo journal, part of my Mexico/Guanajuato 2009 series, features the small, pretty city of Dolores Hidalgo, 'Mexico's Cradle of Independence'.

Dolores Hidalgo, located in the north-central part of Guanajuato state, was named a Pueblo Mágico (Magic Town) in 2002. [The Pueblos Mágicos program is a national Tourism initiative to promote a series of towns around the country that offer visitors a "magical" experience by reason of their natural beauty, cultural riches, or historical relevance. The entire list is here: I hope to see most of them before I croak ;o) Alamos has been one since 2005. ]

Dolores Hidalgo is called Mexico’s Cradle of Independence because it was here, on September 15, 1810, that Miguel Hidalgo cried out "El Grito de Dolores," the ‘Cry of Independence’ that signaled the start of Mexico’s fight for independence from Spain. It was the cry that changed the history of North America & the world. On that Sunday morning in 1810, the town (then known as just Dolores), was swarming with church-going Indians, & peasant farmers. Miguel Hildalgo called them to rise against the Spanish ruling class, & urged them to follow him into battle.

After "The Cry," Miguel Hidalgo (he wasn't an active priest at the time he led the revolution) and his countrymen marched 20 miles to San Miguel el Grande (now San Miguel de Allende) to join the forces of the creole (people of Spanish decent born in Mexico) led by military general Ignacio Allende. Now about 1,000 troops strong, they marched toward Guanajuato (the current state capital). Within a week, their ranks swelled to 25,000 and ultimately to 80,000. Yet, it took another 11 years and much bloodshed on both sides before Mexico finally achieved their independence from Spain.

Within a year, both Allende and Hidalgo were captured & shot, and their heads displayed for the duration of the war (10 years) in Guanajuato. This display, intended to scare and suppress the populace, may have had the opposite effect, because today, almost two centuries later, Hidalgo is still a national hero. After independence was achieved, the town was renamed Dolores Hidalgo in his honor.

Today, Dolores Hidalgo is known primarily for its ceramics industry, especially the famous Talavera pottery which provides income to well over half the city's population.(The craft was introduced by Hildago.) The inexpensive and mass-produced output of the town is marketed throughout Latin America & the United States. In spite of its importance in Mexican history, this small city (population about 60k) is relatively free of tourists. However, this is beginning to change as more Norteamericanos and urban Mexicans flock to this historic place which is unpretentious and low key, an atmosphere that is central to its charm. Although not as attractive to the expat crowd as nearby San Miguel de Allende, the center of the town has an authentic Mexican feel without Starbucks & Wifi in their central park.

More info & photos here: