Hospicio Cabañas, Guadalajara

Hospicio Cabañas, Guadalajara

Patio Hospicio CabanasLocation: Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

Visited: December 22, 2010

Site Type: Cultural

Inscribed: 1997

Background and Opinion:
Built in the later 18th century, Hospicio Cabañas was one of the first hospices in the world to provide care for orphans, the mentally ill, and the physically disabled. At a time when many governments around the world simply tossed their less fortunate aside to fend for themselves, Guadalajara decided to do things differently. This great leap forward in social welfare is one of the main reasons for the UNESCO World Heritage nod. The second reason lies in the main chamber where Jose Orozco, considered to be one of the grand masters of Mexican art, painted some of the most beautiful murals in the world. The examples here, along with his other murals are credited as having sparked an artistic renaissance in the country, inspiring artists across the country. Read more

Historic Town of Guanajuato and Adjacent Mines

Historic Town of Guanajuato and Adjacent Mines

SONY DSCLocation: Guanajuato, Mexico

Visited: December 26th, 2010

Site Type: Cultural

Inscribed: 1988

Background and Opinion:

 

Guanajuato’s history starts in the 1540s when huge deposits of silver were found in the region. Mines were quickly built and thousands came to collect the precious metal. Both the mines and the colonial era buildings still remain.

Going down to a silver mine
Going down to a silver mine

Read more

Pre-Hispanic City of Chichen Itza

Pre-Hispanic City of Chichen Itza

El Castillo 2Visited: Jan 3 and 6, 2011

Site Type: Cultural

Inscribed: 1988

Chichen Itza one of the largest and most important cities in the ancient Mayan Civilization. While it had definitely declined by the time of the Spanish conquest, there was still a large local population by the 16-17th centuries, disproving that the Maya were ‘lost.’ Thousands of people gather during the spring and autumn equinox to view the fantastic ‘serpent’ event that happens on the central pyramid known as “El Castillo.”

 

 

The Observatory is one of the most distinguishable buildings in the complex.
The Observatory is one of the most distinguishable buildings in the complex.

The Great Feathered Serpent

The light of the sun first strikes the top of the pyramid. Because of the geometric shape, shadows in the form of triangles appear on the side of the steps. These triangles resemble the diamond-back of the feathered snake, an ancient Mayan god, giving the illusion that the serpent is slithering down the pyramid as the sun begins to set.

 

Serpents are a common theme in Maya mythology.
Serpents are a common theme in Maya mythology.

Are The Goods Authentic?

One of the most interesting things I noticed were the souvenirs being sold within the complex. Mexico was once an artist wonderland with Guanajuato city alone boasting over 1600 arts and crafts shops. Today, only four remain due to an intense flooding of much cheaper Chinese replica goods.

Mayan masks for sale.
Mayan masks for sale.

I became really suspicious about the source of the crafts being sold. I was interested in buying a shirt or a mask, but did eventually work up the nerve to ask, “How do I know that mask wasn’t made in China?” The guy handling the shop just smiled at me, and then broke into a laughter when he realized I was serious. I couldn’t imagine that things would be so cheap if they were indeed made in Mexico. He stood up, and pointed at his brother a few feet away. I was so caught up in everything, that I hadn’t noticed the people carving away right in front of me.

 

It is quite incredible how they make such beautiful art with very few tools.
It is quite incredible how they make such beautiful art with very few tools.

Mayans Live On

The shopkeepers claim lineage to the Mayans of long ago. While this isn’t too surprising to Mexicans (as we are a very mixed people), foreigners are increasingly amazed that they still exist. Indeed, native peoples were not wiped out like in the US, but they have had over four centuries of change and adaptation, so don’t expect them to do any ritual dances or sacrifices.

 

The Maya throne where the king watched the ball game.
The Maya throne where the king watched the ball game.

Evaluation

1) Completeness and Originality (13 out of 15): It is as preserved as you might expect something that is 1000 years old to be. However, due to centuries of neglect, some parts are definitely forever lost.

Observatory

2) Extensiveness of the Site (9 out of 15): I would say that a good 4-6 hours is enough to explore the whole thing, but that really depends on you. I became mesmerized by the ball game stadium and stayed longer than most.

The Mayan Ball Game Stadium
The Mayan Ball Game Stadium

3) Cultural Significance (23 out of 25): Chichen Itza encompasses everything about the Maya who influenced the Americas for centuries. They were the great scientists of the New World and a testament on how humanity’s curiosity was not limited to the Old World.

Chichen Itza 2

4) Personal Impact (14 out of 15): The setting and geometry is a tradition the Mexican government continued. As you step into the archaeological site, it feels like a deep forest with trees preventing you from seeing far away. Suddenly, there is a clearing and BAM, “El Castillo” is staring you down in all of its glory.

"I was like...oh my gosh"
“I was like…oh my gosh”

5) Logistics (7 out of 10): Much like other sites in Mexico, this is definitely difficult to judge since I am Mexican and fluent in Spanish. From my research, getting here from Cancun is quite easy the overpriced way, but a bit trickier the local way. Getting here from Merida took some exploring of two different bus stations, but I didn’t see many foreigners take this route. The ticket in was about $5, but the guided tours are $30.

Many signs in Mexico come in English, Spanish, and the native language.
Many signs in Mexico come in English, Spanish, and the native language.

6) Uniqueness (13 out of 20): There are other a dozen Mayan sites in the region, each more impressive than the last. With that said, it hasn’t been named one of the New 7 Wonders of the World for nothing. Furthermore, the “Cenote Sagrado” is a truly unique natural wonder indigenous to this region of Mexico.

The Sacred Cenote is one of the biggest in the area.
The Sacred Cenote is one of the biggest in the area.

Combined Score: 79/100

Is this a good score? Find out how it compares with other UNESCO World Heritage Sites in our rankings.

Curious how the scores are derived? Check out the scoring criteria.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

UNESCO Monday #13: My ‘Point of View’ on Hospicio Cabañas

UNESCO Monday #13: My ‘Point of View’ on Hospicio Cabañas

Hospicio Cabañas Horse

Is this a masterpiece?

What is your favorite painting? If you are a very artsy person, that might be kind of difficult to answer. For the average Joe like me though, we come up with a list of well known paintings by well known ‘masters’ of the European Renaissance Era or some guy named Van Gogh. Paintings like the ‘Starry Night,’ ‘The Last Supper,’ and the ‘Birth of Venus’ are definitely worthy of attention, no one is disputing that, but what makes them ‘masterpieces?’ Is it that they are really that good, or do we feel that way because everyone else has told us that they are? Read more

UNESCO Monday #10: You Lose, You Die at Chichen Itza

UNESCO Monday #10: You Lose, You Die at Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza Ball Game

Losing, failing, being defeated! There is no nice way to say it and in today’s sporting world, not measuring up to expectations could be the end of your career. Teams want to win and they want to win now. While we might think that the stakes are higher now than ever, at the end of the day, athletes still have their millions of dollars, their families, and their health. Losing a ball game for the ancient Maya had slightly higher stakes however. Lose the game, lose your head. Read more