On another “field trip” with my Spanish school, Escuela Falcon, six of us students load up into a van on an early Sunday morning to explore the nearby city of Dolores Hidalgo, another “Pueblo Magico,” or Magic Town, a tourism designation for cities with natural, historical, or cultural significance. Dolores Hidalgo draws crowds for three very different reasons. In one day trip from nearby Guanajuato or San Miguel, it’s easy to get a taste of all three.
Dolores Hidalgo, once known as just “Dolores,” was renamed in honor of Father Miguel Hidalgo, the parish priest who issued the “Grito de Independencia,” or call to arms saying essentially, and I’m paraphrasing here, “death to bad government and the Spanish overlords.” This decree took place on September 16th, 1810, Mexico’s Independence Day. Many tourists believe Mexico’s independence to be associated with Cinco de Mayo, but in fact “Diez y Seis de Septiembre” is the more famous holiday in Mexico, equivalent to our July 4th.
This declaration which earned Dolores Hidalgo the name “Cradle of National Independence” occurred in the Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Dolores. This 18th century church in the Churrigueresque, or baroque style, opens up onto the busy Jardin del Grande Hidalgo, centered around a bronze statue of Father Miguel Hidalgo. This main square is ringed by museums telling of the history of Mexican independence, as well as the birth and times of the Padre.
However, if there’s one thing that might eclipse the museum popularity, it would be the dueling ice cream carts lining the perimeter, with competing brands and flavors on every corner. Not only do they compete for customers, but they also seem to try to outdo the other with bizarre flavors. Most of these carts sell “nieves,” which is more like frozen ice, so it might not sound so bad when you think of flavors like Shrimp, Tequila, Michelada, and Chili since no real cream is involved. It’s more like “shrimp on ice.” But then add sugar, and well….no thank you. Some traditional flavors of ice cream are offered as well, with nuts and fruit flavors. It’s possible to get a “probar” or a taste of each flavor, or a small sample in a cup for about a quarter.
I try several of the more unique flavors; Tequila and Michelada, but find none to my liking. Just way too sweet, like frozen flavored sugar-water. I’m not typically a “stick to the basics” type person. You won’t ever find me ordering Vanilla in an ice cream shop. But when it comes to Dolores ice cream, I’ll stick to the more mainstream….like my current Guanajuato favorite, Piña Colada.
The third Dolores draw is the hand-glazed Talavera-style ceramics, again, another influence credited to Father Miguel Hidalgo who started a ceramics workshop as a way for the indigenous people to have a trade. I came to Dolores Hidalgo expecting to see examples of this work being made, but instead of examples of hand-made ceramics turned with the potter’s wheel, it was more about molded, mass-produced products from tabletops to toilets. If you’ve ever seen one of those tacky sloganed “It’s Sweeter in Cancun” beer mugs in the shape of a boob where the opening looks like a nipple, chances are, it came from Dolores. Like the ice cream, interesting to contemplate, but not my taste.
I’ve long had a curiosity about the town of Dolores Hidalgo, as I do about most of Mexico’s Pueblo Magicos. But one afternoon was enough to satisfy my curiosity, if not my taste…