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Art, Culture, Magic: Salamanca, Guanajuato

By Magdalena Copado

The first settlement in what is now the municipality of Salamanca was inhabited by Otomi Indians, who gave it the name of Xidoo, which means the place of tepetate (a white stone used in construction). As the population grew, and at the request of  the local people, the Spanish viceroy Gaspar Zúñiga y Acevedo, founded the town of Salamanca on January 1, 1603.  The chosen name was in honor of the viceroy himself, who was born in Salamanca, Spain.

Tour to Salamanca
April 26
Tickets at Biblioteca tienda
152 0293/415 113 9676

One of the attractions of the town is the church of San Augustin, considered the architectural gem of Salamanca. The interior boasts a baroque altar, a marble-encrusted pulpit of oriental origin, and a monumental organ. The stately building is situated a few meters from the River Lerma and is fronted by the Plaza Hidalgo, formerly the church’s atrium.

Construction began in 1642 and finished in 1706. The interior is truly impressive. It counts 11 gold-leafed altarpieces in the churrigueresque style, the most outstanding being dedicated to St. Anne and St. Joseph. The latter measures 15 meters tall and 10 wide and has 30 different carved faces.

The town of Salamanca is rich in artesania, indicative of the artistic sensitivities of the Salmantinos. In both urban and rural areas this artistic expression is expressed in basketry, silverware, embroidery, bronze sculpture, wood and stone carving, palm-leaf masks, fireworks, woolen fabrics, decorative candles, stained glass, handmade sweets, Christmas piñatas, glass, cross-stitch embroidery, traditional doll costumes, ceramic painting, wooden frames, pottery and ceramics, painting on ceramics, belts, musical instruments, tin toys, and more.

There are several family workshops, a tradition of Salamanca instigated by the Augustine order in the 17th century, which are recognized throughout the country and worldwide. Some of these are famous for their elaborate nativity scenes made with wax figures illustrating scenes from both Old and New Testaments during the Christmas season.

The Salamanca tour organized by the Biblioteca is scheduled for April 26, It includes a tour of the city of Salamanca, the Church of St. Augustine, the former convent of San Juan de Sahagun (today La Casa de la Cultura), Edesa (a factory of handmade candles whose award-winning artisans are  known worldwide) and the Hacienda of Sierra Gorda. Tickets can be bought at the Biblioteca’s shop. Call Magdalena Copado for more information: 152 0293/415 113 9676.


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