Thursday, December 3, 2009

Dolores Hidalgo - Freedom's call and shrimp ice cream

Shrimp ice cream?

Yup. Cheese, guava and tequila too. They're all good - well, maybe not the shrimp so much -  in this city known for Talavera ceramics, ice cream, pork rinds and revolutionary announcements. It was another high spot in our Mexican travels.

It was here, then a poor village with a population primarily of Indians known simply as Dolores, that Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla made his famous Grito, the call for independence.

On the night of Sept. 15, 1810, Father Hidalgo and Ignacio Allende, who had been plotting a revolution, learned that their plans for insurrection had been discovered by the royalists.

The following morning, Father Hidalgo rang the church bell for mass and made the call for freedom from the atrium of the parish church.

The two men marched their ragtag "army" of followers to San Miguel, Celaya and Salamanca, gathering more insurrectionists at each town until it reached 20,000 and arrived at Guanajuato.

The rest, as they say, is history. Dolores became Dolores Hidalgo, the cradle of freedom; San Miguel added de Allende to its name and Mexico finally won its independence from Spain in 1821 or 1824. (Nothing about Mexican history is simple as you learn within seconds of dipping a toe into the past.)

 Levelers will like Dolores Hidalgo because it's pretty, interesting and, best of all, mostly flat. Residents are very proud of their history and heritage.

Tip: There are a few easy steps up to that cradle of freedom church.

The small church, inside and out, is quite pretty and side streets around it are intriguing.

In front of the church is a box that automatically counts down to Mexico's Bicentennial. You see them in a number of spots around the country but here it has special meaning as they consider Father Hidalgo's announcement the beginning of their country's freedom.

The church faces the main square with its statue of Father Hidalgo, bandstand, shoe shiners and ice cream vendors at each corner. Those vendors were incredibly generous with their samples and yes, I did try a lot before settling on a tequila-flavored ice cream cone. You can't leave here without trying one.

We left without trying and seeing a lot else though. No time, said our guide, as we were en route to San Miguel de Allende. There are museums to see, including Father Hidalgo's former home, as well as a number of Talavera pottery artisans (Father Hidalgo, one of the rare priests who cared about the natives, taught them to make these beautiful, Majolica-like ceramics.)  I would have liked at least a day here.

Southern gringos will get a kick out of the fried pork skins as well as the ice cream. Never did find out how these traditions started in Dolores Hidalgo.

As we say sadly and too often during our travels, "Next time."


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