Monday, January 9, 2017

Dawn in Dolores de Hidalgo

Madrugada en Dolores de Hidalgo
©  2001 Leticia Alaniz Cano
Oil on Canvas
Dolores de Hidalgo, or simply known as Dolores is an important city in Mexico with an important history.  Its in the north-central part of Guanajuato.  It is here where the cry for independence or the Grito de Dolores- the thundering for insurecction was heard for the first time in the early hours of September in 1810.  It was at the parish church Nuestra Señora de Dolores where Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla uttered his famous words and demanded the voice to be heard all the way to Spain.  Independence was imminent and Spain officially recognized Mexico’s independence after the Treaty of Córdoba was signed in 1821.  In honor of the priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, the citizens renamed the city to Dolores de Hidalgo.

I read about the famous battle and the history of Mexico’s independence as a child since elementary school and growing up I heard stories about the beautiful art, ceramics and culture.  The art itself is what attracted me to visit the historical city several years ago.  To say that it’s fascinating and mystic falls short because there’s an aura of wonder everywhere and in everything.  

The city was an Otomí settlement long before the arrival of the Spaniards and their essence can be found in the ambience, the mood, and especially the food.  There’s a distinct aroma in the air of wood burning, chiles roasting, fresh fruit, flowers from the countryside, and tamales steaming that’s ridiculously and intoxicatingly beautiful.  This is the real Mexico, it’s in the heart of the country and it’s where travelers can experience the colors, the vibrancy and ancient history with a jarrito de atole or a clay pot of atole in the dawn hours of the morning (atole is a traditional pre-hispanic Mexican porridge).  

From their carts, vendors sell hot atoles along with tamales in the madrugada just before daybreak.  Atoles and tamales are the traditional Mexican breakfast and vendors sing their marvelous offerings in poetic rhyming sounds that give life to the city: “Pasen a comer tamales, todos los que van pasando, tamalitos calientitos, aqui vamos preparando, pasen a tomar atole su atolito y champurrado, panza y corazón contento hacen fuerte al ciudadano.” 

A loose translation would be something like this: “Come on by and eat tamales, everyone that passes by, come eat hot tamales that we’re making here, come on by and drink your atole, your warm atole champurrado, be it known that a happy heart and a happy belly, makes a person strong.” 

At the earliest hours one morning, while the dew was cool and a blanket of light fog enveloped the city, I went out for a taste of atole and tamales.  The church bell rings every hour and it can be heard from a long distance so I followed the sound to the main plaza.  The chatter was vibrant and the tune of the vendors is a calling for a good meal.  Before the morning sun rays even made their appearance, I managed to sketch an elderly couple walking down the steps of the main church at the plaza which later I finished in oils in my studio.  I recorded a vivid picture of the colors they were wearing and the way the light spread its color cast.  It was around 5:00am and I knew that was the moment in time for my chance to live such a beautiful morning in the heart of Mexico.    

Written by Leticia Alaniz ©2016 

Madrugada en Dolores de Hidalgo
Oil on Canvas ©2001 Leticia Alaniz


  1. Wow, loved the post. I wanted to visit mexico for once in my life and this post of yours just made me more interested to give it visit. Thanks for sharing it with us

  2. very informative post for me as I am always looking for new content that can help me and my knowledge grow better.