One of the defining features of Guanajuato, along with winding alleys of colorful houses and public plazas, is the statue of Juan José de los Reyes Martínez Amaro (or, as he’s more affectionately known, El Pípila), a local hero from the Mexican War of Independence. When the independence movement broke out in Guanajuato, the Spaniards barricaded themselves inside the heavily fortified Alhóndiga de Granaditas. El Pípila tied a large stone to his back for protection from musket fire and proceeded to light the wooden door of the building on fire, allowing the Mexican insurgents to storm the building. His act of heroism, which allowed the Mexican War of Independence to grow beyond a regional insurgency, is memorialized with this statue, triumphantly overlooking the valley containing the center of Guanajuato.
El Pípila is visible from nearly any open space in the city, and there are plenty of options for visiting the statue and taking in the view. A city bus will take you from the city center up to the statue for six pesos, or you can try the quicker funicular railway behind the Teatro Juárez for fifteen pesos. However, we found that the best (and free) way to make the trip is by foot, up through the neighborhood that blankets the side of El Pípila’s mountain. This way, you not only get up to El Pípila, but you also get some exercise, immersed in the warren of guanajuatense alleyways. Be warned: it’s a bit of a climb with stairs of varying heights and inclines of varying severity, so if grandma is with you, go ahead and take the funicular, bus, or a cab.
The upward path begins at the Plaza de Los Ángeles, nestled in a bend on Avenue Benito Juárez. It’s the passage to the left, atop the stairs, past the ATM line at the bank. The famous Callejón del Beso is to the right. From here it’s simply a matter of following the signs—some official, some improvised, but all accurate—uphill. You’ll pass houses and hotels, shops and other intriguing passageways.
You’ll wind up stairs, weave between buildings, and emerge on the side of the mountain. Past some greenery you’ll find yourself in the plaza at El Pípila’s feet, with all of Guanajuato spread out before you. The trip up only took us 15 minutes. There are food carts and shops galore up here, and if you want to take an easier way down, the funicular, and buses are nearby.
This is not the only way up to walk up to El Pípila, but it’s probably the fastest and clearest route. In our explorations, we found at least three separate routes through the city and up the mountain to El Pípila. Exploration, after all, is really the point. It’s easy enough to catch a ride to the top, but the view is just the icing on the cake. The rest of the experience is down in the passageways, getting to see Guanajuato from within before seeing it from above.