The landscape along the "Highway of the Sun," that places Mexico City within a scant three hours of Acapulco, is especially dazzling after the Querendes tunnel, with its palmetto forest, organ and candlestick cactus canefields - often tipped with frail, heather-like flowers - stretching into the distance, wide riverbeds and mesquite-covered red rock hills. We are entering the "Hot Country," where the sun like a hammer on the devil's anvil is king.
A series of suspension bridges span the gorges, but none as grand as the Mezcala River Bridge, with a lookout and a crafts market above the web of waterways, entrance to the Balsas River Basin. This great "Canyon of the Winds," virtually devoid of any evidence of current human habitation, is now a sequence of rugged bluffs and gliding vultures, but below exist a number of remains of settlements that date to about 4000 B.C.
This was the home of the hairless Xoloizcuintle. The Precolombian companion to the Olmecs, among other cultures in the area, is a unique canine species, known only here, in Peru and in China. Famous for its high body temperature, normally 104 degrees Fahrenheit, this charming pet also became a bed warmer, a remedy for rheumatism, and a ready meal, thus the original "Mexican hot dog."
The highway leads to an unprepossessing but nonetheless burgeoning state capital in Chilpancingo. Right on the plaza, in a handsome, sober, neo-Renaissance style manor house built around 1902, is the regional museum, well worth a visit. Until 1906 the museum was part of the estate of the church of Santa Maria de la Asuncion next door. The property later became the executive seat of the state government, and until those offices were moved in 1972 the corridors also housed the scaffoldings of two mural artists, Luis Arenal and Roberto Cueva del Rio. Between them they created "One Hundred Years of Guerrero History" (finished in 1952) and "Guerrero's Contribution to the Struggle for Independence" (in 1954). Both painters were kept on, however, and more murals, around a variety of themes, crept around the four sides of the inner courtyard.
From 1973 to 1985 the building was used as the Municipal Government Headquarters (City Hall), but in 1986 the structure, to a degree altered over the years, was declared a historical monument. This act preserved the murals, along with a wide range of Colonial treasures, momentos from 200 years of the Manila Galleon (embroidered Chinese shawls, Japanese and Chinese export porcelain, gilded saints and virgins), and archaeological deposits as well as brought the museum into existence in March, 1987.
Guerrero is famous for the Olmec style or influence in faces and figures of polished green stone from the Mezcala Valley, but exhibits also include obsidian, alabaster, bone, jade, mother-of-pearl, clay and stone vessels, both utilitarian and miniature, fragments of jewelry from Huixtac or Cerro de los Muñecos, stone stelae from Tezmeliacan.
This is wild country, mountainous and sparsely populated. Almost all the archaeological remains appear in a straight line between Taxco and Chilpancingo, then over toward the Oaxaca border. Seals, tools and tomb offering of Prehispanic copper date long before the conquest. Cave paintings have been found in Oxtotitlan and Juaxtlahuaca. The Jaguar cult in stylized Olmex figures appears as early as 1500 B.C. around San Miguel Amulco. Later influence came from Teotihuacan and the Mayas, and can be appreciated in architectural details or in the character of the deities associated with water, corn, cane, reeds, and the abrupt vertical local cacti. Further domination by the Mexicas was expressed in a tributary system. The states and tribes were only too anxious to dismantle the yoke of Tenochtitlan, and so banded, according to the Tudela codex, with the armored blond strangers who came in ships and rode on snorting horses across the arid hills.
The native peoples were eventually put to work in mines, forests or canefields, until Vicente Guerrero, after whom the state is named, led a faction of insurgents in the 19th century. His exploits are still celebrated in painting, statuary and legend. The Congress of Chilpancingo, signed in 1813 and considered the master statement of that other insurgent, the friar Jose Maria Morelos, is also displayed in facsimile. Additional displays highlight incidents from the Agrarian Revolution, from the reconstruction and from a wide range of artisan masterpieces, unique to this region.
Well Worth A Trip
Guerrero is a little-known state. Hidden in its hills, imbedded in the riverways, flying like the hawks and vultures on the wind, and far from the better-known beach resorts, is a rampaging history barely, if at all, veiled with the fine membrane of the modern world. On this wild landscape time not only stood still, it wrote its own manual. To decipher it requires a keen look at the gorges, the path of wind and water, the shape of the boulders. There are few flowers here. This is a land of thorns and brambles, tantalizing for the hardy, disconcerting for the rest.