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Guanajuato's mix of mines, mummies, music

July 27, 2008 | 10:07 pm

The pied pipers wore black.

Carrying guitars, mandolins, tambourines and an ungainly string bass, they led 35 of us away from the center of town, beyond the church of San Diego and the Jardín Unión, over stone bridges, up narrow, dark streets, centuries old, until somewhere near the Alley of the Kiss, in a plaza not much bigger than a family room, they stopped to play.

The pied pipers call themselves estudiantinas. They wander the city, playing traditional music, singing old favorites, making wisecracks, telling the city's stories and retelling its legends. They pass the hat and, sometimes, little ceramic carafes of wine.

"The satisfaction is to meet people, make them laugh," says Gerardo Leyva, 28, a violin student at the University of Guanajuato and head of the university's estudiantina group. "This is our job, to make people happy."

Read more about life in the historical colonial city of Guanajuato, Mexico.

-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City