Living and Grinning in San Miguel de Allende

June 16-04

The view from our rooftop terrace. I know, right? So beautiful- La Parroquia (it is a church not a cathedral).

Well, we made it.  We now temporarily reside in San Miguel de Allende (SMA), Guanajuato, and we’ve already been here for three weeks.  SMA, a town named after Ignacio de Allende (1779-1811), is a colonial city with stunning Baroque/Neoclassical architecture.  Buildings of pink and yellow limestone line the cobblestone streets.  Cinderella-like cathedrals, ornate bell towers, and picturesque domes can be spotted from any vantage point.  It’s truly a town worth experiencing.

Señor Allende became the namesake of this city because of his heroic efforts. A captain of the Spanish army, he grew to sympathize with the Mexican Independence movement around 1806.  He led attacks against Spain in the company of local heroes like Hildago (who has nothing to do with the movie that Viggo what’s-his-name was in – that story was about a hot guy, and his horse, and maybe Buffalo Bill).  This Hildalgo, was Father Miguel, a supposedly vicious holy man and a rebel with the cause of protecting the rights of the Indians and the poor. Allende seemed like a cool guy.  He headed a literary circle in Querétaro (about an hour from SMA) to discuss philosophical concepts and social change.  In 1811 both men were captured and executed.  I found a well-written and relatively short article about de Allende and his fight to preserve Mexican Independence.

Our 8.5 hour journey here from Sayulita was longer than anticipated and tiresome albeit some lovely scenery along the way (mountains and prairie-looking topography n’such).  Scott navigated windy roads around mountains and some intense traffic around Guadalajara.  Exhausted, we were still happy to arrive.  There was a thunder and lightening storm our first night.  Impresionante!  One of the first things we did upon arrival was go straight up to the rooftop and enjoy the smack-you-in-the face spectacular view of La Parroquia.

La Parroquia at night as seen from our rooftop terrace.

La Parroquia at night as seen from our rooftop terrace.

La Parroquia at night at dusk

La Parroquia at night at dusk

This post houses a photographic journal of our first three weeks here in San Miguel.  As usual, I was challenged to select the most interesting photos out of the approximately 1500 I’ve taken since being here.

Callejón Suspiros – our new digs
Suspiros translated means “sighs”, so we live on the Alley of Sighs

Vendors - Avenue of the sighs

Our first morning on Suspiros Street. This man and his donkeys come a’knockin’ at the door. He was looking to do some gardening work. We donated some dinero to him and his two sweet compadres.

Since that first day, we have dealt with people stopping and knocking (or ringing) almost daily.  The peach seller, the herbs seller, the water guys, an occasional con-kid who needs money to get his sister out of the hospital, the guy who wants to clean our front door, and once someone who was simply begging for money.  These folks are so resourceful and clearly need the dinero.  Makes me kind of sad, really.  I don’t think they have “No Solicitors” signs in Mexico, so we just roll with it and politely tell them, “No gracias”.   I suspect one day in the near future, we’ll be tapping into that peach guy’s goods though.

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June 2 – Our first Sunday stroll in SMA
Parque Juarez

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Barrio Los Balcones

Happy Cowboy. Unhappy horse.

Happy Cowboy. Unhappy horse.

Cowboys and Cyclists. A cross of cultures and generations.

Calle Zacatero

Love the architecture – especially the old buildings with layers of ancient stone pushing through painted facades. Imagine, people pay to have this done, and here it’s the result of a natural progression of time and neglect.

Instituto Allende just around the corner from our casa. Spanish, art, history, and cultural classes are offered at el Instituto.

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I visualized San Miguel to be a bug-free utopia.  That dream was fly-swatted within hours upon arrival.  First it was the mosquitoes.  Scott claims the little buggers didn’t receive the memo that they were to evacuate the premises prior to our arrival.  Our first week I was shocked and dismayed at the numbers of mosquitoes in our casa.  Bug bites in San Miguel?  Impossible.  Possible.

By week #2, the rains came and somehow those winged diablos moved out.  It seems ironic, no?  That the mosquitoes would leave when the water comes?  The weather here in San Miguel is interesting.  It was quite hot our first week and cooled down considerably when the rains came.  I’m sometimes wearing pants again and even use a blanket at night! This is a good thing!  What’s most unusual is that contrary to most places in the summer, San Miguel cools off with an average temperature of 30.7 (87.3F) degrees Celsius in May to 27.2 (81F) in August.  We are likin’ the weather.  The rains bring coziness and the sun brings joy.  It’s a win-win.

Did I mention I like the rains?  Actually, I LOVE the rains.  Thunder, lightening; the way I love them is frightening. Despite the mosquitoes’ evacuation with the rains, the cucarachas took advantage of the vacancy.  We found this guy (below) in an empty shot glass in the kitchen sink one morning.  Cucarachas are hardcore. They don’t want no stinkin’ margarita.  They want the straight-up tequila.  A half-drunk cockroach stuck in a shot glass does not make for a pleasant early morning experience – for us or the roach.

Scott took it outside and halfway down the block to the parking lot and set him free.  He stumbled away, maudlin from a night of debauchery, giving Scott the finger n’ other such vulgar gestures.  But that wasn’t the last of our stealthy, exoskeletal encroachers.  One comes to visit in the upstairs bathroom every other night without fail, that is, until I found one at 6:00 AM on the bathroom floor, sitting there staring at the toilet, taunting me and laughing because he prevented me from going.

I grabbed my bottle of California Baby Natural Bug Spray and attempted to make him disappear by dousing him, pumping the spray.  Wisps of spray.  Sticky and confused by the delicate, nontoxic, contents of the bottle, this cockroach wasn’t going anywhere.

And here, the little guy was just starting to endear himself to me.  For the past two weeks, I would see only his antennae sticking out of the round metal thingy in the bathtub. You know, the thingy, the overflow valve cover.  His antennae would be hanging out of that, swishing about.  I’d get closer to inspect the situation, and the antennae would zip back out of sight.  In order to calm my angst, I let my imagination marry my denial and together they created a much prettier and playful being attached to those antennae.  Alas, he revealed his true self to me early that morning, and my physical needs (to pee) snapped denial back to reality.  The bathroom light remains on during the night.  While this is a horrible waste of electricity, for now and until I find another solution, my sanity takes precedence.  I am asking the roaches to leave, but so far they haven’t listened.

Out of sheer curiosity, I wanted to know what preys on cockroaches.  When sharing my findings with Scott that scorpions eat cockroaches, he enthusiastically reported how he found a scorpion in the bathroom.  I just…I really just don’t know what to do with that information.

Skeeve alert.  The following image could cause night terrors or at the very least a repulsed sense of relief that he wasn’t found in your home.  Look at will, or scurry past.

Are you sure you want to see this? If may ruin any future desire to drink margaritas.

Cockroach

He’s still alive. I felt sorry for him, but Scott rescued him. I had to sterilize that shot glass or no more margaritas for us.

My dear friend, Colleen, shared this poem, and it is so touching, I had to share with you. Thanks to her and Muriel Rukeyser, I will reconsider my position on roaches.

ST. ROACH
by Muriel Rukeyser

For that I never knew you, I only learned to dread you,
for that I never touched you, they told me you are filth,
they showed me by every action to despise your kind;
for that I saw my people making war on you,
I could not tell you apart, one from another,
for that in childhood I lived in places clear of you,
for that all the people I knew met you by
crushing you, stamping you to death, they poured boiling
water on you, they flushed you down,
for that I could not tell one from another
only that you were dark, fast on your feet, and slender.
Not like me
For that I did not know your poems
And that I do not know any of your sayings
And that I cannot speak or read your language
And that I do not sing your songs
And that I do not teach our children
to eat your food
or know your poems
or sing your song
But that we say you are filthing our food
But that we know you not at all

Yesterday I looked at one of you for the first time
You were lighter than the others in color, that was
neither good nor bad.
I was really looking for the first time.
You seemed troubled and witty.

Today I touched one of you for the first time.
You were startled, you ran, you fled awa
Fast as a dancer, light, strange and lovely to the touch.
I reach, I touch, I begin to know you.

A Walk Around our Barrio – El Centro

The beauty here is so abundant – from people to architecture to the vegetation – it’s challenging for an OCD photographer to capture it all and not share it all. This 1-minute video shows some of my favorite windows, walls, and doors of San Miguel, mostly in El Centro.

We heard the knife sharpener’s whistle (it was the same whistle used by the knife sharpener in Sayuilta) while walking about.  Scheduling an appointment with him at 1:00, he arrived promptly and pedaled his way to our sharper knives. Cool setup; he simply moves his bike chain from the rear sprocket to the stone gear, and pedals to get it going fast enough to sharpen blades.

Knife Sharpener of San Miguel

Knife Sharpener on Suspiros

Colorful flags and ribbons adorn the streets and windows. The ribbons freak out Stella. It doesn’t fit within her schema to see an inanimate object flowing about in the wind.

Boys playing soccer

Kids and soccer

Just another Sunday… June 9

Mexico has no lack of festivities. It’s one of the many things I love about this country. From our casa, I heard the clamoring. Looking out, I saw the wedding party dancing down the street. Lead by Mojigangas, the bride and groom were followed by wedding goers with colorful paper umbrellas, and many of the women were wearing bright green flip-flops and carrying their shoes.

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Centro Mexicano de Lengua Y Cultura

El Centro Mexicano de Lengua y Cultura is la escuela where I took a week of intensive Spanish classes.  Intense, indeed, but I learned a lot and squeezed out some fun too.  It’s a beautiful school run by the lovely Josefina Herández, possibly one of the warmest people I’ve ever met.

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Centro Mexicano de Lengua y Cultura teaches Spanish and English to children and adults.  Their programs are well organized and involve practical experience through conversation.  The folks who work here are good people – they take their work seriously, but they also know how to have some fun. They are patient and kind.  It’s one of the best learning environments I’ve ever encountered – a beautiful setting filled with lovely teachers.  If you are considering taking Spanish or English classes in San Miguel, this would be the place to do it.  I like this place so much that I’m considering volunteering there to help the English teachers.  Below are some photos of students and teachers.

That beautiful and down-to-earth couple embracing my Spanish teacher, Lety, are October and Tony Gonzalez.  The entire sweet Gonzalez family, kids and parents alike, were taking Spanish language classes. Because Tony’s an NFL superhero, the ESPN3 show came to San Miguel to film him and his family for a segment on what football players do during off-season.  And because October was in the same class as I, the ESPN film crew came in to tape her one day last week while we were forming sentences using verbs we just learned. One of my words was Apprendar. “Es muy difícil para mí aprender español con los hombres aquí en nuestra clase.” jk. Life is funny. I could actually end up on ESPN because of happenstance.  Keep an eye out for me (October 2013).  I’ll be the one speaking perfect Spanish (I was promised a voice-over…not). I requested they only film my ‘good side’ but turns out this is not at all about me.  I think all of this makes me an honorary NFL champion by default.  I’ll have to check the rule book on that.

ESPN crew filming Tony and October with Sara and Josefina.

To date, I’ve read Well Earth Well Me! five times (to children and adults learning English) at the Centro Mexicano school, and I have two additional readings scheduled within the next week.   I really enjoy reading to ESL classes.  I get to teach a little and learn a little.  Total win-win.

Kenda reading her book

Here are some examples of the lovely art with heartfelt messages the kids created – drawings depicting themselves taking care of the earth.  All of the art will be posted on my  website at www.wellearthwellme.com within the next week.  That is, assuming I can fix a longstanding bug on my site.

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Well Earth Well Me! is now listed on MagicBlox, a chido online book library for children.  If you have read the book and have a moment, please click on the link and 1) like my book and 2) give it a good rating (assuming you or your child found value out of it). MagicBlox may require you register, which you can do for free.  If that feels like too much work (it will only take about 2 minutes PLUS you get to be part of the first online library for children), my Amazon page could also use some ratings and reviews.  Many may not know that I’m essentially the sole responsible party for marketing my book.  I’ve been doing fairly miserably at this responsibility.  I could use the help in getting the word out.  If you’re looking to purchase the book, it’s available at Eifrig Publishing. Once I’m back in the states this Fall, I can also ship directly.

 Strolling – weekend of June 14

Via Organica

Via Organica is one of those places we fell in love with – organic restaurant and market

Friday evening began with a gastronomical affair at Parque Juarez.  Local restaurants offered small quantities of food and drink at reduced prices.  Via Organica, one of my new favorite places, represented.  A few days later, Scott and I enjoyed an early lunch at Via Organica – lentil and pecan vegan burger – hello?

Saturday, June 15, even after four years, is a sad day in the history of my family.  It was the day my Dad died.  Feeling melancholy and needing to get out of the house, we tooled around town.  I honored my Dad today by working on my character-building skills.

The Templo de San Francisco in the center distance.

Oh how I love donkeys. Here, they often look hot and tired.  Scott and I fantasize about having a large plot of land one day where we can create sanctuary for donkeys and goats.  Scott likes goats. I’m sure we’d have rescue dogs there too.  The difference between a donkey and a mule is discussed here.

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Twice, now, we walked through a large open space that is both desert and dump.  Litter scattered and piled amongst beautiful cactus plants.  It’s a curious eye sore both depressing and intriguing.

Ipomoea batatas (Purple Sweet Potato Variety) Flower

Ipomoea batatas (Purple Sweet Potato Variety) Flower

The Dark Side of San Miguel – dumped basura in a beautiful cactus garden open-space.  Sadness.

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Back to town, which is surprisingly clean, well maybe not such a surprise given what we just walked through to get to town.  It’s almost as if the garbage is pushed just far enough on the edge of town to create an out of site out of mind facade.

Vibrant colors abound. Flags and ribbons! Ribbons and flags!

 view from our roof, with the Templo De Monjas in the distance (Temple of Monks).

Back to our casa – view from our roof, with the Templo De Monjas in the distance (Temple of Monks).

View of La Parroquia from our roof

View of La Parroquia from our roof

I don’t think I’ll ever tire of this… it’s said that the Mexican architect (Zeferino Gutierrez, a bricklayer and self-taught architect) got the idea from a picture of an Belgian cathedral that he saw on a postcard.

Sunday, June 16 – El Dia de los Locos

Marking the end of holy week (yes, cannons every morning and fireworks each night) and the feast of San Antonio de Padua, the Los Locos Parade was like a cross between Halloween and Mardi Gras.  Every Sunday following June 13 thousands (approximately 8,000 this year) of costumed locals paraded through town to St. Antonio church. The parade is organized by neighborhood, each competing to be the loudest and most vibrant phenomenon.  All week, folks were bustling about and eagerly talking about the parade or their costumes.  I was told on several occasions to “look out for the angry bird, it’s me” or “I’m going to be the red devil”.  With droves of devils and flocks of angry birds, I quickly gathered that each neighborhood had a theme.  Large and elaborately decorated vehicles (in at least one instance, there was what appeared to be an 18-wheeler), these floats proclaimed the arrival of a new neighborhood.

Calle Zacateros was lined 3-deep all the way up to the jardin.

Calle Zacateros was lined 3-deep all the way up to the jardin.

Starting at the Real de Minas, they danced and sang up Zacateros just a block away from our casa.  Buses of folks from various parts of the Central Highlands came to enjoy the spectacle.  Apparently the Los Locos parade in San Miguel is one of the best and highest attended parades in all of Mexico.

There were both simple and elaborate costumes ranging from local department store masks to well-designed garbs. All were dancing and most were throwing candy.  At one point, I was nearly caught in a mosh.  Sitting on the ground taking photos, a herd of small children pushed past to get to the candy.  I was hit in the head twice by flying lollipops. Another time, I got caught up in the moving parader mob.  Unable to find my way out of that particular horde, I gave in and danced my way up the street with a cross-dresser and a clown-like character.  It’s a dangerous undertaking, photographing a fool’s parade.

St. Antonio was the patron saint of amputees; sailors; elderly people; seekers of lost articles; animals, especially horses; American Indians; expectant mothers; and barren women. He was a busy guy, which is probably one of the reasons he earned himself a ginormous parade every year.  But the parade is not only to honor him.  According to my Spanish teacher, Lety Vega,

San Miguel’s Locos parade actually condenses several celebrations into one event: San Pascual Bailón’s day on May 17, Corpus Christi, and San Antonio’s day on June 13. Tradition has the parade arranged into four groups: Cuadro del Parque, Cuadro Antiguo, Cuadro Nuevo and Cuadro del Tecolote. Each cuadro is subdivided into several smaller groups.

Check out my 1-minute video of photos I took during the parade.

The parade, originally a celebration for the orchard workers and held by Franciscan Friars outside of St. Francisco church each year, was more about displaying devotion to Saint Pascual Bailón, also known as the Kitchen Saint and the Dancing Saint.  Since the 19th century, orchard workers would give thanks and ask Saint Pascual Bailón for a prosperous year.

I like how this writer, Mark Saunders, details the necessity for fiestas and noise in Mexico.  There is something very special about this culture, indeed.

If you like (or not!) what you read here, please leave a comment.  My readership is slowly growing, and I think comments could help that along.

Abrazos!

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To laugh often and much; 

to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; 

to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends. 

To appreciate beauty; 

to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; 

to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.

 ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

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*Photos and stuff*  Please contact me for permission to use images and text for commercial or private use.

This is Mexico Post #16, to see the other Mexico posts, click click click away

Mexico Post #1, Me and My Trimalleolar go to Mexico with my Husband and our Pooch
Mexico Post #2, Dos Americanos y Su Perro en Mexico
Mexico Post #3, Feliz Ano Nuevo 2013
Mexico Post #4, Ballenas, Ballenas Hermosas
Mexico Post #5, Una Visita Morelia
Mexico Post #6, Mariposas Monarcas!
Mexico Post #7, Los Pueblos de Patzcuaro, Paracho, y Tzintzuntzan
Mexico Post #8, La pintoresca ciudad de San Miguel de Allende
Mexico Post #9, Guanajuato, Guanajuato
Mexico Post #10, Back to Sayulita and Jaime Visits!
Mexico Post #11, Semana Santa y Semana Pasqua
Mexico Post #12, Semana de Animales
Mexico Post #13, Semana de Amigos y Amigas
Mexico Post #14, Frida y Diego
Mexico Post #15, Adiós Sayulita
Mexico Post #16, Living and Grinning in San Miguel de Allende
Mexico Post #17, Puddle Jumping in San Miguel de Allende
Mexico Post #18, Guanajuato International Film Festival
Mexico Post #19, Ciudad de Mexico/Mexico City: Colonia Condesa, Colonia Coyoacán, y La Casa Azul
Mexico Post #20, Ciudad de Mexico/Mexico City: Chapultapec y Centro Historico
Mexico Post #21, Ciudad de Mexico/Mexico City: Museo Nacional de Antropologia y Templo Mayor
Mexico Post #22, Living the Dream in San Miguel de Allende
Mexico Post #23,  Viva la Independencia! 
Mexico Post #24,  Adios San Miguel
Mexico Post #25,  Valle de Bravo y Teploztlán
Mexico Post #26,  Ciudad de Oaxaca
Mexico Post #27,  50 Shades of Green: On the road from Oaxaca to Chiapas
Mexico Post #28,  San Cristóbal de las Casas
Mexico Post #29,  Almost Halloween Ed.: Dark Mountains,  Foggy Cliffs, Witches, Jungles & Shamans
Mexico Post #30, Veracruz, Tampico y Estados Unidos