San Miguel holiday 2

artist
Gerardo stirs the chilis.

WE RETURNED Sunday after two nights in the Gringo Heaven of San Miguel de Allende. As during our previous visit last June, we stayed in the home of Gerardo Ruiz, an artist of considerable international renown.

His home abuts the Fábrica La Aurora, a sprawling art space not far from downtown. It’s all about art in San Miguel.

fridge
Gerardo’s refrigerator is a functioning antique.

When we arrived, Gerardo was stirring a huge vat of chiles chipotles en escabeche, something he’s cooked every Yuletide season since he took over the family tradition in the 1970s from his mother who had died. He gifted us a jar.

retired
Retirees settle in San Miguel, sit on benches, usually with a pooch.

Though we were there only two nights and the full day sandwiched in between, we did get some stuff done.

We saw typical San Miguel Gringos like the couple in the photo above who were sitting on a bench in the central plaza, which is known far and wide as the Jardín.

Also spotted, traipsing down San Francisco Street* and through the Jardín, was a mob — 30 or so — of late-middle-aged Gringos decked out in clownish Christmas costumes.

They appeared to be stoned or half drunk. They were doing their best mimicry of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg and Beatnik days long, long gone by.

I gazed overhead, half expecting that the Ghost of Neal Cassady had winged over from the railroad tracks toward Celaya but no. He wasn’t hovering up there.

I should have taken a photo, but they were reeling and hopping too much. They couldn’t stand still.

My wife turned to me and said, Bet you’re embarrassed, huh? Well, kinda. I’m not making any of this up.

On a somewhat more sober note, yet another gaggle of Gringos — also 30 or so — who were not stoned were standing in the Jardín’s bandstand singing Christmas carols. Gringos in San Miguel are always having a really great time.

A side trip on the afternoon of our arrival — San Miguel is only three hours from our mountaintop Hacienda farther south — found us in the nearby pueblo of Atotonilco, the home of a famous church, el Santuario de Atotonilco.

The interior, we read, was painted by local artists over a period of 30 years, and the church is known as the Sistine Chapel of Latin America and receives about 5,000 visitors a week.

The Sistine Chapel of Mexico, they say.
The Sistine Chapel of Mexico, they say.

There were almost no visitors the Friday afternoon we arrived, so the 5,000 visitors a week probably is something of an exaggeration. No matter. It’s certainly worth a visit.

One of the prime reasons to visit San Miguel is eating in restaurants you’ll not find readily in other parts of Mexico. We had some reasonable pad Thai, mushroom burgers and French toast. No restaurant where we live serves those things.

Before we part company today, here’s a color shot of Gerardo’s chiles chipotles. Those vats are over two feet wide, and the house smelled of salsa during our entire visit.

bowls
Ceramic vats of chiles chipotles en escabeche.

* Irony.

 

34 thoughts on “San Miguel holiday 2”

  1. I can imagine Ginsberg doing that but I reckon Jack would have been at least a few paces behind and looking for alleyways to sidle off into to drink wine and talk about the sadness of it all. Saludos desde el monstruo, México DF.

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    1. Señor Davies: Not sure I’m with you on this. From what I’ve read, Kerouac was quite the party animal when he wanted to. The moroseness grew more pronounced with the passing years.

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  2. Off topic a bit but re the pictured ceramic vats. We bought some smaller ones from a roadside vendor on a trip six years ago. I’ve hesitated to use them because I recalled reading somewhere that lead was used in years past. Any views on that?

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    1. Steve: Those bowls of varying sizes, small to quite huge, are available all over the place. As for the lead, I really do not know. I too have read of the lead issue in much of Mexican pottery. I imagine it’s becoming far less prevalent because we ain’t stupid. Were I in your shoes, however, I’d just use those purchases as decorations. Maybe someone else, someone more versed in this, can chime in here.

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  3. A U.S. retiree who has become an expat is obligated to have fun, even if the real story isn’t such fun. I know of quite a few who sold the farm back home and went to reggae their life away in a criminally corrupt, failing state just south of the southern Mexico border on the Caribbean.

    And they didn’t have an exit plan.

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  4. So far, life is simply too good to pull up stakes. I can not imagine living anywhere else. No gringo ghetto for me. French toast is not that difficult to make.

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    1. Truth be told, Andrés, I make better French toast than we got in San Miguel. The restaurant tried to gussy it up too much. Sometimes simple is better. As you generally don’t want Mexicans making pad Thai, you don’t want them to make French toast either. Better they stick to tacos and burritos.

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  5. We been in San Miguel for three weeks. We got hit hard with colds so we have only been in town once in the evening. All Gringos were behaving well!!! We too enjoy sitting in the Jardín people watching and resting up for the hike up the huge hill to our rental.

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    1. Didn’t know you were there, Shelagh. Should have given me a holler. Well, with the colds, I guess not. The night we arrived, Friday, and the following morning, it was colder than the proverbial witch’s tit. But it improved significantly by Saturday afternoon, as you may recall.

      Don’t miss a visit to Atotonilco.

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      1. We’ve never visited Atotonilco, but we have enjoyed the thermal springs bathing spots in the area. Taboada was o.k. But it quickly became boring. La Gruta is more interesting, and there’s a nifty artificial cave where you can get your back massaged by a gush of warm water from the ceiling.

        Of course, for the real, live, all- natural version, you could go to Grutas de Tolantongo, in the state of Hidalgo, but it’s a several hours drive.

        Saludos,
        Don Cuevas

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        1. Don Cuevas: The church at Atotonilco is well worth a visit the next time you’re in San Miguel, and it’s just the proverbial hop, skip and jump out of SMA. And while there, I recommend a lunch at Nirvana, which is a short drive down a country road outside Atotonilco. Beautiful hotel and restaurant. We did not eat there because we had already eaten, but we looked at the menu and it looked great in all respects.

          As for the swimming holes, I’ve never been in one in Mexico and likely never will. Just not my thing.

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  6. Felipe did you get into the small chapels in behind and to the side of the altar? When we visited Atotonilco a few years we were the only ones there as well and were offered a tour in behind the main chapel. It’s quite a place.

    That was our first visit to San Miguel Allende as well. After our return visit last month I have to admit the absence has not made my heart grow fonder of the place.

    JBSK
    (Jim)

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    1. Jim: The offshoot chapels that we saw were closed off. You could see into them, but you could not enter.

      So, absence did not make your heart grow fonder? San Miguel is a good place fot a certain sort of person, and there are lots of those people. I make fun of SMA frequently, but it serves a purpose. Not a purpose that particularly interests me — certainly I would not live there — but a purpose nonetheless.

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            1. Ms. Bachelorette: The cats will fit in a small carrying case. Your mother will not. Your mother would need a visa and proof of income. Not the cats. Plus, you could not feed your mother Kibbles.

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  7. Wasn’t it Oscar Wilde who said, “Youth is wasted on the young?” Looks like those gringos are making up for lost time. Nothing wrong with having fun in your dotage, especially considering how many other older folks are wasting away indoors watching TV and planning their next meal immediately upon finishing the present one.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Redding, CA
    Where there are lovely old oaks, volcanoes, and more chain stores than one can possibly imagine for a town of 70,000.

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    1. Kim: I think it was Wilde who said that. And the traipsers were not old, 40s, 50s. I have nothing against fun or having a good time. But they were just silly, creating a perfect, stereotypical San Miguel scene. I did not get the impression they were visitors. More like they lived there and, like I indicated, were trying to recreate On the Road.

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  8. My experiences at Atotonilco have been similar to yours. Usually, I am about the only person there. Except on one occasion. I managed to stumble into the village on the shoulder of the church’s famed pilgrimage. It was more crowded than Black Friday at a Des Moines Walmart. Tourism, like most of life, is in the timing.

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  9. SMA is a beautiful city that has been ghettoized by obnoxious Progressive Gringos. Perhaps Morelia has many of the positive aspects of colonial Highland Mexico without the detraction of a bunch of know-it-all leftists.

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    1. Wesmouch: The oddest thing about San Miguel is that there are no more Mexicans living there. Not a one. Well, except for Gerardo there in my photo stirring his chiles chipotle. He is the last holdout.

      And I urge you to not fall — as so many have fallen — into the habit of calling people on the mistaken side of the political divide Progressive or Liberals. They are not. It’s just another example of how the left has twisted language and hijacked the good words to apply to themselves.

      They actually are Regressive and Illiberal.

      As for Morelia, I imagine most of the Gringos are lefties. Most Gringos living anywhere in Mexico are lefties from what I can see. But the Gringo population of Morelia is so small, they really do not count. They haven’t ruined the place as they have ruined San Miguel.

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