SO NEAR AND YET SO FOREIGN

San Miguel de Allende is probably the most spectacularly beautiful place I have ever visited. I have traveled a lot in the USA, including Alaska and Hawaii, a bit in Europe, a bit more in the Caribbean, a whole lot in Mexico, and San Miguel wins the beauty pageant–hands down. The architecture here is simply amazing. It looks like someone put it in Photoshop and slid saturate all the way to the right.We have been here before for three short visits and this time will be here for three months. This morning Fred and I did a bit of research online to learn a little more about the history of the town we love.
San Miguel de Allende was the first city in Mexico to declare itself free from Spanish rule in the Mexican War of Independence (1810-1821). It was founded by the Spanish in the 1500’s.
By the mid-1700’s the city reached its height. This is when most of its amazing structures were built. At that time, it had a population of 30,000 people. (At the same time, New York City had 25,000). The town started to decline in the 1800’s and almost became a ghost town. But, at the same time it became a historic and protected town by the Mexican government. In the late 1930’s and early 1940’s the town began to attract artists and writers. Schools for adult cultural studies—the Instituto Allende and the Escuela de Bellas Artes—were founded, and people began to come here to study and appreciate the beauty of the town. This in turn, spurred the opening of hotels, shops, and restaurants. The town became an enclave of Americans in Mexico, and these Americans are credited with saving the town. In the 1960’s and ’70’s, the city took on a counter culture and bohemian quality. It is now estimated that 7,000 Americans live in San Miguel de Allende. The total population is around 80,000, and it remains a predominately Mexican town.
When we arrived on October 2, we experienced the festival of San Miguel Arcangel, the patron saint of San Miguel de Allende. It went on all this past weekend. People from many of the 31 states of Mexico were here to put on elaborate costumes, march in the streets, and dance in from of the Parroquia, the main local church, which looks like a baroque pink wedding cake. I was completely enthralled by all the color, costumes, and activity. I was fascinated by the obvious blend of paganism and Catholicism, which I am always aware of in Mexico. I don’t claim to understand either path to the Divine, but these two mixed together make for a cocktail of celestial confusion. Dancers in face paint and feathers would parade by the church, doing dances that seemed from ancient pre-Columbian times. They would stop, kneel, and cross themselves in front of the church. Then, back to the twirling, stomping, and drumming. Most of the costumes involved things attached that made noise. It was all about percussion, with a brass band every now and then. The dancers were all genders, all ages, and all shapes and sizes. Some were babies in costume being carried by parents. It was kind of a gas to see them in these costumes of ancient cultures taking selfies along the way.
Yesterday the sun was out and the air in this beautiful mountain city was crystal clear. The streets were decked out with flags and lined with people from all over Mexico. As we walked from the Jardin back to our house it was a sensory overload. I am so happy to have an opportunity to experience this city in this country which is right across our border but so yet exotic and so very far away.

MEXICANS LOVE FIESTAS

MEXICANS LOVE FIESTAS

You know how Americans love the 4th of July? Fireworks and things? Multiply that by 10 and you have an idea of a Mexican celebration. Come to think of it, it seems that every time we arrive in Mexico, no matter where we go, some sort of all-night party is about to happen. Makes me feel like they are always glad to see us.
Well, we didn’t know we were arriving on the day before San Miguel Day–the celebration of the anniversary of the town. Sylvia, our housekeeper, gave us a warning when we first arrived. We were to expect people in costumes dancing in the street (that is to happen later today) and what I understood to mean fireworks. She said the fireworks would be over at 6. I thought she meant 6 in the afternoon. Wrong, 6 in the morning! All communication with Sylvia is done in Spanish, so there is room for a little misunderstanding. The fireworks started late yesterday and went on all night. Since we are right in the Centro, it seemed they were right outside our house. Pinky was very upset, and spent the night under the bed. We went to sleep around 5 this morning, and slept until 10. When we woke up, we all felt fine, and Pinky seems back to her laid-back self.
Just as I was about to make breakfast, Sylvia arrived with a bag of baked goods that were so delicious. I broke my rules about gluten-free and had a lovely treat with my coffee. Then we went out for a morning walk and as we stepped out the door, a man leading two burros loaded with packs was walking by. Then as we turned the corner we saw about 100 people coming up the street carrying all sorts of costumes and headdresses. They must be the dancers for the street festival tonight. I learned that whenever I leave the house, I must take my camera. It rained while we were on our walk, so we waited inside a doorway along the street. We are here at the end of the rainy season.
When we got back from the walk I decided to take my camera and go out for a while to get a picture for today’s post. Sure enough, right in front of our house, a truck was being unloaded with people carrying enormous headdresses. I am not exaggerating when I say that things here are not done half-way. I am looking forward to the dancing this afternoon. This trip may be causing me to miss the Miss Gay America Pageant in Nashville, but I think I am getting a drag show after all.

IMG_1600.JPG