Friday, January 27, 2012

Una Semana, A Week in San Miguel de Allende

Another wonderful week in San Miguel de Allende.  Here's a few photos:

Si, it's been another amazing week in San Miguel de Allende beginning with last Friday night's walk through the main square, next to the Jardin ( garden in Spanish; in this case it's the main square), where lots of people were playing music and dancers in satirical costumes were performing to the beat of the music.  On the other side of the Jardin were dancers in Aztec costumes performing to traditional drumming.  We walked home dancing the the beat of the drums and marveling at all the visual stimuli of this magical city.

Saturday morning we walked over to the weekly Organic Market, where we learned we could buy wonderful organically grown veggies, herbs, grains and also cheese from our favorite cheese guy, Pedro.
I'll try to include photos of the outdoor market in next week's posting.  I was so enthralled and busy buying foods for our luncheon, I forgot to take photos.  On the way there we were stopped by the big parade celebrating the 243rd birthday of Ignacio Allende, the namesake of San Miguel and father of the Mexican Revolution in 1810.  It was such a delight watching the parade of schoolchildren in their uniforms with their marching bands, the city officials, bomberos (firemen), local caballeros from the countryside and the lovely SeƱoritas chosen as queens for the day, that we could hardly tear ourselves away.  We did our errands quickly and came back to our casa to finish our preparations for the luncheon we were having for our friends Francisca, and her daughter Maria Elena.  Francisca and family have hosted us at their home for the past three years and I first met her when I studied Spanish here thirteen years ago.  They are the family that invited us to celebrate the Dia de Las Tres Reyes that I described a couple of blogs ago.  We wanted to reciprocate with a lunch for them.  After a pleasant afternoon of mostly Spanish conversation, with me trying to translate for Gary, we learned from Maria Elena that there was to be a big concert performed by the Mexican Military Symphonic Orchestra and Chorus. It was to start at 6:00 at the main plaza.  We arrived just as it began. The orchestra performed music from many Latin American countries,  and the chorus sang the typical folk songs. They also used traditional ornaments of many of the countries, like the "cuatro" a fourstring guitar from Venezuela. It ended with one of the most beautiful firework displays we have even seen, hands down, shooting off fire and splendor above our heads and lighting up a big Buen 243rd Ignacio Allende sign across the plaza.  Once again we forgot our camera, but it's imprinted in our minds and we can still hear the beautiful sonidas of the music.

On Sunday, our friend Luisa picked us up about noon and we drove out to Atontonilco, a small historical town about 35km from here on the road to Dolores Hildalgo.  There we visited the amazing church,(see photos in slideshow), famous for its ornate interior frescoes and decoration, and unique sculptures, as well as for it's interesting architectural design.  We wandered the open market, stopped for some quesadillas made with blue corn tortillas filled with cheese and mushrooms---um, muy richo. We had intended to go to Las Grutas, the hotsprings resort nearby but it was so crowded we all decided to head for another small village Luisa wanted to show us with hundreds of stalls filled with pottery, metal arts, furniture, mirrors and crafts.  It was fun to peruse and we resisted buying anything, though, other than stopping for a Michalada, a special drink made with beer, tomatoe juice and lots of spices.  Luisa and I shared one big one, but unfortunately, Gary had to forego the pleasure since he can't drink beer with his gluten allergy.

Tuesday I began my fun Spanish Conversation class with a great group of Canadians and North Americans, which I will be attending every Tuesday and Thursday for two hours.  Our "maestro", Jose is a great leader and everyone joins in the stimulating conversation about the book we are all reading in Spanish, Cajas de Cartones by Francisco Jimenes.  We often get sidetracked into other fascinating topics like comparing customs of different cultures, countries we have visited, issues like immigration, etc.  I come out of the class, which is held in a favorite local cafe backroom, with my head all abuzz!

Gary had fun re-connecting with Roberto, a guy we met two years ago down here.  They went out today on a photoshoot of "local color" (photos to be published in next week's blog).Roberto is a great dancer and the three of us are going dancing at the Parque Juarez this coming Sunday for the Festival of Candelaria.  More on that later.

On Wednesday, we were invited to a dinner party by some Portlanders I met at an art workshop the previous week.  Alice and her husband, Hal, a former doctor, turned painter,  built a beautiful home down here nine years ago.  It was a treat to see and we enjoyed the other couple attending as well.  Brion is the curator of the Lilly Rare Book Library, one of the largest collections of rare books and documents in the world.  It's located at the University of Indiana in Bloomington.  His wife Linda, owns a fitness business and is a chic and delightful woman.  The dinner table conversation included everything from rare books, to art, to our mutual travels, global politics,  Obama's State of the Union speech and more. We lingered carrying on a stimulating dialogue, all surprised to look down at our watches and learn it was 11:00 o'clock.  Not an atypical evening in San Miguel.

We also attended two interesting, but sad, films on immigration this week sponsored by the local Global Justice committee I think I have told you about.  Very good timeing for me as a theme in my novel is immigration and I could use some of the facts disclosed to include in my fictional story (more to come on that later).  I'm nearing the finish line of the first draft, with the rewrites completed on the first half of what looks like will be a thirty chapter book.  Any volunteer readers out there? On the subject of immigration, I had an interesting conversation with our substitute housekeeper today.  Our regular housekeeper, Josafina, had to be away today for reasons I won't go into now. Christina shared with me her experiences "crossing over" six years ago to join her husband who was a documented worker in a Chicago restaurant.  She could not get a Visa for a minimum of ten years so decided to join several other women from her community and try to "cross over".  Her tale is harrowing and as she said it was "muy feo," an ugly and frightening experience.  Stay tuned for details later in my novel.  Her's is not the first story I have heard about how difficult it is for those seeking work in El Norte, undocumented workers our nation needs, the ones who pick our crops, work in homes and in restaurants, and live difficult lives away from their families if they even survive the trip North.  Thousands have died in the desert or drowned in the canal south of San Diego over the past then years since the WALL has been built. Many of my Salvadoran friends have shared similar tales.  It's enough to convince me to lobby for changes in our immigration laws. It becomes a moral question about our inhumanity to man.  These are people so desperate to find work they will risk their lives. There's got to be a better policy.  Try to see the documentary The 800Mile Wall.  I believe you will want to change the policies of our governement vis-a-vis immigrantes, too!

Well, family and friends, I'm signing off.  It's late and tomorrow is another day in San Miguel.  We're staying home and taking it easy. Have to get prepared for our dancing on Sunday!  We send our hopes that you are all well and happy and not suffering too much cold winter weather.