Saturday, March 12, 2011

First Days in San Miguel de Allende

I was constantly forced to remind myself, while walking around San Miguel de Allende, that I was in Mexico, not Spain. It's a very charming city with it's bold colors and balconies a part of every second story window. All the streets are cobblestone and the narrow sidewalks are mostly occupied by telephone poles, it's just as easy to walk in the street except for the traffic crawling by. The city is perched on the base of a hill in a rather broad valley. It is at an elevation of 6500 feet, and the hills leave you gasping for breath. (Please click on the pictures to enlarge them.)

This lady was flattered to have me ask to take her picture. She spent some time adjusting her scarf on her head before smiling up at me. I think her strongly indigenous face and the woven goods behind her remind us that while the architecture may be Spanish Colonial, the people are Mexican. We had heard that there was a large gringo and foreign population in San Miguel; that may be true but it is still overwhelmingly indigenous.

The sidewalk cafes under couverts remind one of the main plaza of Mirepoix (yes, France) n'est pas?

The colonial Spanish who settled San Miguel seemed to have two main goals; convert the Indians to Catholicism, and remove all the gold to Spain. Consequently, churches in San Miguel are everywhere. In the historical downtown, there are no less that five magnificent churches. The gold went to Madrid.

I'm not sure if this traditional dress is worn when they are not selling their goods, but nonetheless, it is very appealing. Native dress, sandals on bare feet and a plastic coke bottle. I am reminded of the traditional house dress worn by French women around Leran. The Mexican women have something similar, but it is a smock worn over other clothes.

We stumbled upon this old gas pump, and I can remember these at gas stations when I was a kid, although the were brightly painted with the oil companies logo. Perhaps you can see that the guage is offering gas at 38 centavos per litre. My mind can't convert liters to gallons and old pesos to dollars, but that was probably a screamin' deal.

Another reminder of Mirepoix, France. There always seems to be a guy caning chairs in the Monday morning market. This guy wasn't at a market but just sitting out on the street plying his trade.

This lady is multi-tasking. Carrying out the garbage and taking her items to the artisan's market.
We stumbled upon a celebration of Cuban culture and dance. This grandmother was watching her grandchild and the dancing troupe at the same time.

I generally ask if they mind if I take a picture, but not always. I asked this street vendor preparing her lunch items, "Un photo, con permisso, por favor?" She stuck out her hand, palm up. No misunderstanding that gesture.


Anonymous said...

I am so enjoying your travelogue! I think if I was still living in the Chicago area I would be hopping a plane to join you to get away from the snow and early spring rain...YUK!

Fortunately for me it's been pretty nice around Charleston for the past few weeks...mostly warm and sunny.

I'm really enjoying the pictures...the Spanish really left their mark...for good and ill!

Enjoy your continuing travels. Luke

Anonymous said...

Wow- both San Miguel and Todos Santos look amazing! I bet Fergus prefers the beach, huh?
Keep posting , it is so fun to see!

Peggy said...

So charming! I know a lot of artists go to San Miguel de Allende. Why did this town retain its Spanish influence and not go the way of other Mexican towns?