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Friday, December 19, 2014

Guanajuato - a hike, San Miguel de Allende

One of the things I love to do in Guanajuato is hike up in the hills that surround the town so one morning I caught a bus up to the little town of Calderones from where one can just ramble endlessly. It's so nice and quiet up there, the air crisp and clear. A guy was driving his cattle to pasture, another his herd of goats. I made my way to the top of a butte where I got a beautiful 360 degree view down to the valley and across to the surrounding mountains. The sun shone beautifully but the wind had a bite to it so I didn't linger as long as I'd have liked and made my way slowly down and back to town.

Phyllis had heard a lot about San Miguel de Allende and had a hankering to see it so we planned a day trip to go there. I've had some very nice times there on my first couple of trips to Mexico but last time I was there I vowed never to return. But I acquiesced to Phyllis' wishes and we spent a day there. Our visit confirmed my dislike of the place. It's very pretty and all but very dominated by rich, retired Americans who spend inordinate amounts of money on opulent homes, driving real estate prices up thereby making it more expensive for the locals. Every other store front in the downtown is a real estate office. It's sort of a Santa Fe south, or a theme park of artsy Mexico. In fact, it's recent history tells of it's near demise in the early 20rh century when it's neoclassical architecture was "rediscovered" by foreign visitors and an art scene began to flourish around the Instituto de Allende and the Belles Artes attracting artists like David Alfaro Siqueiros who taught art there. The town also figures in the writings of Jack Kerouac and Tony Cohen's book "On Mexican Time", is cited as another factor in popularizing the town. He now lives in Guanajuato I understand. The La Parroquia church is probably the central landmark of San Miguel built in the 17th century with a traditional Mexican façade.

The current Gothic façade was constructed in 1880 by Zeferino Gutierrez, who was an indigenous bricklayer and self-taught architect. After the obligatory viewing of the church we had a delicious lunch of sopa azteca, better known as tortilla soup, and roast chicken at a little place I know. Then a taxi ride to the Aurora art facility which is a complex of art studios, galleries and stores built in a former textile. Nice idea but this place typifies San Miguel: the only Mexicans you see are the help. The few non-employees you see are invariably American women discussing art purchases or engaged in San Miguel gossip. (Yes, I eavesdropped.). We browsed a bit then went to the Belles Artes, an art school founded in the ........ that I've enjoyed visiting before.

There are art exhibits and young folks (Mexicans!) doing art and practicing instruments. There was a nice, if disturbing, photography exhibit and an exhibit dedicated to the many "disappeared" young Mexicans, a common theme here sadly enough.

One of those outlandish Siquieros murals

Sitting having a beer on the Jardin, Phyllis commented, "this place sure is dead" and there you have it. Off to the bus station and back to lively, vibrant Guanajuato.







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