recorrido- san miguel adventure fun time part four

san miguel adventure fun time part four of six- 


The major take-aways:

do your homework and take a tour or two

Guided, unguided- whatever you choose get out and tour around San Miguel.

If you are able to deal with cobble stones and comically narrow sidewalks, walking ultimately is the best way to see the city. 

You never know what you will find when out on foot. 

Within a few days we got to see several wedding parties in El Parque Benito Juarez. A place which seemed to be the epicenter of all boda-dom, of all wedding-ness. These festive events are called callejonadas. The ones at the parque would be something like this:

At an appointed time people would gather at this one particular gazebo. There would be wedding party guests dressed in white clothing with small clay drinking cups hanging at their necks, a mariachi band, a man with a festive donkey bearing tequila, two sturdy people wearing the appropriate mojigangas, and at least one professional photographer. 

The participants would sing and dance and parade around with the mojigangas– these giant puppets that represent the bride and groom, and take shots of tequila to lighten the donkey’s load. 

More than once a custom that is least 500 years old played out effortlessly in font of me. I cried a little behind my sunglasses.

I love that donkeys have ceremonial purpose these days in Mexico. Of course, if you are still wee in stature, you can ride around the park on one. Such a small burden compared to- oh, something like: nation building.

Another place that was worth the walk was Aurora Fabrica.

We thought a film festival event was being held there and took a stroll only to find that there was no event at all. We misread the messages. But that didn’t matter. 

The place itself, it turned out, was basically an ongoing art fair. 

An entire textile mill complex was converted into an art and design center. It is now a hub for the locals creatives to have studio and gallery space. You can even take workshops and classes there!  

The quality of the work you find runs the gamut. And they are not selling cheap. For New York, yes, but not for Mexico. The price tag is an earnest request to respect the artist. There is no haggling for a better deal. 

Arts and crafts is everywhere you look in San Miguel. When walking you can discover all the little tienda boutiques selling textile wonders, fine pottery, leather work, jewelry, kitschy paintings-

Need a hand-woven mini tapestry of Groot? Yes, they have that. 

If you are inclined to shop, bring less in your suitcase. Or an extra suitcase. There are so many fun things for sale you can have all of your gift giving occasions covered in one go! 

It’s not all going to be locally made so buyer be aware. 

If you are into architecture, most of the buildings are stone constructions with an open courtyard in the middle.

It’s fun to peak into different buildings and see how the uses of the spaces has changed over the years. Some establishments like to keep the old world charm while others integrate sleek, modern elements into their design schemes. Now, no new buildings may be constructed at all. Its all about preservation of what is there. 

When on foot you can easily work up an appetite and then let yourself be lured by enticing smells from the restaurants, bakeries, and cafes. Foodies would be pleased to know that chefs abound!

If you work up ‘the thirst,’ there a few old-timey cantinas to crawl too. They even have the cute, old-timey wooden saloon doors. 

Graffiti is prohibited in the city center. If you walk long enough you will start to see more of it and you will know you have probably walked too far from the center of town. And you should probably turn and head back. Unless you have business being out of the tourist area. 

Sharp eyes can spot cheeky taggers putting their marks here and there in the historic center. I had mixed feelings when I saw a couple of fresh looking, strategically placed sticker tags. They were from a Brooklyn-based street artist I am acquainted with. I checked his Instagram and found out he was in San Miguel the same time I was. An odd coincidence. 

Don’t want to walk for a while? Trolley tour roll around the streets providing some backstory to the beautiful buildings and landmarks around the city. 

I didn’t find out if there are any tours in English, but I did learn that the great Cantinflas fell in love with San Miguel and bought property there. The trolley guide also said something about Parque Benito Jaurez being so romantic that if two enter, three leave. I was like ‘Oh cool! Hugo, let’s go pick up a ghost. Let’s go get haunted.’ 

Heh heh. I don’t think that’s what the guide had in mind. 😉

I had read about nearby ancient pyramid ruins and I thought we could go out and see them at Cañada de la Virgen, but once Hugo saw some tourists on horse back riding through the town he had it firmly in his head to take a riding tour.

That was how we were going to finish out the last full day of our trip. 

With saddle sores. 

Honestly, I was nervous about taking a riding tour. I am very inexperienced with riding. I didn’t have the proper shoes to go riding. I don’t know a lot of the Spanish vocabulary associated with riding. Ugh, stresses.

Hugo was so serious about this horse riding tour that he took me shoe shopping. 

The day before the ride we dedicated part of the afternoon to shopping for close-toed shoes so I could meet the foot gear requirement for the outing.

In a sweating rush I found a pair of knock-off Converse canvas shoes that fit and would be comfortable enough. Thank goodness I didn’t have to run around to several shops! I was not in the mood or mental space for shoe shopping. You have to be prepared to send an attendant to the backroom to fetch shoes one pair at a time. It’s a security measure, I assume, but a total hassle for someone who doesn’t want to be ordering others around like that. 

When we were at the tour company’s office to fill out a waiver and wait for our driver, I was still feeling nervous. All that unease miraculously subsided once we got into the van and drove out to the stables. I still don’t know how I was at ease enough to remember how to coordinate my body in order to mount a horse! 

The horses are trained to pay attention to the guides more than the riders. Mine- called Indio- barely paid me any mind. I was probably more gentle on the reigns than he was used to, but he would always react more to the voice and perhaps light switch of a guide who rode behind me most of the way. 

This was not a casual ride. We went up and down some fairly steep, rocky trails. For a novice, this was more advanced riding than I thought I would be doing. But at no time did I feel unsafe. Not even when we rode in traffic. I felt like these people and the horses knew what they were doing and would not let anything stupid happen if they could help it. It was, overall, very pleasant. And I didn’t mind the inevitable aches the next day. It was worth it.

What kind of tour would you take?

Don’t forget to tip the writer! 

festival de cine – san miguel adventure fun time part three

san miguel adventure fun time part three of six-
festival de cine 

The major take-aways:

talk to strangers sometimes
if you still have your hearing, always keep earplugs handy
partying is difficult for 20% of the population
a good thunderstorm should never be ignored

Onto the film festival!

The Guanajuato International Film Festival –GIFF is essentially three film festivals happening back to back in three different locations in Guanajuato. Films are shown first in Leon, then San Miguel De Allende and finally Irapuato. Theoretically, we could have driven out and seen our film in the three different locations, but that would have been, shall we say, over-doing it.

In San Miguel, our film was showing on a Monday evening in this building that had a few lives before becoming a cultural center named after a fellow with the nickname “El Nigromante.”

As a writer, poet, journalist, lawyer, and politician Juan Ignacio Paulino Ramírez Calzada was an important voice in the shaping of Mexico in the 1800s. But some how I’m hung up on the fact that he could easily have been called Nacho the Necromancer.

Admission was free. There were no tickets to get in the theater. You just had to line up and hope there was a seat available. Even for our own showing we had to get in line to secure seats. 

Our little short film played in a block with several others that were all quite strong pieces. It felt well curated. Showing along with the film that actually won in the Best Mexican Short category felt like a nice nod from somebody.

So then it’s Monday night. 

There’s a official film festival party mere spitting distance from the cultural center at some bar (the Duke). Hugo and I went over the check it out. Gotta network somehow.

There was a wall of bouncers at the entrance who would not let us in even a minute before the start of the event. Wristband and lanyards notwithstanding.

When we finally got to peek in through the milling bodies at the entrance, there was a cluster of press, a logo wall, and  folks dressed like this was a high end fashion parade. 

There was no way we would even really get into the place without disrupting some important uppity-shmuck.

Instead we went out to have a drink at a dive bar with some other film makers we just met. They were also out on the sidewalk equally under-dressed and wondering what was supposed to be happening.

We had a lovely time chatting. My brain DELIGHTED in the way they fell in and out of Spanish and English and I could still follow most of what they were talking about.

By the time we got back to the party it was well down-graded from ‘fancy.’ The press had packed up and were long gone. Everyone was so drunk they didn’t care what your societal status was.

With the immediate sensorial onslaught, we lost track of the people we had just been hanging out with. We took a turn around the place looking for familiar faces. There were two floors of nonsense to search. The second floor was a deafening dance party. 

Hugo convinced me to go back up and have another look around there, but we were held up by the night’s live entertainment:

Freaking fire dancers.

I could not believe open flames were allowed in that crowded space.

The energy was exuberant in an unhinged way. Many were in the abandon of drunkenness and were randomly throwing themselves into dance. You had to forcefully plow through to get anywhere.

I remember seeing a group of imposing drag queens- a shade of queens glittering in one corner. I did not have to plow through them. They were not in the way and behaving foolishly.

I would not have lasted a moment in that space without earplugs. Not only was the music rather ‘basic af,’ it was infernally loud.

Nothing about the situation was making me feel happy. The music and people’s drunken vibes only made me feel like I would just start screaming nonsense things and eventually become violent. So I tried to be still and film stuff. This is all part of a film festival right? Is that not appropriate? What do I know?

We did manage to find and say good night to a couple of people and then get the heck out of there.

That was enough industry partying for me.

Through the first three days of the week, Hugo and I got to see just about all the short films that we were in competition with. Ours was the only animation shown and people took notice notice! And like it! That’s a confidence boost when you are in unfamiliar film world territory.

We saw a couple of famous faces in person even! At least Hugo knew who they were. 

During one of the film showings we attended, a thunderstorm almost completely distracted me. I don’t get to experience many thunderstorms where I currently live. I had this quiet desire to get out of the theater. I wanted to go out where the lightening could find me. Not the rain, but the lightening. Perhaps I just needed some fresh air. The theater was stuffy. And it had been a while since I experienced thunderstorm. I don’t take them for granted.

Would you have gone to that party?

Are you a thunderstorm person?

Don’t forget to tip the writer!

primeras impresiones – san miguel adventure fun time part two

san miguel adventure fun time part two of six-

primeras impresiones

The major take-aways:

Um, I love old wooden doors 😍 😜

Eh, well, the start of the trip was a little rough. 

But that means things can only get better! 

For Hugo and I, our visit to Morelia in 2020 for their film festival in the COVID times was a decent primer for the colonial Mexican experience.

So coming into San Miguel we did not have such a huge time shock. Even so there was a certain wow factor to the place. 

There are no glowing signs on the buildings, no neon lights in the streets, no giant billboards for feminine rejuvenation. You can focus on the stone work, the doors- the wooden doors that were hundreds of years old- I LOVED the doors!- 🫠

Oh, where was I? 

The layers of history in San Miguel go back centuries; layers both grand and mundane. Coming out of Rosarito (which only became its own city in 1995) I was reminded again of how much I deeply miss antiquated things.

We passed through the plaza principal in the evening on a Sunday and what a dizzy mess that was!

I’m used to general Mexican chaos so I didn’t have too much of a culture shock, but your preferred divine helper help you if you aren’t used to it.

There were two, maybe three different musical groups playing at the same time, couples dancing, vendors selling wares, people eating at cafes, children dashing after one another through the crowds with oversized inflated crayons shaped toys, people stopping to pose stupidly for cameras- and-

Expect fireworks! Not sparklers, but the ones that launch and go bang. Fireworks were being launched out of a tower next to La Parroquia. I think. I was too busy trying to protect my ears from the noise to see clearly!

There are benches that invite one to linger as they are under the manicured shade of a topiary jardín. The temperature IS noticeably cooler under the dense foliage. It’s a fine place to have a sit down and eat ice cream. And people watch.

You too can people watch from where ever you are thanks to some real estate company-  

Live WebCam  

It’s too bad you can’t hear the mariachis though.

My ears buzzed with all the English spoken around me. If you are scared of not knowing enough Spanish, you need not panic in this city. In a previous post I said this was the gringo-est of all Mexican cities. Well that’s because the place is crawling with gringos: usually Americans and Canadians ex-pats, usually retirees. As far back as the 1930s (or so) there has been an enclave of ex-pats in San Miguel. Rest assured, someone nearby is going to know enough English to help you out. 

As custom in the churches of very Catholic countries, you will find the devout pouring their hearts out in fervent prayer even as tourist gawk at the splendor of these old sacred places. Be respectful as you gawk. 

I loved that La Parroquia kept large bouquets of flowers inside. To match it’s aesthetics, it also smelled 𝓭𝓲𝓿𝓲𝓷𝓮. 

You can find vibrant ribbons and dried (and plastic) flower arrangements adorning everything: lintels, posts, iron work on windows, and women’s hair alike.

More than decking yourself out with flowers and ribbons, wear the most comfortable, most reliable shoes you own. 

Walking the varying cobbles and the varying grades of the narrow streets is a work out you need to be prepared for. 

If you doubt your physicality, try not to have any reason to run. Twisted ankles can happen easily depending what street you are on. Wheeled rides will be bumpy and noisy. This doesn’t stop people from whizzing through the streets on them.

Sidewalks seem like a comical afterthought. Many of them are barely wide enough for one person to walk easily. You have to be ready to step into the street to dodge pedestrians and hop back onto the sidewalk to dodge cars and motorbikes. Or get real cozy with with architecture. Everyone is generally very polite about all of this. 

Tidy streets. Hardly any trash anywhere! The exact opposite of Tepito market at closing time! 

Tidy shops. Tidy as in workers will dust every item on the shelves and then the shelves and then sweep and mop… plus they give you attentive service. I was a little shocked at how well kept a lot of the places where. Dusty beach town Rosarito does not match this level of care. From what I have experienced. 

Don’t worry. I am not going to punish anyone with a hyper-fixated post dedicated to nothing but doors! 😜

What do you think of San Miguel so far?

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