¿Dónde San Miguel?

We’ve been in San Miguel de Allende since September 5 to close on our new house that we purchased last June. Except for one week back to the United States to visit Paul’s mother who fractured her hip and was in rehab and fairly confused by all the trauma. This is the start of my new life in Mexico, and so far it’s going well despite my very long “to do” list. I am extremely satisfied with our decision and eager for the excitement to come. I love it here!

San Miguel has changed since I started coming in 2004 in many ways. There are stylish boutique hotels with chic rooftop terraces, restaurants with fancier cuisine, hip bars serving expensive mescals and organic ginebra cocktails, bakeries with lovely fig-and-lavender pastries, savory breads and even decent bagels.

New eateries and shops are popping up everywhere, not just in centro but peppered throughout the neighborhood colonias. There’s a notable expansion of shops and dining along the Ancha de San Antonio near us. A few short years ago the Saturday open-air organic market (known as tianguis here in Mexico) became a permanent food emporium with fresh produce (blooming artichoke flowers!), natural health products, prepared foods and a café and juice bar.

And perhaps the most shocking is the new City Market grocery store just near the Salida a Celaya intersection, which carries high-end Mexican and imported products to service a growing Mexican middle class and the still strong expat community. It features an entire aisle (both sides!) dedicated to Mexican craft beers and fine mescals (currently the trendiest liqueur here). And the fish section is a marvelous display of fresh catch. I asked for a half kilo of thick, silvery prawns from the Pacific Coast and the attendant shelled and deveined them at no extra cost – saving me time and effort! Of course, I gave a nice tip, which is always appreciated, and I’m learning that a well-placed propina can pay dividends on subsequent visits.

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Peter’s Picture Show: Tirolesas en las Barrancas del Cobre

Here’s Paul and I flying high on the ziplines at the Adventure Park from the rim of the Barrancas del Cobre (Copper Canyon) in northern Mexico’s Chihuahua state. Comprising seven adjacent canyons, this area is estimated to be many times larger and at least twice as deep than the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

It’s a majestic and scenic area rich in greenery which resembles oxidized copper, hence its name. The indigenous Tarahumara inhabit the cliffs and valleys and continue to practice a traditional nomadic lifestyle. They are still a visible feature of the entire region. Refreshingly little visited by tourists, Mexico’s Copper Canyon is a traveler’s delight with endless opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and exploring picturesque pueblos mágicos.

And if the Adventure Park’s seven ziplines, two rocky suspension bridges, and a 2-mile long gondola ride back to the rim aren’t enough to get your adrenaline rushing, in a couple of weeks the park will inaugurate the longest zipline in the world: a thrilling 8,350 foot (1.5 mile) drop from the canyon rim. We’ll surely be back for that.

¡Carnaval y cascarones! Walking on eggshells in Mexico

Carnival miscellanea for sale in San Miguel
Carnival miscellanea for sale in San Miguel

A spectacular event happens at the start of carnival in San Miguel de Allende.  Starting on the Sunday before Mardi Gras, the street vendors sell hand-made puppets with painted faces, brightly colored garments with trimmings such as tequila bottles, cans of cerveza Modelo, balloons, decorative parasols, and assorted accessories.

Carnival puppets in the park
Carnival puppets in the park

These are highly customized and charming clowns on sticks whose smiling faces and dangling limbs bounce gaily with once in the hands of passersby.  The vendors also sell colorful flowers, some with confetti eggs in the center, and manually crafted masks with sequins and sparkling glitter.

Hand-made masks for sale
Hand-made masks for sale
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Buddha Maitreya Project Relic Tour – Más allá del Museo de las Momias

The Meitreya Project in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Just one day after the ghastly, gruesome yet thoroughly Mexican Museo de las Momias (Mummy Museum) in Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende presented the remains of more enlightened souls in a less macabre exhibit. I learned of the Maitreya Project during today’s Unitarian-Universalist service in town, which I happily attend with my mom and Ray when visiting them.

Loving Kindness Buddha on Display

The Maitreya Project plans to erect a 500 foot statue of the Loving Kindness Buddha where the enlightened achieved final nirvana upon his death in Kushinagar, India.  The Maitreya Buddha is the successor to the historical Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, who will arrive on earth when Dharma is all but lost in our world.

The introductory video presented renditions of the site with the towering 50-story Buddha, a magnificent (and expensive at USD 195M) stupa to honor one of the most important sites in Buddhism. I was impressed with the project’s goals other than the statue: construction employs local labor and suppliers, and tourist revenue will continue long after the build is complete, contributing greatly to the local economy; the facilities will be 100% powered by renewable wind and solar energy to last “1,000 years”; the site will include a teaching hospital to train doctors in holistic and Western medical practices and to serve the local (mostly impoverished) communities for free – noble aspirations indeed.

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Las lluvias del invierno… Museums and Mummies in Guanajuato

Museo de las Momias, Guanajuato, Mexico

An unusual rainy spell has struck pretty much all of Mexico, and here in San Miguel de Allende the high altitude has made for some pretty cold temperatures with daily highs only in the low 50’s F.  This chill, combined with the non-stop rain showers, have made the past few days rather unpleasant.  Normally warm and sunny with bright blue skies during the day and cooler, dry air in the evenings, the high-altitude desert of Guanajuato state is usually an ideal locale to spend some time during the winter months.

Yet the region has had a significant drought in recent months, with the normally wet summer producing inadequate rainfall.  Wells are low, the lakes far below the normal depths, and there are reports of cattle dying in the fields.  Mother Nature has not been kind to the region last year.  Sanmiguelenses had been praying for rain – fortunately for them past few days have generously spawned downpours and frequent passing showers.  This soaking rain will go far in replenishing the local supply of fresh water much to the satisfaction of all of us that depending on it.

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San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, 2004

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Just before starting a new job, I headed south of the border for my first trip to Mexico, and it was love at first sight.  It was a delight to be with my Mom and Ray in such a beautiful, friendly and accessible town.

Set in the mountains of Guanajuato state about 4 hours north of Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende was strategically important during the Spanish colonial period serving as a military and commercial stronghold on the silver trail connecting the mines of Zacatecas.  Two of San Miguel’s favorite sons, Ignacio Allende and Juan Aldama, played critical roles during the War for Independence from Spain.

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