Let’s discover

Nestled three hours north of Mexico City in the hills of Guanajuato state, at an altitude of 1900 meters, lies the little city of San Miguel de Allende, one of the favorite destination of Mexicans and North American tourists.

Better wear my basket shoes to walk on the cobbled streets, Let’s go explore San Miguel de Allende, a UNESCO World Heritage Site city, since 2008 and ranked among the 50 most beautiful cities in the world.


A festival of colors
along the streets

Honking, apple green taxis, gangly pickups, fuchsia pink buses, quads, rusty cars having seen better days, brand new SUVs are making their way onto Calle Zacateros, one of the central arteries of San Miguel de Allende.

I leave this congested avenue and walk along the twisting cobblestone streets; Colonial houses and various shops (confectionery, art gallery, crafts, clothing, jewelry, souvenirs, decoration …).
Tiny balconies with overflowing flowerpots.
Heavy ornate wooden doors reveal lovely shaded patios
Pots of geranium, cacti, ferns, wisteria, bindweed, well aligned on the roof terraces watch the street.
Each house has a different color: ocher, red, pink, fuchsia, yellow, orange, brick, light blue, royal blue, turquoise or immaculate white, a bit faded or brand new painted.

La Parroquia & El jardin

All the streets lead to the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel church and its pink bell tower which watches over the city. In a neo-Gothic style, this whimsical bell tower with several towers reminds me of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona!

Opposite the Parroquia Church is “El Jardin”, the main Zocalo or the town’s public square, lined with wrought iron benches. I sit down to enjoy the atmosphere and the streets scene around me.

On either side of El Jardin, on the other side of the cobbled streets, there is a covered passage with colonnades.
Banks, cafes and shops now occupy these 17th century buildings which were once the residence of the “gachupine” counts and the wealthy
Businessmen walk briskly, onlookers stroll and chat, others read newspapers. Children throw balloons and chase pigeons. A busy shoe shine. Tourists are taking pictures and look amazed at the church and its pink bell tower. Small sellers of balloons and sweets are sweeping up.

As the sun slowly goes down behind the mountains, a group of Mariachis has arrived. In white and golden costumes, trumpet, violin and guitar, the musicians begin a refrain core following by passers-by.

The pigeons watch the scene impassively from their perches erected on the pink stone of the Parroquia. A statue of Ignacio Allende, father of the Mexican independence movement and several statues of saints sit inside the iron gates of Parroquia, all silent spectators of this effervescence.

Why is San Miguel so wealthy?

San Miguel remained a sleepy little settlement until silver was discovered nearby in 1557 and it rocketed from a small and relatively unimportant outpost to an important hub in New Spain.
Then the city became an important trading center for gold and silver along the silver route, the Antigua Camino Real, used to transport precious metals to Spain from other towns such as Zacatecas. The city reached its colonial height in the mid- 1700’s. The elaborate homes, colonial mansions and magnificent churches were built and enjoyed by the wealthy traders and merchants blessed with the silver trade along the route.

A few centuries later the town was the birthplace of the victorious Mexican War of Independence against Spain, thanks to native son Ignacio Allende, who was born in the town in 1779. He was a fevrent believer in Mexican independence and a leader in the 1810 uprising against Spanish rule.  Although he perished in the fight, he was honored in 1826 when the town renamed itself San Miguel de Allende — and to this day he’s celebrated as a national hero.

Bells & bell towers

Ding! Dong! Sometimes a deep sound, sometimes a sharper music even crystal, sometimes a slow tinkling, sometimes an exuberant and fast chime, sometimes a sad buzzing. The bells ring all day long and not necessarily at a specific time.
There are bell towers all over town, too many to count. I’ve read that there are more than 300 churches and chapels, almost one for each day of the year!
The character of the bell ringer has not disappeared in Mexico and perpetues the tradition.

San Miguel sound track

You just heard it with the ringing of the bells, San Miguel stimulates the ears as much as the eyes. I am going to review all these sounds, these noises, these more or less pleasant musics which animate in the daily life the district of San Antonio where I live.
As soon as the day dawns the concert begins with the cocorico of the neighbors rooster, the cooing of doves, nestled in the patio tree and the barking of dogs.
As the morning rises the hits of the hammer, the sounds of the saw, the roaring of the mobiles, the humming of the motors.
The wheels echo cahin caha on the pavement.
Arrived “la basura”, the guy from the garbage truck hits a metal bucket to announce the garbage collection. Garbage bag in hand, everyone lines up to throw it in the truck.
high pitched screeching whistle blowing of the knife sharpener guy as he meanders down the street.
The fun music blasting from the propane gas truck that rolls by. 
The corn selling guy screams out a stretched sounding word “eeeeelooooteeee” (elote, meaning corn on the cob for sale).
“Ding ding” from the bell of the ice cream seller (las paletas) on his trycicle.
Some cries of children playing on the street.
Mexican music screams at the top of a car.
The little birds are not left out and squawk from morning to night.
Dominating everything, the ringing of bells at very imprecise times !!
Even if it all sounds like a cacophony, all these disparate sounds have become familiar to me and punctuate my day.

The cobbled streets 

The cobbled streets give San Miguel all its charm: all round like a pebble or rectagular and well polished, made of volcanic lava stone, shiny and slippery in the morning because washed with plenty of water, covered with a veil of dust in the evening. A palette ranging from light gray to dark gray through rosé, I observe these cobblestones carefully placed next to each other, well arranged like chocolates in their box.
There is something about it all that captures your heart, but especially the cobblestones as you notice how they they have been place carefully side by side just like chocolate truffles in a box. 
Sometimes I can’t help but stare at these hundred year old stones and wonder what they have seen. Hundred of years have gone by and all the while hundred of donkeys, horses, carriages, wedding, parades, funeral processions, strikers, who have come and gone, yet these immortal stones remain.

The market

Located a few blocks from the Jardin and behind the Oratorio church, is the main San Miguel covered market: El Mercado Ignacio Ramirez. Here you will absolutely everything!f

At the entrance are the fruit and vegetable merchants with gigantic papayas, very ripe pineapples, light yellow or dark yellow mangoes, scented guavas, beautiful shiny apples, passion fruit, small fragrant lemons, red and green tomatoes, bunch of chard, large onions, avocados with rough or smooth skin, bell peppers, nopales (cacti), all kinds of dried peppers.

Then it’s time for fresh flowers: carnations, peonies, roses …

At the back, the meat stalls, no waste, we find all parts of the animal.

A little further: the hierbero, the herbalist offers a remedy for all problems (stress, liver problem, diabetes, cholesterol, etc.) and even against “mal de oro”, the evil eye!

On the other side, you can sit at counters and taste emparedados (sandwiches), soups, tostadas, frijoles … prepared in front of you.

Ambiance d’un vendredi matin au marché couvert de San Miguel.

The mojigangas

What a surprise when I see a couple of whimsical giants puppets in wedding costume walking up the hill.
I learn that they are called Mojigangas (pronounced mo-he-gan-gas).
Who are these Mojigangas?
These captivating giant puppets have their roots in the 1600s when the Spaniards brought over their antecedents, Los Gigantes (The Giants). Mojigangas are intended to be farcical representations of humanity, in all its beauty, whimsy and flaws. They can represent artists, such as Frida Kahlo, politicians, Catrinas of the Day of the Dead  and even a happy couple. 
Accompanying events such as weddings, processions …, we regularly see them parading in the streets of San Miguel.
The enormous heads of the Mojigangas are made of painted and decorated papier-mâché while the body is an A-structure draped in fanciful clothing. The dancer / puppeteer places himself under the structure, his feet become those of the Mojiganga and a slight slit in the middle of the body allows him to see.

Street parades

Sunday, March 15th 

Loud music, processions have formed along El Jardin.
A whole joyful and costumed crowd dance to lively rhythms!

Lock down to San Miguel during the Coronavirus epidemic

March, April, May 2020

Who could have imagined that a few days later the streets would be deserted and the party would have ended … #COVID-19

Follow me on social media, share and write me from time to time, it could be worth more than what you can imagine …
… When you spend hours paddling and you’re on the other side of the world.embarassed

Follow me on social media, share and write me from time to time, it could be worth more than what you can imagine …
… When you spend hours paddling and you’re on the other side of the world.embarassed