Tuesday, June 10, 2014

SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE: THE HEARTLAND OF COLONIAL MEXICO


I have a confession to make. I am having an affair. I do not make this confession lightly without having taken the consequences of said statement seriously. I am probably not the first person who has come out publicly with this confession. Let me try to explain before you hit the escape or delete button on your electronic device.

This affair I am having is of the heart and is with a place, not a person. Maybe you are feeling a little bit better with this clarification and I have gotten your curiosity aroused. My affair of the heart is with a small and enchanting town in Mexico and its name is San Miguel de Allende. There, I have said it and I feel so relieved!



The iconic parish church of San Miguel

The seeds of this affair of the heart were planted in the late 1990's when my husband and I visited San Miguel for the first time. We were retired Americans living full time in the beautiful Pacific beach town of Puerto Vallarta. At the time of our first visit I recall thinking that this was a very pretty place and charming in a colonial way. We did not jump ship, however, and move to San Miguel.

We spent the next ten years exploring and living in many different places and countries in the Latin American world. We continued to hear about San Miguel and there was a lot of buzz about it. Much of that buzz however seemed along the lines of "it's too this and too that" and what we heard did not appeal to us.



 Well, we eventually learned a lesson that changed our thinking. We met an elderly couple in their 80's who were on their honey moon in the funky surfing beach town of Montezuma Beach in Costa Rica. When we asked what they were doing there in the mostly unlikely setting considering their age and demeanor, he replied, "If you want to know about a place, go there!" And we have tried to follow this wise advise ever since. And because of that we revisited San Miguel de Allende and I fell in love with the town, the people, the culture, the history, and all it has to offer.

        A view overlooking the colonial town of San Miguel de Allende.

So let's get started. San Miguel de Allende is located on a high plateau in the mountainous area of Central Mexico which is known as the "Bajio." It is located in the state of Guanajuato whose capital is also named Guanajuato. San Miguel is approximately a four hour drive north of Mexico DF (the capital of Mexico). It's relative isolation has helped preserve its charm and beauty.




Can you find Guanajuato, the location of San Miguel de Allende, and one of thirty one Mexican States?



 


A view of the church of Saint Michael the Archangel in San Miguel de Allende.




The burros of San Miguel deliver necessities and smiles!




The striking colors and the colonial architecture are stunning!


        The cobblestone streets can be a real challenge, but so worth it!



The virgin of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico.

Now for a little bit of history. San Miguel was founded in 1542 by a Spanish Franciscan monk by the name of Fray Juan de San Miguel and he named the town San Miguel de Grande. After the War of Independence from Spain, San Miguel was given city status in 1826 and renamed San Miguel de Allende in honor of Ignacio Allende, one of the leaders of the War of Independence and a native of the city.


      Ignacio Allende, immortalized on the Civic Plaza in San Miguel de ALLENDE!  



    San Juan de Dios Church is one of eight Spanish colonial churches in San Miguel de Allende.









And in spite of the fact that San Miguel is a tourist destination, an art colony, and a retirement community for foreigners (mostly Americans, Canadians, and Europeans), it is still truly a Mexican town with the heart and soul of colonial Mexico.


           The vibrant colors are just stunning in San Miguel!


Street vendors are a part of the life of San Miguel de Allende.


           No town in Mexico would be complete without their local dogs! Isn't he handsome?



Singing troubadours serenade before the weekly San Miguel Biblioteca (Library) Home Tours.

In addition to all of the wonderful colonial architecture in San Miguel, the heart of Colonial Mexico is especially evident through the numerous cultural events including the parades. These events may be either of religious origin such as Christmas with its posadas or the Good Friday and Easter celebrations during Semana Santa. Or they may be of a civil and historical nature which includes the Revolution Day parade, the Children's Spring parade, Ignacio Allende's birthday parade, the Charro (or Rodeo) competition, and even a Dog Festival. Yes, something for everyone!


Mexican posadas take place before Christmas with children and families walking the streets singing carols and looking for shelter for Joseph and Mary.



San Miguel's new twinkling Christmas tree on the Plaza - que lindo!



       Jesus is honored annually in the Aztec tradition of music and dance every Spring.



Good Friday is a grand procession through the streets of San Miguel.



 The annual regional Charro ("cowboy") competition is held in San Miguel each Spring and it happened to fall on my birthday.  


An annual baroque music concert is held "on the rocks" in the canyon of the Botanical Gardens above town.  Simply magical!



        

Dia de la Revolucion (Revolution Day) is celebrated by parades and dances during the month of November.

Walking the cobblestone streets of San Miguel is like walking through the history and culture of Colonial Mexico. As a visiting friend of mine said on one of our meandering walks, San Miguel is "eye candy" and I completely agree. I rarely leave the house without taking my camera with me since there is always something that needs to be photographed to be shared and remembered. Spanish colonial churches, Spanish style plazas and parks, theaters, museums, traditional mercados (markets), and historical residential properties are to be found everywhere.



      Now this is a great way to get around town for both human and canine in San Miguel!  


The traditional Mexican market is alive and well with everything needed to satisfy a resident of San Miguel.


     Pork a la pastor tacos at the giant weekly travelling tianguis mercado are a must!






Traditional cantinas co-exist with more upscale establishments - something for everyone! 


Flower delivery puerta a puerta "door to door" in San Miguel.  Que lindo y bueno!
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San Miguel de Allende represents to me the heart and soul of Mexico and I loved our time there.

I hope you have enjoyed this very brief introduction to San Miguel de Allende. And you may be assured that there will be many more posts in this blog relating to this wonderful and charming colonial town!

I remembering many, many years ago hearing that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, I am a believer so following is a link to my WEB ALBUM which has additional photos for this posting.  



Memories are only a click away! 

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