You are looking at a piece of history.
An old piece of history. The Camino Real de Tierra Adentro. The silver route.
The road the Spanish used to transport silver from Zacatecas, Guanajuato, and San Luis Potosi to Mexico City and to ship mercury from Europe north to extract that silver. The road from Spanish national rags to riches to rags.
The stones that are there now are not the same as were there in the 1600s. Even though it feels that way when you are driving over them.
The stretch of the royal highway pictured above is in San Miguel. Between Babs’s house and the place I decided for today’s Mexico adventure.
Rather than visit the market stalls to buy two weeks of groceries, I decided to slowly drive the king’s highway to a shopping center on the outskirts of San Miguel. For me, it is a bit exotic. We simply do not have things like this in Melaque.
For me, it is a tourist destination. For the Mexican families I encountered, it is simply a convenience in their lives.
It looks like almost any shopping center you would find in a small California town. A big box department store (Liverpool). Banks. Coffee shops. McDonald’s. Optician. Multi-plex theater. Video arcade. Large grocery store (Soriana). Office Depot.
Before I visited San Miguel, several people told me I should skip the place. It is nothing more than Gringolandia. All you hear is English. It is not authentically Mexican.
It was the last point that got me thinking as I looked around in the shopping center this afternoon. I didn’t see any burros. Or sombreros. Or happy peasants beating the stuffing out of a piñata.
What I did see were parents having lunch with their families at McDonald’s. Shopping for corn flakes at Soriana. Buying computers at Office Depot. Trying on clothes at Liverpool.
In short, middle class people acting just as they would in Fresno, Oxford, or Madrid.
Not too long ago on one of my Mexico message boards, a young Mexican in Mexico City took we expatriates to task for trying to freeze Mexico in amber. The land of siestas, burros, and sombreros. To her, that is not Mexico. Mexico is young families doing their best to improve their lots in some of the world’s most exciting cities. To her, that is the authentic Mexico.
I suspect she is both wrong and right -- as are the amber-fixated expatriates.
There are a lot of Mexicos. But all of them are changing to one extent or other. And each of them is authentically Mexican. Because they exist in Mexico.
The trick is finding the Mexico that meets your passions -- and then change right along with it.
And my passion? Today I found part of it. And I am enjoying its contribution as I write.
Can Mexico get any more authentic than this?