Sunday, July 16, 2017

san miguel de allende -- not getting the best

Someone should take away my computer when I am sent to bed for convalescence. I tend to get very cranky between the sheets.

Anyone who has skulked about these parts for very long knows one of my pet peeves is the popular culture obsession with creating a list of the best of everything. And there really is a list for everything. Or it seems that way.

Best motion picture. Best restaurants in states that begin and end with vowels. Best fascist dictator. If there is a category, the glitterati has a best award in the wings. The next more insipid than the last.

It may be a personal failing, but I am irrationally drawn to articles announcing the next best thing -- as obsessively as a dog is drawn to a fresh pile of horse manure.

So, you can imagine my joy when I opened my email today to discover that Travel and Leisure magazine has announced this year's best city in the world. And the winner is --  wait for it -- San Miguel de Allende.

For those of you who just checked today's date to be certain it is neither Day of the Innocents or 1 April, I am not making this up. Nor is Travel and Leisure. They are being serious. Or as serious as a magazine can be that has two nouns in its title that are the antithesis of being serious.

Yup. That colonial burg tucked in the Mexican highlands eight hours from my house has beat out Florence, Rome, and Barcelona for being just the darn best city that anyone has ever imagined.

Paris, Berlin, and London were nowhere to be seen. The title is awarded based on surveys of the magazine's readership. But, after reading the article, I am not certain the author has ever been anywhere near the place.

In its announcement of the award ("San Miguel is the Best City in the world -- Here's Proof"), we learn some fascinating facts that I bet would even shock San Miguel's full time residents.

  • San Miguel is known for its "creative South American food." I am certain there are South American restaurants in San Miguel, but I do not recall any. But, by "South American food," the editors mean "mole, gorditas, tacos, and tequila." Please recall this is a magazine that exists because of geography. Mexico is not in South America. Its membership in the North American Free Trade Agreement might be a hint as to which continent it is part of.
  • "San Miguel is one of the most authentic, creative, and cost effective destinations we've visited." Creative? I will grant that. But "authentic?" Perhaps in the same way that Blackpool is authentically English or Williamsburg is authentically American. And "cost effective?" Maybe if you are accustomed to living in Manhattan or Tokyo. OK. That is an exaggeration. How about Oslo?
  • The author also seems to think "El Jardin" is some sort of quaint nickname for the Central Plaza -- when, of course, that is simply the Spanish term for "garden," and that is what Mexicans call their squares in most towns I have visited.
  • "San Miguel de Allende is known for its brightly-colored architecture." Maybe "brightly colored" if we are comparing it to Edmonton or Calgary. But most visitors to the rest of Mexico know San Miguel is relatively subdued in its color scheme -- and that it is enforced by code in the central area. Which some people confusingly call "El Centro."
  • The Church of the Immaculate Conception is Catholic.
  • My favorite, though, is the bold assertion that General Ignacio Maria Allende Unzaga was "a hero of the Mexican Revolution." That is like calling George Washington a noted Civil War general. Allende, as you all know, was the military leader of Mexico's War of Independence.
About that point, I had nothing in my spleen to vent. The rest of the article is just as vacuous.

Based on all that, being called the best city by Travel and Leisure is the equivalent of being told by your idiot cousin Harold that you are the smartest person he has ever met.

I am happy for San Miguel de Allende. I like the place. I like the people I know there. It is my cultural oasis.

But it deserves better than this slapdash award.

All things considered, I would prefer receiving its "Best Fascist Dictator" award. It couldn't screw that up any more than it did this piece.

On the other hand, just writing this has made my leg feel better.

No comments: