Friday, July 22, 2011

renting my culture

My trip to San Miguel de Allende has turned out to be far more enlightening than I thought it would be.

I knew the place was a nest of artists.  But I was pleasantly surprised that it was not one of those navel-gazing art communities that excludes outsiders.  Amish in better designed clothes.

Instead, San Miguel invites people to participate in its artiness.  There are galleries ready to trade the magic of Mexico on canvas or tin or fabric for a wad of peso notes.

But there are also the festivals.  Jazz.  Chamber music.  Film.  All in progress on this stay.

The place is looking alluring enough that I decided to take a look at what is available for rent.  Just in case I want to spend some more time away from the beach now and then.

A friend suggested what I have heard from several other sources -- just start walking and looking for rental signs.  They are all over the place.

For instance, the house pictured at the top of this post is located up the hill from Babs’s place.  It probably is not what I am interested in.  It is too far from town for a reasonable walk -- and the view does not appear to balance out that disadvantage.  But I might take a look.  Just out of curiosity.

After my brief rental scout trip, Babs and I headed to dinner with a group of San Miguel residents at El Buen.  Friday night is comfort food night.  Fried chicken.  Fried catfish.  Meatloaf.  Macaroni and cheese.  Mashed potatoes.  Corn bread.  I almost felt as if we had strayed into Atlanta.

The conversation was as varied as the guests.  Who is required to pay capital gains on real estate transactions?  What does the immigration office here require for FM3 renewals?  Who has seen the worst dust storm?  What new restaurants have good food?

There were eight of us.  All Americans.  All, but one, expatriates.  And none of us knew every other person at the table.  But the conversation was lively and entertaining.  You won’t find that with every group of strangers.

After dinner, Ron and Fred (from church) asked me if I wanted to join them to watch a film being shown in the jardin as part of the Guanajuato International Film Festival.  This year, the festival is honoring South Korean films.  But tonight's open-air presentation was a short about a Mexican director.

Unfortunately, where we were standing, the soundtrack was hard to hear.  Especially since a mariachi band was doing its best to drown out the sound and make a few pesos of their own.

We then walked by a theater that has been disused for several years.  It has been refurbished and is now the prime venue for the films.  From the exterior, you could tell this was A Place For Film Folks.  Backless couches grouped for conversations that no one was having because their obviously expensive telephones were stuck to their ears.  Too busy to chat.

Tomorrow Paul Schrader’s Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters will be on screen.  And Schrader will receive an award for his writing and directing.  If I can, I would like to get tickets.  If I do, I might get some interesting photographs.

With events like this in town, you can see why I might be interested in picking up a house to rent for regular visits.


Dan in NC said...

Steve, there may not be any real magic in SMA, but take a close look at those you have met there, as it would appear that you have been bewitched during your visit... For all the brouhaha going on in Mexico at the moment, I have always found the town to be "comfortable" - exotic enough to be of constant interest, "familiar" enough to be assuring...
Dan in NC

Steve Cotton said...

I like your adjectives.  I also find the place comfortable.  Like an old pair of loafers that get softer and change tone with each wearing.  "Magic" works for some folks.  But it just does not work for me as a descriptor of places.  Salma Hayek -- now she is magic. 

Kim G said...

SMA really has a lot going for it, not least that it's only a few hours from DF.  I'm sure that when you get back to Melaque, it will seem much more like the sticks than when you left.


Kim G
Boston, MA
Where a spell in the sticks would do us good.

Richard Lander said...

Well.. you have arrived in Paradise.. said...

Hi Steve,
Am glad u r having a blast in Jalisco, Mexico. Now, r u a citizen in Mexico now?

Marilyn said...

I met someone via email a couple years back from San Miguel, home town Portland OR.  He loves it there but said it is very hilly. He was a avid hiker and skier but now that he is retired he finds walking a bit of a challenge in SMA.  He hangs out in the Jardin every morning for the local news and to meet more people.  I would love to see San Miguel once I land in Mexico.  My dream date is May 2012.  Keep in touch,
hopefully see you soon somewhere.   Marilyn

Laurie Matherne said...

Go for it. You have been alone far too long. And the climate? I am wearing long sleeves now, socks, and long pyjamas. Nothing like a good mountain climate to make a body feel at rest. 

Steve Cotton said...

I am sticking with enjoying the days I have. We shall see what Melaque has to offer when I return in September.

Steve Cotton said...

I have indeed. But I was looking forward to meeting you here.

Steve Cotton said...

Even though I live in Jalisco, I will be spending the rest of July in the state of Guanajuato -- in San Miguel.

And, no, I am not a citizen yet. Though that is always a possibility.

Steve Cotton said...

Depending on where you live, the trip back home can be quite a climb. If I lived in one of the houses on the hill, my weight would be down in a jiffy. At least, I am now accustomed to the altitude.

Steve Cotton said...

The cool nights have been delightful -- as have the mornings.

Croft Randle said...

You probably know this Steve but Doc Severinsen, from the old Johnny Carson show lives in SMA and performs ay the Bella Italia Ristorante. Doc is a spry 84 or so but he does miss the odd show, If you are lucky enough to catch him there, he puts on a great show. Norma and I had a great time and Doc spent several minuter chatting with us at our table. There is a minimum charge so plan on eating there if you go, We can highly recommend him!

Steve Cotton said...

If I do not stop in to see him on this trip, I will in the future.

Talking of old musicians.  I am staying in a house where John Davidson once lived.  It probably does not qualify for a blue plaque.  But I found it interesting.

Holger Sood said...

SMA? Well, visited it as the temporary tourist I am from time to time - and found too much tourists there, and too much Gringos. Just like in the "Gangs of SMA" blog. ;-))))))
Steve, we will be in Nuevo vallarta in Nov./Dec. Maybe we will be able to meet this´s only about 250 kilometers, and I hope I can steal the car of my mother-in-law. :-) :-)

Steve Cotton said...

Great to hear from you again.

I agree that San Miguel has a lot of tourists -- most from Mexico City. And there are a lot of Americans. But I think both help to add to the city's rich culture. If the place had not turned into an artist colony, it would probably have slipped into being one of those "ghost" towns that dot this area.

Whether it is the place for me, I don't know. I do know it is filled with lots of blog material.

A visit to Puerto Vallarta sounds like a possibility. Keep me posted on when you will be there.