Bullfights, Ghost Towns, and Revolutions


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North America » Mexico » Guanajuato » San Miguel de Allende
November 21st 2012
Published: November 21st 2012
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San Miguel de Allende, Mexico


It’s 4:15 in the morning and the roosters are crowing. The sun isn’t up so they were probably just awakened by the roosters that were crowing at 2 AM. I think they were awakened by the fireworks that were going off at 1 in the morning. It’s good that the roosters are crowing, because the construction crew that starts at 6:30 needs to get up. The construction guys will never get to sleep in anyway because the gas delivery truck, with its theme song playing at full volume, comes at 6 o’clock. The trash pickup guy will soon be passing through the neighborhood ringing his metal bar to signal that the trash truck is at the end of the block. It’s also time for the vendors to begin preparing their wares that will go on sale as soon as the sun goes down. The Elote guy will begin calling on the corner, selling his ears of corn and cacahuates (peanuts) to the neighborhood. If today is any kind of religious holiday, there will be a procession through town, with guys shooting fireworks at the front of the crowd to lead the way. Bands can normally be heard throughout the day practicing for the next festival. Sunday is the only day to sleep late in San Miguel de Allende. The morning takes on an eerie silence as everyone takes their only day off from work and school…except for the roosters, which never take a day off…

We have had an interesting first couple of weeks in San Miguel. This is such a picturesque town with wonderful light and clear skies. We have pretty much stayed around the town, which is normally a little boring, but in San Miguel, the next adventure is usually right around the corner. Because we only have street parking here, and it is nearly impossible to find parking anywhere near your house if you move your car,so we have, for the most part just spent the majority of our time walking around the streets of San Miguel.

It is getting in to the holiday season and there are always lots of well-dressed visitors, both Mexican and foreigners, filling the many squares and cobblestone streets, making their way to take advantage of the sales that are taking place in all the local handicraft and art galleries. “Buen Fin”, Mexico’s version of Black Friday is on and all the artisans have discounted prices on the items in their stores. It’s easy to tell the visitors from locals by their sunglasses. It doesn’t seem like the citizens of San Miguel ever wear sunglasses, while all the visitors do.

We normally start off in a different direction from our house each day and follow the sounds and smells where they take us. Nearly every street leads in the direction of another square. We have found several favorites, where we have choice benches staked out that provide great views of the beautiful churches and provide excellent people watching opportunities. We enjoy stopping for snacks at one of the bakeries, ice cream vendors or empanada shops that seem to be on every corner. The food is delicious, fresh and very inexpensive.

It is also bullfight season in San Miguel. We have never attended a bullfight in our time in Mexico or Central America and when we saw the posters advertising one the next evening, we decided to take advantage of the opportunity. During our time in Mexico we have seen many bullfights on television and even have a couple of favorite “toreros”. One of our favorites is “El Payo” who seems to have an extremely theatrical style and always puts on a dramatic and sometimes slightly frightening show. He seems to take chances that other matadors do not, even fighting the bulls on his knees at times. When we saw that he was on the bill of matadors, we didn’t want to miss our chance.

The bullfights started at 8PM. The day was quite warm and we thought that the night would be pleasant with sweaters. We got to the stadium early and had delicious paella and a couple of beers for dinner while we were watching one of the horse mounted bullfighters warm up his specially trained mounts. As the sun went down, the wind picked up and the night became quite chilly. The bullrings seats were made from cement which became very cold as the night went on. We had to pick whether we wanted to sit in the “Sol (sun)” or “Sombra (shade) “. We knew we would probably only go to bullfights once in Mexico so we opted for the more expensive Sombra seats. After buying the seats, we realized that since the bullfight was at night, what difference would it make! We should have spent the extra money on one of the nice seat pads that would have protected us from the evil freezing cement seats.

The bullfights were very exciting and the crowd was very vocal. One bullfight took place on horseback, which we had never seen before, 6 bullfights were standard. The excitement of the bullfight was very much dependent on the bravery of the bullfighter and the courage of the bull. A couple of bullfighters (I won’t mention names) seemed quite timid and did more running than fighting. A couple of the bulls did not seem very interested and seemed to understand their eventual fate. Of course our favorite was “El Payo” Oscar Garcia who did not disappoint. His courage was matched only by the bull. El Payo seemed to know exactly which way the bull would pass and how close he could get without being hit. It was an exciting night and despite the cold was very interesting.

We spent the next part of the week walking the town and taking photos of all of the colonial houses. San Miguel has a tradition of beautiful doors and ironwork on their houses. Many of the doors are original to the house and have wonderful brass knockers and mailboxes. Some of the narrow alleyways (callejones) do not have room for cars and are excellent for strolling and photography.

We did have a couple of opportunities to get out of the city. We visited the UNESCO World Heritage site of Santuario de Atotonilco, which is a church about 10 miles from San Miguel on the road to Dolores Hidalgo. The church is spectacularly decorated on the inside with colorful murals covering almost every available surface. It is quite a comparison between the rather plain exterior and the kaleidoscope of colors inside.

We also visited one of Mexico’s “Pueblo Magico” towns called Mineral de Pozos. Pozos is a former mining town in the high plains north of San Miguel. At one time Pozos had a population of some 70,000 during the height of its silver and gold mining days. Now it is nearly deserted and is mostly ruins with a population of just a few hundred. Many artists are establishing art galleries and boutique hotels in the town and the town is being restored to some of its former glory. We toured the area where one of the mines was located (Santa Brigada). It was a long bumpy road to get to the mine and we could almost hear our poor, newly repaired, car groaning and perhaps saying “Oh no, not again”.

While we enjoyed the town, we wished that we had of visited on a weekend when more of the galleries were open and a few more tourists were in town.

Yesterday was Dia de Revolucion in Mexico and we enjoyed watching the parade to celebrate Mexico’s Revolution. It seemed as if everyone in town was lining the streets to watch the bands and parade queens pass by. Mostly all of the schools were represented and many of the parade participants were dressed in period clothing which always makes for a colorful celebration.

We are enjoying our stay in San Miguel very much. We have decided to make this our home for 2 months total and rest up a little after having made our recent long car trip to the US to have our car repaired. We are making plans for our travels after San Miguel and busily doing lots of research of new adventures in the future. We are looking forward to the holiday season in Mexico which is always one of the best times of the year in the colonial towns of Mexico.


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25th November 2012
Catarinas - San Miguel de Allende

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