The Cobblestones Didn't Keep Her Away....


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Published: January 30th 2017
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Bill and Stirling DickinsonBill and Stirling DickinsonBill and Stirling Dickinson

In 1934 Dickinson and Heath Bowman, whom he had met at Princeton, made a six-month tour of Mexico in a green 1929 Ford Model A convertible. Bowman described their experiences in the light-hearted book Mexican Odyssey, which Dickinson illustrated. The book sold well. The two men then decided to write a novel based in Mexico, choosing to live in San Miguel while writing Death is Incidental, and first building a house that they called "Los Pocitos" in part of the ruins of an old tannery. The property cost just $90. After the book was published, Bowman married and moved away, and Dickinson bought his share of the house. He remained there, a bachelor, living very simply despite having inherited considerable wealth.
We've spent the past week touring around the San Miguel area with my mom and step-dad. I wasn't sure how my mom would navigate the cobblestones, uneven sidewalks, holes, steps and other hazards of the streets here, but she did really well...a few stumbles but no falls! We combined taxis and walking to get around.

We visited the Oratorio in Atononilco, and returned for another swim at the Gruta. We took in the Plant Show and sale in Parque Juarez and the Craft Fair at The Instituto Allende. Bill and Ned went on the Walking Tour, while Mom and I visited my Spanish school and the Artisan Market. We went back to the Botanical Garden and hiked around...and I managed to pass my level two exam in Spanish with 90%!,(MISSING) even though I was only there for two of the four week sessions! On to level 3 next week... We ended their visit with a lovely brunch at the Hotel Santa Monica near Parque Juarez, on Sunday. They left this morning and should be on their way to Newark, and then Hartford soon....

The Instituto Allende has an interesting history, as does its best known Director, Stirling Dickinson. Stirling Dickinson (1909 – October 27, 1998) was an artist who spent much of his life in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato in Mexico, where he was one of the first members of what would become a colony of expatriate artists from the United States.

"In 1938 Dickinson was appointed director of the Escuela Universitaria de Bellas Artes in San Miguel. Dickinson actively promoted the new school, visiting universities and cultural centers and handing out flyers in several U.S, cities. The school mostly targeted foreign students and wealthy Mexicans, but also offered low-cost workshops for local students, teaching traditional weaving and pottery techniques and thus helping to preserve their cultural traditions.

During World War II, Dickinson served in Naval Intelligence and the Office of Strategic Services in Washington and Italy between 1942 and 1945. When World War II ended in 1945, the G.I. Bill funded free education for veterans. Many took the opportunity to study art in San Miguel, where the cost of living was very low. The school hired the muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros as a lecturer, a prominent communist. He had a dispute with the school's owner, Alfredo Campanella, over funding. Most of the students supported Siqueiros, and in the end most of them walked out. The school
Insituto AllendeInsituto AllendeInsituto Allende

Very old dug-out canoes
was forced to close in 1949. Dickinson launched his own school, but without accreditation from the U.S. Embassy had difficulty attracting students.

On 12 August 1950 Dickinson was deported along with five other American teachers and the Canadian couple Leonard and Reva Brooks. The official reason was that they did not have proper work visas. It was said that Campanella had bribed officials to deport the teachers in revenge for the closure of his school. An article in the New York Times said the reason was that they had opposed U.S. involvement in the Korean War. Leonard Brooks was eventually able to get the deportation order lifted through his contact with General Ignacio M. Beteta, whose brother Ramón Beteta Quintana was an influential politician at the national level. On Dickinson's return to San Miguel, he became art director of the newly opened Instituto Allende.

On 29 August 1957 the New York Herald Tribune ran an article titled More than 100 Expatriate Reds in Mexico Viewed as Peril to US. It said: "Two of Mexico's most picturesque communities - Cuernavaca and San Miguel de Allende - have become the headquarters of some of America's richest and most active communists. The real leaders of the group, Embassy sources say, are Matz, , and a so-called 'mystery man' named Sterling Dickinson...". Time magazine ran a version of the story titled "Red Haven" in which it said that Dickinson "keeps open house for communists and fellow travellers." The New York Herald Tribune published an article that praised the institute, the low cost of living and the diversity of the students, making a point of saying "there is nothing Bohemian about the Instituto's group."

Dickinson continued to work at the Instituto Allende until retiring in 1983. Dickinson was charitable, and gave considerable anonymous assistance to the San Miguel community throughout his life there. He was involved in many programs including schools, the Lions club and the local hospital board. On the 400th anniversary of the founding of San Miguel he was formally adopted as a native son of the town. He founded a baseball team in San Miguel, and helped the players financially. In return, they helped him with
Trolley TourTrolley TourTrolley Tour

At the springs
his other passion, orchid collection. Encyclia dickinsoniana and Cypripedium dickinsonianum are named after him. In his old age, after retiring from the Instituto Allende, he became involved in a rural library program, continuing to help until his death in a car accident on October 27, 1998, when his van ran off the road and fell over a 50 foot cliff." Wikipedia

Tomorrow, I go back to school, and in the afternoon we move to our new home way, way up on the hill (the roads are very steep, without sidewalks...). The owner of the house has horses out in the country and we get free horse back rides on Saturday!


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Trolley TourTrolley Tour
Trolley Tour

At the springs
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Parroquia

La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, the current parish church of San Miguel, is unique in Mexico and the emblem of the town. It has a Neo-gothic façade with two tall towers that can be seen from most parts of town. It is one of the most photographed churches in Mexico.[26] The church was built in the 17th century with a traditional Mexican façade. The current Gothic façade was constructed in 1880 by Zeferino Gutierrez, who was an indigenous bricklayer and self-taught architect. It is said Gutierrez's inspiration came from postcards and lithographs of Gothic churches in Europe; however, the interpretation is his own and if more a work of imagination than a faithful reconstruction. In front of this façade is a small atrium, which is guarded by a wrought iron fence. There is a monument in the atrium dedicated to Bishop José María de Jesús Diez de Sollano y Davalos. The San Rafael or Santa Escuela Church is located to the side of the parish. It was founded by Luis Felipe Neri de Alfaro in 1742. The main façade has two levels with arches, pilasters, floral motifs and a frieze on the first level. The second level has a choir window framed by pink sandstone. The bell tower is Moorish. According to legend, this older chapel was the site of the first Christian ceremony in San Miguel.[
Candelaria Flower fairCandelaria Flower fair
Candelaria Flower fair

Good thing I don't live here....my whole retirement check would have gone to plants this month!
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Flower fair

"In Pre-Hispanic San Miguel de Allende this was the time for rituals to bring rain and plentiful crops. By the seventeenth century indigenous communities brought seeds and bulbs to the churches for special blessings bringing a good harvest and the rains of April and May (now normally dry months).
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Flower fair

"For over six decades in Parque Jaurez the spring flower and garden show begins with Candelaria. Dozens of vendors line the walkways of the park, selling everything imaginable for the garden. There is music, food and dancing among the breathtaking flowering plants."
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Flower fair

"Candelaria comes from the word candlemas from when the northern Europeans had mass by candle light to dispel the darkness of winter. Since we are farther south and warmer, Candelaria marks the beginning of Spring. The candles used on Candelaria signify dismissing the cold, awakening the earth and casting out flooding and earthquakes. The candles are also blessed today, then lit to guide lost souls to heaven. They are also a part of the traditions started in honor of Tlaloc, the indigenous God of Rain, that was celebrated this same day.
Flower fairFlower fair
Flower fair

The vendors that come from far away pitch a tent to spend the night in the park.
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Instituto Allende

Murals from the fifties
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Walking tour

Parroquia
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Walking tour

Former Canal family house, richest family in San Miguel at tone time. It's now a bank....


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