Last month I had the pleasure to visit Guanajuato in Mexico; I stayed in a peculiar small town called San Miguel de Allende, I was there thanks to a course I took in college. The place was beautiful and the locals were charming. The place itself, the people, the weather, and the food was all very nice. The rich history and beauty of the place was stimulating. The cobble stone streets, the colorful colonial houses, and the Baroque ornaments everywhere were signs of the rich past, of a once affluent colonial town. Many houses had balconies with vine flowers hanging, doors knobs of forge iron.The folk art and galleries throughout the town was the other aspect of San Miguel that got me. Craftsmanship and art was everywhere. One of our many stops in our visit was La Aurora, a place that housed several other galleries. In La Aurora all the galleries had quality work that just amazed me. We also visited la Escuela de Bellas Artes (The school of fine arts), a major school of art in Mexico, this institution has a school in San Miguel, which was in a big colonial building that resembled an old monastery. I was glad to hear my school had some sort of partnership with them, and that in the future the school will be working with them more closely.
The place had genuine hospitality, very charismatic. To my surprise in this almost remote town there were a lot of people from the United States and other countries that now live in San Miguel; I could not keep up with the stories I heard of people coming to San Miguel for couple days and ended-up living here. I even watched a documentary about it, and although there is a big community of foreigners, the environment and the peculiarity of San Miguel seems to be intact, it is as if it were a priority for the locals to preserve this place’s charm and authenticity. I say this because the everyday life of the people from San Miguel does not seem to have been interrupted by the tourism. People really live a simpler life in this small town. In the streets people walked with no rush and cars yield to pedestrians. I know this sounds quite normal, but to put it in perspective there is no traffic signs in the city, no traffic lights, or crosswalk stripes in intersections yet people walk with no rush. I thought it was interesting that the only sign I remember was when entering the city, this sign said: In San Miguel the maximum speed is 20km/hr. This means about 12 miles/hr and in reality people do follow this. For me that was a proof people is a lot more considerate, they do not seem bothered when stopping in the middle of the street for people, I even remember asking a taxi driver for directions and he responded sincerely. The house where I stayed with other friends also added to the charm; the place was called house of the flowers.
One day while I was walking the streets I realized I got used to seeing people chatting everywhere at all times. So I stopped and paid attention, they really seemed to be holding a conversation at all times. After couple minutes I looked again and I noticed that everyone seemed to be part of the same community, the same group. Young and old they all mingle. It was almost like no one wanted to stand out or be different, judging by what I saw of course. Very different from other places I have seen. In other cities people want to stand out from one another, even I feel like that sometimes. In San Miguel I do not, this place is different. Different in the sense that makes me feel like I can be part of a big community with ease and no effort. A combination of the beauty of the place, the appreciation for art that the town had made my time here a real experience. Over all it was just a treat to visit San Miguel. It helped me clear my mind and enjoy myself.
The people I met and remember are just incredible. For instance the day we met Pablo Ortiz Monasterio, a renowned Mexican photographer, we were at the balcony of a bar that had a view to La Parroquia, a medieval gothic church in the center of the town, Pablo introduced himself and his daughter Nico. I thought they were candid and friendly. Two days later Pablo gave us a presentation on some of the photo books he had worked on, and stayed after to have dinner with us. He was chatty had a good sense of humor-to sum it up, the life of a party. He spent the night talking with everyone, I exchanged couple word with him about his work, later I talked with Nico whom had been in San Miguel to make him company. We had a long conversation about the fascinating and at times scary incertitude that lays ahead after our graduations, theater, life, traveling, and soon we saw how much we had in common; it was interesting and amusing all at the same time.
I love photography and I used to take pictures all the time in my first two years in college, for me it was a way of documenting this memorable time. Unfortunately, I stopped taking so many pictures after my sophomore year. Being in Mexico gave a good reason to pick up my camera again, so I took as many pictures as I possibly could, I sometimes shot the same place twice. Out of all my pictures the ones taken at night were the ones I liked the most, so I started to take more pictures during the night.
Towards the end of the trip, the last couple days in San Miguel made me feel mellow. I often see myself as a troubled kid, I have trouble feeling content and balanced. Sometime this struggle makes me self aware so I constantly try to work on my flaws, but without too much success, and the comments I heard about myself from people I had just met and some people I already knew were very optimistic. It was almost a sign of how pragmatic my troubles and my attempts to grow out of these struggles had become. People usually tell me what a calm temper I appear to have, but I always thought that was just a reflection of my ever-going self-observation. It was not in my thoughts yet to accept that I was actually making any change on myself because I still believe there is an immense room for improvement, but is good to hear I have made some progress. San Miguel has a charisma and color that is just welcoming. I understand why there are many stories of people staying here after a short visit. In my ten days there, I felt seduced by the peculiarity of the place. There I took a different perspective on myself and observed a community behaving in a way I had not seen before. For a moment, I too felt that I could live there, to visit San Miguel was just a treat, I hope I have a chance to visit it again in the future.