Friday, December 11, 2009
Warning: Located in the Bajio or "low" region of the state of Guanajuato (despite being at around 6,500 feet), it is far from flat but not quite as steeply hilly as the city of Guanajuato.
Once called San Miguel de Grande, the city was founded by a Franciscan monk in 1542 and became an important stopover on the silver route from Zacatecas. What 18th century Spanish nobility built, Americans saw and appreciated so much they stayed. Most of the 85,000-plus residents are Americans and Canadians.
With English as much a "native" language as Spanish, San Miguel is a Mexican city for Americans and tourists love it - which explains why it's higher on travelers' bucket lists than Guanajuato.
Tip: This large area is blissfully flat. Just behind Parroquia to the right (as you face it) is a nice public bathroom that has a change-making machine (for pesos)!
Facing Parroquia across the square is the historic City Hall.
Directly behind Parroquia is La Capilla, an excellent restaurant with a grand rooftop view.
Tip: Bugumbilia is another restaurant you ought to try. Don't miss the Chiles en Nogada if they are on the menu. (You can find the recipe at my other blog, Food Afar - Recipes from a Travel Writer, www.foodafar.blogspot.com/2009_10_01_archive.html, but your eyes can't show your mouth how good these are.
The first art school in Latin America was founded here and San Miguel is a haven for artists of all kinds - theatrical, musical and visual. The great Mexican entertainer Cantinflas spent time here and brought other thespians and movie stars along. A week does not pass without concerts, plays and exhibitions of some kind.
Writers have been attracted here, too - Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsburg, William Burroughs and Ken Kesey among them.
Missed the week's plays and concerts but I have two recommendations for the visual side.
Farther away - Tip: Take a cab - is Fabrica la Aurora, an art and design center that is one of San Miguel's most interesting destinations. A former, turn-of-the-century textile mill has been transformed into a rambling display of eye candy. Working artists have studios here as do architects and designers and there is a cafe but most of the space is filled with painting, sculpture, furniture, jewelry, antiques, linens and high end accessories.
Festivals are almost as common as the sunshine; www.whatshotinsanmiguel/festivals is a good place to go for info on what and when.