South of the Border
by Art Goodtimes
Mar 03, 2011 | 793 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE… Spring’s sweet-scented acacia blooms and blazing bougainvillea made this namesake hilltop municipality a very tempting retreat option at 65. Lots of friends and ex-pats. Cobblestoned streets. A moment sipping jugos and basket weaving rainbow yarns in the Jardin under La Parroquia’s Spanish baroque spires … But this cradle of the Mexican revolution lies deep in Mexico’s central plateau, bounded by sierras east & west, Mexico City to the south and drug cartels to the north … Last year I drove an SUV with a friend both ways through Texas and had no trouble. This year the recent death of an American border agent in a gang attack on an SUV near San Luis Potosí brought a State Dept. travel advisory to a four-state region, including Guanajuato … But I saw no violence in Mexico. Federales staffed the highways and local police the cities and towns. In San Miguel la policia wore walkie-talkies, and many were women. The Tuesday Market up above town was a raucous, mostly Mexican affair, with every manner of WalMartish item for sale – new or used, mariachi soloists playing for tips, wizened grandmother beggars, carnitas and taco stand vendors, fruit carts with plastic cups of mango and dragonfruit, and the occasional officer standing and watching, keeping the peace … Out in the campo (the rural countryside that surrounds the municipality of San Miguel) there were few cars on the paved road to Jalpa. Buses came with some regularity. An occasional bicyclist. Many folks walked – all darker-skinned descendants of the original Indigenos (Chichimecas, Otomí, etc.). Often with their families, goats, burros and sheep in tow. Many of them laborers and maids – humble, good people. But poor and opportunistic as family providers must be. And so there were locked doors and gates and fences. Colorful and ornate, in San Miguel, with some with intricately twisted ironwork. Rock fences where I was staying. Remnants of the last blasts of Palo Huerfano, the extinct volcano that littered the country’s central marine basin with stone, chunks of which had been cleared from pastures-turned-to-fields for generations … Far from violent, the land of de Allende was peaceful. Quiet, except in the city, and even then thick walls and adobe fences tamped out traffic sounds quickly … And beautiful. Walkers were soon lost amid the winding, picturesque streets with their rooftop gardens or resting in the many shaded parks with all manner of trees and shrubbery … Mexico may be the world’s 14th largest nation size, but it ranks third in biodiversity. The country hosts 30,000 species of plants, 25,000 butterflies and moths, and 1,580 species of bees – over 1,500 of which are solitaries that don’t live in hives … The days were mild – warm but not oppressive. The altitude almost matches our own Wright’s Mesa. But it was spring there. The first plants, trees and cacti were all about to bud into bloom … I could see how my friends have fallen in love with the place. Sunny days. Cool nights. The sounds of birds and crickets… The only untoward incident I experienced was when, out for a walk in town on the narrow curb cliffs that pass for sidewalks in the steep crowded streets, an Anglo businessman in white with a goatee muttered as we passed, “Cut your hair and get a real job.” It took me aback and I had to laugh. I hadn’t heard that since the Sixties … And it probably goes to show more the gentrification of the current retiree clientele than any widespread lingering hostility to hippies, artists, beatniks and bohemian émigrés, who first put San Miguel on the U.S. tourist maps – given the town’s phoenix-like recent history (not entirely unlike Telluride’s remake from near-ghost town to resort).

TALKING GOURDS … I was honored to co-lead a Talking Gourds Fire Circle with poet/teacher Judyth Hill one evening at the Simple Choice Farm Carnitas Fest -- as part of the Sixth Annual San Miguel International Writers Conference www.sanmiguelwritersconference.org> … And to lead an open mike the day after I arrived … Later I got to share some performance pieces with Judyth’s lively poetry class at Life Path in San Miguel … And for the rest of the week I got to hang with poets and soccer players, talking John Berryman, Sylvia Plath and Club Barcelona.

SUMMER SOCCER CAMP? … Actually those conversations were with one and the same bilingual young man from Oregon/Hawaii (who’s played and coached soccer for years and has developed his own traveling soccer camp gig) along with his voluble and good-natured paleohippie dad … We watched Real Madrid on Mexican TV, which was a very interesting experience with someone who really knew the game … Anyone who might be interested in bringing the young coach to T-ride for five days to raise the level of our local play, let me know. 327-4767.

BOSQUES’ WAR … Richard Grabman’s startling little chapbook, subtitled: “How a Mexican Diplomat Saved 40,000 from the Nazis” (Editorial Mazatlán, 2007), opened my eyes to the little known heroism of Gilberto Bosques, Mexican consul in Marseilles in the ‘40s – who risked his life and the life of his family to allow enemies of the Third Reich to immigrate to Mexico.



Going fast

in the mountains

shows no respect

for the rest of

the family

who goes slow

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