On the bus coming from Guanajuato, the sun was setting on the city, and I remembered finally why San Miguel is always pink, in my memory. The city's cathedral is built of a rock with a decidedly pink cast, and many of the buildings seem rosy in the early and late sun.
My friend Mike refers to his first marriage of 9 months (and then divorce) as his "starter" marriage. I like to think of San Miguel as my starter trip, the first place in Mexico I visited after a 40 year hiatus. I've now been there three times and this third visit felt like coming home. Friends live there, and friends from New Mexico are in an RV park off San Antonio, and people I met in San Cristobal live there too. I know the streets from having walked them many times, where to buy groceries, even where to get a haircut if I needed one, and the location of the best ice cream in all Mexico is a block from the RV park. (Santa Clara Creamery for any who want to get some!)
When John and I visited San Miguel for the Bicentennial (El Grito and the Crush) we met Alexa, whom John nicknamed Miss Scarlet for her southern drawl. This trip, I stayed with her for four days and visited Joyce and George in their RV which they've named Rosinante for Don Quixote's horse. (They have a smaller RV at home named Rosi Dos). George is a guide on tours benefitting the Patronato de los Ninos, an organization that helps Mexican children. It's a volunteer position, and he does a fabulous job. I had always meant to take that tour some time, but never got around to it. Joyce and I met up with George and his group and then traipsed all over the antique-est part of town getting the low-down on the history, politics, religion, and local cuisine. That day, the Chichimecas were celebrating.
|Chichimecas in the church|
|Dancing in the streets|
|Such incredible costumes!|
The second day, unbeknownst to me, it was Joyce's birthday. She wanted to go out to see the Capillas, the tiny little churches out in the countryside, in the ejidos, the little communities that surround San Miguel. So George unhooked Rosinante from her water/sewer/electric moorings, and off we went bouncing down dirt roads and occasionally overtaking a trope (speed bump) a little too quickly.
|Many illustrated stories in the Bible|
First stop was Atotonilco, a little town north of the city with a very old and interesting church. Inside are painted the stories of the bible. The murals cover every inch of the inside of the church, the ceiling, the walls, everything but the pews and the floor. A dirt road then led us towards the ejidos and their colorful little chapels.
It's always fun for to be with someone with a vehicle because it unleashes us from the standard routes that buses and combies must take. We stopped at every capilla we could find, including some that were down a burro path off the dirt road. At one place four little girls came to talk to us. I could see a man, presumably a dad, off in the distance watching us closely. I waved at him and he smiled. The girls were so cute. Joyce asked them about school, and did they go to the Capilla on Sundays, etc. The smallest one looked to be about four and was quite talkative and bright. It turned out that she was actually seven years old, just very tiny in stature.
|George and Joyce at a Capilla|
|A little larger Capilla|
That evening, the RV neighbors were having a birthday party for Joyce. I was surprised she'd never mentioned it, but she said the trip to the campo had been George's present and she was glad I could come along. So was I.
|Ben and Gerry|
Next stop: Oaxaca