The Heart of San Miguel

posted in: Family and Friends, Mexico | 1
Sam’s homemade Mexican breakfast.  Not our typical breakfast, but very tasty and satisfying!

Our second full day in San Miguel leisurely began with coffee and Sam’s homemade Mexican breakfast of eggs, rice and retired beans, with a local croissant.
(Funny update – My dear friend, Ems quickly wrote to comment on the above sentence: “You know me… I get tickled easily at auto-correct…...So I thought your Mexican breakfast was very appropriate since the two of you are not working any longer….. Those beans had worked LONG ENOUGH!!”)

Ahh, yes, the word was supposed to be “refried” beans!! That d____ autocorrect sure is ticklish!

Al and I ventured out to explore the center of San Miguel on our own. It was a gentle downhill walk.

A map of San Miguel de Allende. The red X marks Casa Garza. The historic center of San Miguel encompasses blocks of narrow streets, alleys, and paths without any traffic lights.
Old steps lead up to a building of red, gold, peach and rose tones.
The blue building stands out on this street. Note those narrow sidewalks. You learn to watch your step and fall into a rhythm of stepping onto the street when you pass someone else. But look first!
What a beautiful stone wall on this building. Small stones are decoratively embedded as details around the larger ones.
Water fountains for horses are a common sight on street corners.

We stopped to spend time in El JardinEl Jardin, pronounced “hardeen” translates as “the garden,” an appropriate name for this central plaza. On the street map above, It is a small green rectangle in the center, and a relatively short walk from Casa Garza. Every town in Mexico, large and small, has a central square. It’s where friends meet, where gossip gets passed around, where food and festivities abound, where everything happens. El Jardin is the heart of San Miguel.

The central plaza of San Miguel has no cars, no street lights, no neon signs, just people strolling and walking around.

The garden part of El Jardin is surrounded and filled with laurel trees, all trimmed in this cylindrical design.

A small wall marks off the rectangular raised center of El Jardin.
La Parroquia’s steeple rises above the tops of the laurel trees.

La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, or just La Parroquia, “the parish church” stands at the edge of El Jardin and can be seen from most places in the city. One might say it is the symbol of San Miguel, similar to what Notre Dame Cathedral or the Eiffel Tower represents for Paris.

Church after church was built on the same spot during the 1600s beginning with a traditional Mexican look and then evolving with each successvie rebuild. Around 1880, Zeferino Gutierrez, a mestizo bricklayer and self-taught architect was hired to construct a new facade for the church. Inspired by European Gothic cathedrals, he communicated his “neo-gothic design ideas to the local craftsmen by drawing with a stick in the clay soil.

La Parroquia is one of the most photographed churches in Mexico. I certainly photographed it every time we strolled past it. The following photos are from different days.

La Parroquia is visible from a myriad of places throughout the city. It truly is the “heart” of San Miguel.
La Parroquia keeps a watchful eye on the happenings in El Jardin.
The pink stone facade shows nicely in these two photographs.
Walking up to the entrance.
La Parroquia towers above us as we stand before it.
The interior is large, more like a cathedral than a “parish church” as La Parroquia is known.
Milagros (“miracles”) were pinned to the skirt of this St. Patrick statue, as well as on other saints stationed around the church. Look closely.

Milagros are small metal religious charms (often representing arms, legs, heads, animals, praying people) found in many areas of Latin America, especially Mexico and Peru.

Found this on the internet for a closer look at Milagros.

The word “Milagro” means “miracle”. A person will ask a favor of a saint and make a pilgrimage to the shrine of that saint. They pin the  Milagros are to some object of devotion in the shrine, such as a saint, sometimes with a note of prayer or thanks, or a photo. If I could have found a Milagros in the shape of a leg I would have said a prayer and pinned it on a saint.

There is a wide street around the Jardin, where people walk, and vendors sell their wares. No vehicles. Some of the buildings surrounding the park have arched openings framing the shops and restaurants inside.

All around the Jardin and in the streets of San Miguel (as well as in tourist shops at the airport) one sees Mexican rag dolls, called “Marias.”  The women in the plaza are descendants of ancient Otomi Indians and hand stitch the rag dolls with with smiling faces, indigenous-like dress, and hair braided with ribbons. The Marias are considered Mexican folk art at its most authentic. I regret that I did not get one.

An Otomi  woman making and selling Marias dolls on a side street near El Jardin.
Women making and selling “Marias” in El Jardin. I wish I had bought one to bring home.
More entrepreneurs selling hats. And wearing hats, many hats.

Surprise, surprise, we had to find helados (ice cream) for Al, he was feeling deprived. Fortunately, there was a Dolphy’s, the Mexican ice cream chain right on the corner.

Dolphy’s for helados– Al feels better!

Reading the flavors of helados proved to be challenging for us gringoes, without Sam along. Al decided on a flavor called “chamoy” which I thought might be raspberry which he loves. Chamoy sounded similar to chambord, the raspberry liquor, right???  Wrong. 🙂  Al liked the taste, but noticed that although it was fruity,  it wasn’t raspberry, and it had a “kick” to it. Well, we had to find out what this flavor was. Chamoy is a fruity and savory hot sauce made from pickling fruits in a salt brine and adding chili powder. It is also used as a flavoring for frozen treats giving a unique flavor combination that is simultaneously sweet, salty, spicy, and cold. Mystery solved.

Later that afternoon we reunited with Sam and Kayda for an early rooftop dinner at El Pagaso, one of their favorite restaurants.

Dinner at El Pagaso                                                                                                                                        Chiles en Nogada – Stuffed green Poblano chilis covered in walnut sauce and garnished with pomegranate seeds. Don’t recall what anyone else had to eat, I was so enthralled with my Chilis en Nogada. Maybe my favorite dinner of the trip!

The day wasn’t over yet!  We went to the movies, but don’t assume that was too ordinary to do while visiting a foreign country. “Pocket Movie” (yes, that is its name) is a tiny theater tucked behind the city walls.

The courtyard of Pocket Movie – delightful setting!
To the side of the courtyard are the entranceways to the two small theaters, each holding only about 20 people, in very comfortable seats.
Date Night!!!!
We sipped very nice margueritas while we waited in the charming courtyard. The cost of $6 each includes the movie, a drink (alcohol), and a bag of popcorn. What a deal!!
We watched Light Between the Oceans. I had the book and wanted to see the movie. It was a tearjerker. I probably didn’t prepare Al, Sam and Kayda enough for that.
Before we left the centro area, we had a chance to see La Parroquia at night, dressed in her lights..
The day ended with flan under a full moon on Casa Garza’s rooftop terrace.

  1. Mary Ann

    I felt as if I was there with you. Wonderful photos and descriptions.

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