Some jealous expats, stranded in outlying parts of Mexico, regularly hiss, scoff, snort and make other unpleasant noises at the mention of San Miguel, dismissing it as a Disneyfied space station, any more lacking any feel of the “real Mexico,” whatever that is.
There’s some truth to that. As a result of San Miguel’s explosive, and increasingly disorderly, growth into a major magnet for tourists—the majority of them Mexicans, it seems—on weekends and holidays the streets of the Centro are impossibly clogged with cars and hipster chilangos decked out in the obligatory mirror aviator shades and designer jeans. God help us when Chinese tourists discover us.
Such carping aside, let me rush to add that San Miguel also has become a major cultural center, not quite Paris in the 20s, but vibrant and varied enough in its offerings of stimulating events to keep mature minds occupied, and certainly much more fun than sitting around Pátzcuaro’s main square sucking on a cappuccino while rhapsodizing, to no one in particular, about the joys of living among “real Mexicans.”
By comparison, let me brag about just some of the recent cultural offerings in San Miguel. On Friday, Feb. 1, there was a performance we missed by the Atlanta Chamber Players, as part of the Pro Musica series, whose offerings grow every year. The lovely setting is St. Paul’s Anglican Church, which has great acoustics too, even if sitting on wooden pews starts to feel rather penitential after the first hour.
Instead, on Saturday we headed out to Querétaro for the New York Metropolitan Opera’s simulcast of Bizet’s “Carmen,” which is also presented locally at the Angela Peralta Theater, a quaint but antiquated venue in the Centro.
We much rather go to a state-of-the-art cinema in Querétaro, with reclining leather seats, great sound and projection equipment, and roving waiters to bring you coffee and churros, or even sushi, which is the proper way to follow the travails of Carmencita, Don José and the gang. For eight or nine bucks a seat, you can’t beat it for entertainment value.
On Monday, we went to the annual Candelaria flower show. Maybe because it was a Monday, the show didn’t seem as lively or crowded as years past but good enough to pick up a half-dozen succulents I didn’t have, and for Stew to buy his umpteenth pot of cilantro, parsley and mint, herbs he probably is never to going to use but insists are always good to have at hand.
|Succulents planted in a pot carved out of volcanic rock. I received
this as a gift from Karen. She and her husband Jim are old friends
from Chicago. I had never seen these but found them on sale
at this year’s Candelaria Flower Show.
Tuesday night was a twofer. One offering was a lecture by Francisco Cantú, a young Mexican-American writer and academic, whose book “The Line Becomes a River,” based on his experiences working for the U.S. Border Patrol along the Mexican border for four years, has been acclaimed and criticized by both pro- and anti-immigration voices. This lecture was sponsored by the San Miguel chapter of PEN international, an writers’ organization that fights for freedom of expression.
Another lecture on Tuesday was part of the “Conversations with Big Thinkers” series, which I’d never heard of, featuring John Perkins, a former Peace Corps volunteer and economist, who wrote “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man,” which supposedly stayed on the New York Times’ best seller list for over a year. We’d never heard of the book either. The name of his presentation was “Economic Colonialism and the Redemptive Power of Indigenous Cultures.” Hmm. That’s heavy, man.
So Cantú got our vote, because, coincidentally, I’m also about two-thirds through his book and wanted to meet the guy. A small auditorium at the Centro de Bellas Artes was packed. That’s another blog post.
Next week the San Miguel Writers’ Conference and Literary Festival will feature six author presentations three of which we had planned to attend. We’ll be able to attend only one, on Wednesday, by Paul Theroux, a well known travel I’ve never read.
I wish we could attend Friday’s lecture by Adam Gopnik, the brainiest staff writer at the New Yorker magazine, which is no fish tank of dumb guppies to begin with. The following day, Susan Orlean will speak. Her book “The Library Book” is on my to-read pile, along with Michelle Obama’s memoir. But alas, on Saturday we leave for the beach for eight days.
One thing to note is that these are just selections of events in San Miguel. Someone else might have opted for one of the play readings, art openings or photo shows presented year-round. You pick some and miss some according to your interests.
One event not be missed, though, is Ron Stephens’ three-quarters-of-a-century birthday party on Tuesday. Ron, a good friend (maybe not after he reads this) is one of the most hyper-social, or socially hyper, people I’ve ever known. His bulging Rolodex of friends, acquaintances and hangers-on must rival Henry and Nancy Kissinger’s. His party invitations are more like all-points-bulletins. Even Stew and I get invited.
Indeed, I expect everyone in town will be there. Listen, even if you don’t know Ron, come anyway. He’s a nice guy. He’ll be glad to meet you and add your name to his Rolodex—whoever the hell you are.
Two corrections: The Cantú lecture was sponsored by the San Miguel chapter of PEN, an international writers’ organization fighting for freedom of expression. The Theroux talk, sponsored by the San Miguel Writers’ Conference, will be on Wednesday, February 13. I corrected the post above to reflect those changes. Ron Stephens’ birthday bash, however, is still scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday at 4 p.m.
4 thoughts on “San Miguel is a-buzzing. Really.”
You nailed the Patzcuaro reference, except that would be a cafe americano negro! Plus there isn't a decent restaurant in the whole town.
“Confessions” was a great read, as was “Becoming”. Give Ron a big birthday hug from us, we had a lot of good laughs with him and Fred three years ago…
We read the book of the Economic Hitman many years ago, It is very good. Please tell Ron happy birthday from us. We so enjoyed our time with him three years ago. Cheers
I live in a small town in Alberta, Canada and have a friend in Mexico. You are a very interesting writer and I always enjoy your Blogs, no matter what subject you write on It sounds like you and Stew have a very intereting life.