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Posts Tagged ‘Central Mexico’

I am writing to you today from what is likely the most beautiful Starbucks in Mexico, possibly Latin America. Huge soaring ceilings, covered in aged bricks, from which hang large, elaborate wrought iron chandeliers. There is a lovely flower filled inner courtyard, as there is in most homes, hotels and restaurants in the charming colonial village of San Miguel de Allende. It’s one of those places where people come for a week and buy a house on day 3. I just finished chatting with an American couple (most everyone here who is Anglo is from the US or Canada) who were on their way to an appointment with an architect to look at drawings for their rebuild of an 19th century townhome. Yesterday, they were looking at condos to rent for a few weeks.

San Miguel (or SMA as the locals call it) has been accused of being “Mexico lite” or even “Disney-Mex”, but it is actually a little more interesting than those monikers might suggest. Those who are being  a trifle unkind call it “Club Med for Seniors”, but that’s not entirely accurate either.

In fact, I have had a difficult time pinpointing precisely makes this town of 140,000 so appealing to 5,000 foreigners, mas o meno. There is the dry mountain air, the normally pleasant weather year-round (not when I have been here, sadly), the charming 17th and 18th century colonial architecture,  and the established infrastructure of safe clean streets, boutique hotels, long or short-term rentals, and a variety of restaurants and activities. 

 I am reminded of Richard Florida’s thesis on the importance of the “Creative Class to the viability and vibrancy of a city:  there are more genuine and wannabe artists, craftspeople, and writers per square foot here than anywhere else I have been. Now of course, many of them are well over 50 (I actually bring the average age down among the foreigners!) and are discovering or disparing of their latent creative abilities well into retirement age.

Or they may be seeking spiritual enlightenment through a personal journey or one assisted by the many spiritual leaders or groups here about. It is like Taos New Mexico in that way, and indeed there are many Americans from that part of the US. I also sense overtones of Ubud, Bali, where many Americans, (ok mostly women)  have settled into a life of yoga, mediation and the elusive search for inner peace.

But there are also lots of Texans, of the broad drawl, big hats, big hair, and lots of flashy diamonds and silver.  For as many seekers of inner truth through mediation and reflection,  there are an equal number  who apparently prefer to find it in the bottom of a martini glass. 2 for 1 cocktail hours are the norm, and the pours are scary generous.  Combine that with the high altitude and things get pretty funky here come midnight. Live music is everywhere: jazz for listening, salsa for dancing and the oldies for reminiscing with your tequila and cervaza.

But likely the most striking thing for me about SMA, and I think the biggest influence on its Anglo culture is the sheer number of women of a certain age. Entrepreneurs, “party people”, or earth mother types, they are all here and in quantity. There are couples for sure, a sizable gay community,  and some single straight guys (the odds are so much in their favour, it’s truly an embarassment of riches for them and they know it!)

What does this mean for the traveler? Well, it is a wonderful place for learning. Many of these women have engaged  and enriched the community by organizing festivals for film and writing, are teaching painting, weaving, photography or writing,  or have organized lectures with visiting authors or knowledgeable speakers on interesting topics. It’s not to say that men don’t take part or lead,  but truly, estrogen drives this place. For a women traveling alone or looking to find a community where she can find a niche or create one, SMA is a pretty good place to be.

The other side effect of  having all of these women residents is that SMA is probably the most friendly place that I have ever been. I cannot tell you how many coffee or cocktail conversations have led to dinner invitations. You just need to look up, make eye contact and smile, and you have a new friend in the making. Residents pride themselves on being helpful too, so you never need worry about how to get something done, or who is the best source for whatever. Just ask, and the right business card will be in front of you that afternoon.

I have much more to write, but I am off to cooking class, my third this week. Tomorrow, I will share a recipe or two:  I have finally learned how to use all of those dried peppers I see in the market. Such fun!

Adios.

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