15 matches for SMA
New / Old / A to Z / Z to A
Nov 7, 2018 Wed
Mad Max and Murals    Mexico SMA
Nov 8, 2018 Thu
Dia uno, San Miguel de Allende    Mexico SMA
Nov 9, 2018 Fri
Dia dos, San Miguel    Mexico SMA
Nov 10, 2018 Sat
Galeria Atotonilco    Mexico SMA
Nov 11, 2018 Sun
Sunday in San Miguel    Mexico SMA
Nov 12, 2018 Mon
Vicente Fox    Mexico SMA Politics US Politics
Nov 13, 2018 Tue
Casita del Maguey    Mexico SMA
Nov 14, 2018 Wed
Brrrr    Mexico SMA
Nov 14, 2018 Wed
La Parroquia de San Miguel    Mexico SMA
Nov 15, 2018 Thu
Mysteries    Mexico SMA
Nov 15, 2018 Thu
Bellas Artes    Mexico SMA
Nov 16, 2018 Fri
Shopping & eating in San Miguel    Mexico SMA
Nov 17, 2018 Sat
El Charco del Ingenio    Mexico SMA
Nov 17, 2018 Sat
Evening in San Miguel    Mexico SMA
Nov 18, 2018 Sun
Balloon    Mexico SMA

Mad Max and Murals

Wednesday • November 7, 2018

We got up early today, Ubered1 to the Merida airport, then flew to Mexico City. There we were met by a Bajiogo shuttle. We quickly discovered it was piloted by Mad Max. So I put in some earbuds, listened to the last chapters of a Trollope2, and kept my eyes averted from the road and threatened carnage ahead. After several hours of pedal to the metal, dodging between cars, trucks, and construction zones, Max suddenly slowed. We'd arrived in quaint, cobblestoned San Miguel. This is looking very different from Merida.

Our driver left us at the door of a striking ultra-modern glass and cement architectural delight. From what I've seen so far, of the house and the colourful city, it looks like San Miguel will be a visual feast.

In the meantime, we gotta eat. So we stocked up the fridge from a nearby grocery then headed out for dinner. Tired, hungry, we'd not eaten since breakfast at the airport, we resorted to our fave cuisine, pizza. Yeah, I know, pizza in Mexico, why would one eat pizza in Mexico, but why not? And they had my numero uno, a thin crust Margherita with anchovies.

Upon leaving the aptly named Neapolitan Pizza, which by the way was excellent, we found ourselves refreshed and surrounded with murals and I love murals. The first time any murals caught my attention was in Valparaiso. The colourful public art transformed the town, the seaside setting being beautiful but the architecture not. Turns out, San Miguel de Allende has murals, too, though they are just an added bonus to the charming architecture. I've a few mural photos below.

1We'd not used Uber prior to Merida. We quickly became fans of the no-cash-needed service.

2Trollope's stories of life in Victorian England are absolutely nothing like Mad Max.

Neapolitan Pizza      Photos   
The small door to the left of the mural leads to a second floor pizza kitchen and from there a tiny winding staircase leads to a roof top patio. Excellent pizza.
Mural      Photos   
Mural      Photos   
Mural      Photos   

Dia uno, San Miguel de Allende

Thursday • November 8, 2018
Yellow building      Photos   
Evening light      Photos   
Street scene      Photos   
One of many churches      Photos   
Street musicians      Photos   
They grow 'em tall in SMA      Photos   
Parroquia de San Miguel Archangel      Photos   
Parroquia de San Miguel Archangel      Photos   


Dia dos, San Miguel

Friday • November 9, 2018

Despite what many assume, civilized coexistence in a culture of tolerance is not always the norm, or even universally desired. Democracy is a hard-won, easily rolled-back state of affairs from which many secretly yearn to be released. Uki Goi, an Argentinian writer, in the New York Review of Books

A discouraging thought, but I figure it's better to face the reality that we aren't all on the same page as to how best we should live. The recent election has driven home the point. It should have been a blue blowout, instead it was a draw. I'm left wondering how half the electorate could be such idiots.


We're having a wonderful time in SMA (San Miguel de Allende). The weather is great, with clear skies and comfortably cooler than the Yucatan, the food is good and nicely priced, the music is everywhere and pleasing to the ears, and the town is full of eye candy. Topping it off, the house we are staying in is an architectural work of art --- we've even befriended the architects, but more on that in a future photo-filled post.

SMA has a reputation as a gringo town, and while there is a large community of ex-pats plus tourists, it's still overwhelmingly non-gringo, which is a good thing. As in Merida, the locals are very friendly and helpful, they are always ready with a smile and a buenos dias, and they take my feeble attempts at Spanish with good humor. This certainly contrasts with my experiences in France.

A couple more kudos which also apply to Meridians: they have the queueing thing down, all you have to do is see how they line up for the collectivos. And I rarely smell cigarettes, when I do the source is usually a gringo. A big contrast with, say, Italy and Greece where it feels like everyone chain smokes.

Complaints? Hmm, the sidewalks could be wider. But it's an old town, there's only so much space, so aside from banning cars I don't see a solution. At least the sidewalks here and in Merida are clean and in reasonable condition. As I've written previously, Buenos Aires retains the crown for crappiest sidewalks, both in terms of disrepair and dog poop.

I'm listening to War/No More Trouble by Playing for Change.

View of SMA from Mirador      Photos   
Biblioteca store      Photos   
We stopped by the library to get tickets to a talk by former president Vicente Fox. Walking into the library store I was blown away by the eye-grabbing mural covering the ceiling and the upper walls. It's a really nice library complete with the requisite inner courtyard and garden.
Street vendors      Photos   
Students catch ride on passing truck      Photos   
Plaza de Toros      Photos   
The gate to the bullring was open so we walked in to explore. What we didn't know is that the bullring was closed. Fortunately a groundskeeper saw us and called out to us just before they locked it up. Otherwise I guess we'd still be there.
Plaza de Toros      Photos   
Plaza de Toros      Photos   
Note the dog on the roof      Photos   
Street vendors      Photos   
Parque Benito Juarez      Photos   
A very beautiful and well maintained (like the rest of SMA) park.
Just outside      Photos   
We stopped at Baja Fish Taquito for a delicious and cheap late-afternoon lunch.
Blue door bakery      Photos   
I've included this picture to remind me to mention the nice collection of bakeries in SMA and because it's mentioned in the book On Mexican Time. I learned the baked-goods-shopping process by watching other shoppers in Merida: take a big round silver tray and a pair of tongs, help youself to the baked goods, take the tray to the lady (haven't seen any men yet) to wrap and price the goods, then pay the cashier. Most bakeries are amazingly cheap.
Flock of birds      Photos   
Lots of road work in SMA      Photos   
Several streets in SMA are under construction (putting in new pipes? replacing cobblestones?) and they work very late into the evening.

Galeria Atotonilco

Saturday • November 10, 2018

We ubered out to Galeria Atotonilco to see Mayer Shacter's collection of Mexican folk art. An impressive collection, with so much on display that at first it's a bit overwhelming. The building, which doubles as Shacter's home, is by Cathi and Steven House, the same architects for our home. It's about 20 minutes from SMA. Most of the artwork is for sale, with prices in the range of about 1,000-75,000 pesos.

Galeria Atotonilco      Photos   
Galeria Atotonilco      Photos   
Galeria Atotonilco      Photos   

Sunday in San Miguel

Sunday • November 11, 2018
Pointing to the door      Photos   
A few steps from our house on calzada de la Presa there is a church fronted with this circular object which makes me think of a mouth with pointed teeth. It provides a curious framing for the front door.
Carmen Jimenez' gallery exhibit      Photos   
A few meters from the circle with spikes is a gallery exhibiting Carmen Jimenez' ceramic works. This woman looks to be emerging from stone, or maybe a wrapping, and she's releasing rose petals as she appears.
Carmen Jimenez' Greed      Photos   
Carmen created a series of ceramic women titled greed, sloth, envy, and so on. This lady, Greed, is reaching for one more of what she already has a lot. Not pretty, but eye catching.
Carmen Jimenez' Sloth      Photos   
Carmen Jimenez' Transformation      Photos   
Mural      Photos   
As mentioned in a previous post, the north side of town, near Neapolitan Pizza, is a neighborhood with a number of murals.
Mural      Photos   
Church      Photos   
SMA is chock full of churches. The colours of this church, the orange against the blue sky, caught my eye.
Doorway      Photos   
I think he's going the wrong way      Photos   
A line of men on horses were slowly threading there way against the traffic in a car-clogged street.
Mexican flag      Photos   
Evening on Conde del Canal      Photos   
I'm standing on a narrow bridge, on Quebrada, looking west down Conde del Canal. This bridge is one of several locations mentioned in Tony Cohan's book On Mexican Time. For fun we're trying to find some of them. We've yet to find the author's street.
Yellow, blue and purple      Photos   
Evening on the street      Photos   

If only the universe could pause for awhile, to extend the duration of the evening light. I know, the soft light offers itself twice a day, but I've not the dedication most mornings to catch the early one.

This shot captures the typical narrowness of the sidewalks in the two Mexican towns I've visited.

Courtyard peek      Photos   
As in Merida, as you walk down the street, scrunched up on the narrow sidewalks, dodging slow-moving cars and squeezing past other pedestrians, typically with a smile and a buenos dias or buenos tardes or buenos noches, as you walk if you turn to look in an open door you see a whole rich world inside, an art gallery, a grocery, a bakery (yum!), or, like in this shot, an inviting restaurant. The hidden and then the sudden reveal.
Painting      Photos   
A quadriptych hanging over the doorway into a restaurant.
Wedding pose      Photos   
These three were posing for their photographer. They are on the steps of the Parroquia on the Jardin Allende, the city's main square.
Ready to play      Photos   
The day ends on the Jardin Allende, the main square, which is full of people, and where I find these fellows suited up and ready to entertain.
Balloons for sale      Photos   
At least her load isn't heavy, but it sure looks awkward. Earlier in the day I caught a glimpse of a balloon seller squeezing his wares into a collectivo. Lots of people working hard to survive. Yet another reminder that I've been gifted a charmed life.


Vicente Fox

Monday • November 12, 2018
MexicoSMAPoliticsUS Politics
Vicente Fox      Photos   

Vicente Fox, president of Mexico from 2000 to 2006, spoke in San Miguel this evening. A member of the National Action Party (PAN), he was the first president to break the hold of the International Revolutionary Party (PRI) since 1929.

Fox talked on a broad range of political, economic, and humanitarian topics, took questions from the audience, and then concluded with a discussion of one of the nonprofits he is working with, CRISMA, a therapeutic service for low-income families in SMA.

Coming into the evening I knew nothing of Fox other than he held office as president of Mexico and that he was in an over-the-top video announcing his candidacy for president of the United States.

Fox shared his thoughts on everything from the European Union (he considers it hugely successful), referendums (BREXIT and the recent cancellation of the new Mexico City airport, both of which he's in strong disagreement), NAFTA, the wall (the US will have to waste its own money if it wants one), the migrant caravan (refugee problems are best solved at the source), drug trafficking and its associated violence (he favours legalizing all drugs), populism (dangerous but hopefully the pendulum swings back soon), and whether running a government is the same as running a business (it isn't).

Fox made no effort to hide his disdain for the current occupant of the White House. Fox came across as rational and pragmatic, and a bit right of center. He gave short shrift to the problem of income inequality, preferring to focus on wealth creation versus redistribution. But he took challenging questions in stride, such as the correlation between Coke consumption --- Fox was once a Coke executive --- and obesity.

Curiously, there was no visible security for the ex-president. As far as I could tell Fox had no secret service and there were no metal detectors for the audience, he was just a guy on stage giving a talk and answering questions from the audience. Um, who said Mexico was a dangerous place?

I'm listening to David Sylvian's Nostalgia.


Casita del Maguey

Tuesday • November 13, 2018

Our house, Casita del Maguey, is one of two houses squeezed onto a narrow city lot on Calzada de la Presa1 In San Miguel. The architects, Cathi and Steven House, live nearby and use the casitas as rental property and as an exhibit for architecture students. Shortly after we arrived a class of Cal Poly students were here, exploring both of the homes. The Houses are both super friendly and helpful and we've run into them numerous times in town, such as at last night's address by president Fox.

The one bedroom, one and a half bath casita is visually stunning. It has tall ceilings, walls of glass, cantilevered walkways, multiple decks, comfortable modern furniture, and tasteful colors and art. It also has in-floor heat plus whole-house potable water so you can drink water from any tap. It shares a small pool with the next door house. The wonderful blocks-long maze of the Mercado de Artesanias, which reminds me of Istanbul's grand bazarre, is just steps away and the shops and restaurants of central SMA are within a few blocks.

Cathi and Steven designed the house to be light and airy and to feel more spacious than it really is. Interesting architectural details abound. It is a feast for the eyes as well as being a comfortable place to hang out while visiting SMA.


The house has downsides. This is not a place for those who like privacy. Being so open inside, you can't, say, listen to music in the living room and have someone sleeping in the bedroom. The house has so many lights and so many light switches that I find myself going up and down the stairs searching for the switch that controls that last light left on before going to bed.

But the biggest problem is the house seems to be unheated2. I figure the in-floor heat --- first floor only --- isn't up to the task. The interior spaces, the single-pane glass walls and skylights that run the length of the house, and the gaps around the exterior doors, all is too much for the heating system. Outside it's just above freezing, inside we are wearing long johns, winter coats, and wool hats.

But it sure is pretty.

1Calzada de la Presa has several other names: Chorro, Barranca, Murllo, and Nuez.

2Steven House is looking to address this, so maybe the house does have heat.

Entryway      Photos   
Stairs to rooftop deck      Photos   
First floor      Photos   
Stairs      Photos   
Kitchen and garden      Photos   
Front garden      Photos   
Bridge      Photos   
Floating ceiling      Photos   
Stairs and ceiling      Photos   
Glass shower enclosure      Photos   
Bedroom floor and kitchen      Photos   
Rooftop deck      Photos   
Shadows      Photos   


Wednesday • November 14, 2018

A cold morning in San Miguel, it is 0° (32F) outside and 13° (57F) in la casita. Hoping for some sunshine. In the meantime we are heading out to look for a cafe that has some heat

One of many at Casa de los Soles      Photos   
Casa de los Soles      Photos   

La Parroquia de San Miguel

Wednesday • November 14, 2018

La Parroquia de San Miguel Archangel, the current parish church of San Miguel, is unique in Mexico and the emblem of the town. It is one of the most-photographed churches in Mexico and the two tall towers of its neo-Gothic facade can be seen from most parts of town. The church was built in the 17th century with a traditional Mexican facade. The current Gothic facade was constructed in 1880 by Zeferino Gutierrez, an indigenous bricklayer and self-taught architect. It is said Gutierrez's inspiration came from postcards and lithographs of Gothic churches in Europe; however, the interpretation is his own and more a work of imagination than a faithful reconstruction. Wikipedia

The inside of the church is well done, but it's the exterior that is so striking. The pinkish-orange colours and the three-dimensionality of the steeple are like a Disney fairy castle.

La Parroquia de San Miguel       Photos   
La Parroquia de San Miguel       Photos   
La Parroquia de San Miguel       Photos   


Thursday • November 15, 2018

A willing if untalented gardener, he collages cuttings in pots in strange combinations, confuses weeds and plants. He's not much of a painter, carpenter, or plumber either, though he does a little of all of these things: milusos, as Mexicans say, a thousand uses, a handyman. Tony Cohan, On Mexican Time

My hands are freezing as I write this, I can only drink so many cups of coffee to keep warm, I'll be jittery if I don't stop. We emailed Steven last night regarding the heating problem and in short order he was at our door. I didn't share my thoughts on the construction of the house. He assured us the heat should be up to the task and said a serviceman had been called. I just hope by serviceman he doesn't mean Alejandro, the friendly caretaker who makes me think of Hilario, the handyman in Cohan's book


Steven stayed awhile, he's a bit of a raconteur, a person who finds talking easy, who dominates conversation, but fortunately his talk is interesting.

My mother used to say avoid the word "I" in conversation if you want to be considered a good conversationalist, and it's stuck with me, as I listen to others I find myself counting the I's in their sentences. It's a word I work to avoid, but avoiding the word doesn't guarantee anything, you still need something interesting to say. Steven is free with the I's but he still keeps my attention.

He saw my battered copy of Cohan's book and brightened, Tony is a friend and client. I probed for an answer to the location of Calle Flor and Steven confirmed my suspicions, Calle Flor is a made-up name, the author's perogative to change a name to protect something. Tony's house was on Jesus, a three-block street between Tenerias and Umaran, now that makes more sense, it aligns with the descriptions of neighborhood shops, intersections, and views of the cathedral from the rooftop. Walking Jesus will have to be on today's itinerary.

Steven talked of his travels and his photography. We pulled out one of his books that is sitting in the casita, Mediterranean Villages. It's chock full of beautiful black and white photos and drawings made by Steven and Cathi. Paul and I have been to many of the same places, we have similar favorites, the Greek islands, Santorini and Monemvasia, and small Italian hill towns. It's a coffee table book I'd consider, unlike Kramer's coffee table book about coffee tables.

Alejandro comes by. He studies the thermostat, he changes the batteries, he studies it some more. He touches the floor, caliente he says, well it's been mildly caliente all along, but not enough caliente. I don't have high hopes for heat.

We have a similar in-floor system in Otter Point, though ours is far more complex, with two floors and eleven zones. It took us awhile to find someone who could diagnose our heat issues, even the company that installed it couldn't fix it. I've come to think in-floor heat is one of those technologies that isn't quite ready, it takes almost a degree in engineering to understand the settings, and even when you understand it it is problematic. It's slow to heat, it's inflexible as it's embedded in the concrete floor, and the systems have a Rube Goldberg nature, or Wallace and Gromit, with obscure settings and sensors and actuators and pipes and so many, many wires, it's a wonder when it works.

I'm listening to Patty Griffin's Heavenly Day.

Mercado de Artesanias      Photos   
Doorway      Photos   

Bellas Artes

Thursday • November 15, 2018

We checked out the Bellas Artes to see the beautiful building, study some art, snack on cheesecake and cappuccino, and attend a book signing/talk/slide show on West Africa. The Bellas Artes is housed in a former convent. It has a large central courtyard around which are exhibit spaces, an auditorium, and workshops for a wide range of arts, from music and dance to weaving and painting. Entrance to the building and exhibits is free, like most of the Mexican museums we've visited, which is great as it makes it accessible to everyone.

Bellas Artes      Photos   
Bellas Artes      Photos   
Bellas Artes      Photos   
Bellas Artes      Photos   
Workshop, Bellas Artes      Photos   
Workshop, Bellas Artes      Photos   
Cathi and Steven House      Photos   
We ended our visit to Bellas Artes with a talk introducing the Houses' new book Villages of West Africa. Their beautiful photography was accompanied by stories of their travels through several African countries.

Shopping & eating in San Miguel

Friday • November 16, 2018
Tortilla machine      Photos   
Around the corner from our house, on the way to Garambullo, my morning coffee shop, there is a tortilla company and here is their tortilla machine.
Flower saleswoman      Photos   
All manner of stuff is for sale on the street. A common sight is a colourfully-dressed woman selling brightly-coloured items from their baskets.
Paul at La Colmena      Photos   
Paul loading his tray at La Colmena, a.k.a. the blue door bakery, the same bakery that Cohan shops at in his book On Mexican Time.
Mercado de Artesanias      Photos   

A couple of minutes from our house, just past the tortilla factory and the gym/pilates/yoga/etc. studio that fills the morning air with the sounds of pulsing, energetic music, is the Mercado de Artesanias and the adjacent food market, Mercado Ignacio Ramirez, a three-block-long meandering pedestrian street lined with merchants. Fresh vegetables, cooked foods, meats, bicycles, clothing, zapatos, pewter ware, and on and on, every imaginable type of good is available for sale. There are metalsmiths making jewelry, women roasting corn, and butchers cutting meat. It's clean and neat and the merchants are friendly. There's no pressure, unlike, say, the similar Istanbul Grand Bazaar. We walk through the Mercado at least once a day.

San Miguel is chock full of stores, beautiful, artistic, eye candy stores, as you walk down the narrow sidewalks almost every turn of the head fills your eyes with another tempting place to shop, and we do, but I keep going back to the Mercado, for the variety, the pricing (I don't bargain), the friendly no-pressure merchants, and the ambiance.

Mercado de Artesanias      Photos   
One of several entryways to the Mercado.
Mercade de Artesanias      Photos   
Mercado de Artesanias      Photos   
Everything goes better with...      Photos   
Evening sky from our rooftop      Photos   


El Charco del Ingenio

Saturday • November 17, 2018
Balloon over San Miguel      Photos   
We woke to the whooshing sound of hot air balloons, which reminded me of a balloon ride I'd taken over Goreme. Two balloons were directly over us, but I was upstairs and the camera downstairs. So I went downstairs, swapped the lens to a telephoto --- finally, a reason for having packed it --- then climbed to the roof. By then the two overhead had floated out of sight, but then I saw more, far in the distance.
The botanical gardens      Photos   
This morning we hiked up the hill behind us to go to the botanical gardens, El Charco del Ingenio. It's about a half-hour walk. It's well worth it, only 50 pesos entrance fee, it has extensive trails, views of a duck-filled lake, and lots of desert plants well labelled in Spanish and English.
Lots of plants      Photos   
Conservatory of Mexican plants      Photos   
Conservatory of Mexican plants      Photos   
View of San Miguel      Photos   
Succulent      Photos   
Prickly pear      Photos   
Cerebro (looks like brains)      Photos   
Cosmos      Photos   
Paul checking out the solar calendar      Photos   
Post-hike enchiladas, Garambullo cafe      Photos   
The neighborhood coffee shop makes a mean plate of enchiladas with a red sauce that packs a punch. Can't get this in Canada.


Evening in San Miguel

Saturday • November 17, 2018
Collectivo      Photos   
Collectivos are a common sight in San Miguel and the ones here, which share the same colouring, look nicer than Merida's.
Kissing bridge, Canal street      Photos   
Nuns      Photos   
Working late      Photos   
Entertaining      Photos   
Great music      Photos   
Lining up for churros      Photos   
Saturday night in the Jardin Allende      Photos   
Saturday night street      Photos   



Today • Sunday • November 18, 2018
Balloon over San Miguel      Photos