May 10, 2019

A Month in Central Mexico

I spent four days in San Miguel de Allende in December of last year—just enough time to fall in love with it! Then, when I had an opportunity to spend a month in Mexico in March of this year I decided to stay at an artists’ retreat ten miles outside of San Miguel de Allende. That way, I could explore parts of the city I’d not seen as well as get work done on my project.

The project I am referring to is editing my son’s poems and writing an introduction to the books that I’m working on. The books, A Leaf in the Wind, volumes 1, 2 and 3, will feature his poems and my images. 

The first weekend of March, I traveled to San Miguel de Allende with a friend. We spent our first full day there exploring the city with Alberto Aveleyra, an excellent guide from Artisans of Time. We met in front of the Parroquia and explored, among other churches and historic sites, the biblioteca with its colorful, stylized murals of indigenous peoples, and the vibrant mercado, where we tasted a beverage made from aloe vera juice. Delicious and refreshing! At night we joined the throngs of locals and tourists to watch the festivities in preparation for Easter at the Jardin—a riotous combination of Christianity and indigenous religions.  

When the weekend was over, I headed to the cottage on the ranch where I was to spend the rest of the month. Nestled in the mountains north of San Miguel de Allende, my one bedroom cottage with an attached studio was perfect for concentrated periods of work. There was no telephone service and my one neighbor kept to himself, so there were days at a time when I spoke to no one. 

The process of reading my son’s poems was painful. My son, Jaro, passed away suddenly just over two-and-a-half years ago and I am still grieving. Also, the responsibility of editing his poems weighed on me—of course I couldn’t consult him about my edits. Writing an introduction to our books in which I recounted pivotal moments in his life was also heart-rending. It was a relief to retreat to my studio to work on the plates of the Indian leaves from the Sanskriti Kendra, New Delhi, that inspired my project and would become collagraph prints after my return to St Petersburg. (I’m currently working on them in the printmaking facility at the Morean Arts Center.)

Each day I took late afternoon walks, returning to the ranch at sunset to sit by the swimming pool to watch the sun retreat behind the mountains. I am reminded of the biblical lines, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help.” Those hills were my comfort and my refuge. I loved to watch the sun and moon rise and set in the peaceful silence punctuated, at night, by the occasional howls of coyotes and the distant barking of dogs. 

On the days when I went exploring in San Miguel de Allende and vicinity, I generally caught the local bus into town. It was always crowded and I was always the only gringa. Early during my stay, I traveled with another artist to Mineral de Pozos. This is a once thriving mining town, now a ghost town with only the ruins of the old mines and attendant structures left to remind visitors of its past. On Tuesdays I would head to the flea market. On one occasion I explored the Fabrica La Aurora, a defunct weaving factory converted into antique shops, art galleries and artists’ studios and, of course, restaurants. I had a spicy tortilla soup that was memorable. Towards the end of my stay, I visited Atotonilco, a picturesque town with the beautiful Santuario de Atotonilco with its fortress façade, part of the World Heritage site that includes San Miguel de Allende. 

One of my most enjoyable visits into San Miguel was when a woman who organizes tours to Mexico and who is also a food writer came to town. She, her husband, a mutual friend and I had a delicious seafood lunch in a restaurant patronized only by locals. Then we explored parts of the city that I had not visited before. 

All too soon March was over and it was time for me to leave the ranch and San Miguel de Allende behind and head to the airport, back to Saint Petersburg, and home. 


I had a wonderful time with friends on Saturday exploring the amazingly diverse and cultured city (given its size) of San Miguel de Allende.