Tag Archives: San Miguel de Allende

The sinking states

LORDY, LORDY, how low the United States has sunk.

Hillary is a demonstrable crook, yet to be tried and convicted. Weepy Barry goes to a memorial for those cops killed in Dallas to push unconstitutional gun control and scoot along the edge of actually blaming police for the officers’ murders.

He’s a class act and Peace Prize winner!

While Hillary is the likely Democrat candidate for president, over on the opposite end we have the combed-over egomaniac whom I support due to his being the only other option.*

The United States continues to ignore my sage advice that promoting diversity invariably leads to bad stuff.

Oh, well, I do what I can from down here.

You’ve got a former Miss Alabama saying the creep who killed the Dallas officers is a martyr. Alabama must be proud.

But don’t think that black folks are all dimwits because they certainly are not. Too many of them are, and so are a lot of whites who live in places like New York, Wisconsin, Oregon, California and San Miguel de Allende.

Here’s a very sharp black American:

* Trump is a reaction to the left-wing nuttiness running rampant in the nation.

Leave balls at border

WE’RE DRIVING to San Miguel de Allende this week for a couple of days. The primary purpose of visiting that Gringo-infested outpost is to renew my expired U.S. passport.

Now sure exactly why I’m bothering to do this, especially since it’s going to set me back over $100, money I could more profitably use to keep myself in tacos for many years.

We do little (next to none) international travel, and my Mexican passport will serve for anywhere except the United States, a place that is not hollering my name anymore.

That nation is on a downward trajectory, something that grows more painfully obvious by the day. Pathetic and ignorant people are now running the American farm.

The U.S. Marine Corps has been forced to remove the word “man” from 19 job titles. I can easily see this happening on university campuses, but the Marines?!

New ImageI predict that soon the Marine Corps will consist of troops who look like Pajama Boy and this smug news lesbian.

Just below is a brief discussion about the issue of feminism by the wonderful Christina Hoff Sommers and the always interesting Camille Paglia.

Meanwhile, the neutering of a once-great nation marches on, and nobody seems to be able to apply the brakes.

The Russians and/or Chinese will do it in time.

Or maybe the Mohammedans.

The final adventure

hourglasssIt was a dark and balmy night.

Fifteen years ago today, I began my final adventure.

I stepped off a Delta jet from ice-bound Atlanta that landed in warm Guadalajara around midnight. I went to baggage claim and picked up my two suitcases. From the taxi kiosk I took a cab to a downtown hotel, the name of which has faded from memory. I was 55 years old, alone, and spoke no Spanish.

deltaTwo days later, I took a bus on the posh ETN line to a state capital high in the middle of Mexico where I lived two months in a frigid, thinly furnished room above a garage and studied Spanish in a private school. After the two months, I rented an almost empty house nearby for another six months.

That capital city is a 40-minute drive from my current colorful, Colonial mountaintop town which I happened upon by pure good fortune. I moved here after those eight months in the capital.

* * * *

PHONES, ROADS AND STUFF

In the past 1.5 decades, Mexico has changed dramatically, mostly for the better. We were still a one-party oligarchy when I arrived. Now we are a democracy. The downtown of the nearby state capital, a beautiful Colonial city, was hidden behind thousands of street vendors who clogged sidewalks. They have been swept away.

Cell phones were primitive and service was sketchy. Service is now excellent. The internet was only available by telephone modem. Now we have wireless. Highways were usually bad, and directional signs were just not there. Highways now are often better than above the Rio Bravo, and signs are clear and informative.

sombreroAt that time, you could drive neither to Mexico City nor the border — which is 700 miles distant — nor the beach on nonstop autopistas. Now you can. Driving to San Miguel de Allende, about 140 miles away, was slow and cumbersome, averaging about 45 mph.

The autopista to the beach is now just a three-hour jaunt. And San Miguel takes fewer than three hours. Mexico City takes under five hours. And soon a new highway bypass will be completed that will allow us to circumvent the state capital completely.

That circumvention will reduce the time and hassle to most points north, east and west significantly.

The state capital back then was likened to Topeka, a dull backwater. There was one Walmart, a Costco, and a few movie screens. A couple of humdrum shopping malls were available. Now there are four Walmarts, Starbucks, shopping malls that rival Miami or Rio, massive cineplexes with cushy seating.

* * * *

NO OBAMACARE HERE, GRACIAS

There were a couple of relatively small but reportedly good hospitals in the state capital. Now there are huge health complexes that serve our every medical need with modern facilities and reasonable prices.

The manner in which we get our healthcare hasn’t changed much. It was excellent 15 years ago, and it’s excellent today. Two systems, two levels: Government-subsidized for the needy or anyone who wants to use it, free or very low-cost. Private system, also for anyone who wants to use it. Level Two costs a good bit more, but still just a fraction of what medical care costs above the Rio Bravo. And nothing is coercive.

stethSince most folks use the public system, that does this to the private system: Little or no waiting. Speedy appointments. Next day? No problem. And no sitting endlessly with hordes of other people in waiting rooms or little cubicles. Very personal service.

Since we are not a litigious society, doctors don’t need to pay astronomical malpractice premiums, so they can afford cushy waiting rooms, high-tech equipment in their offices and reasonable charges.

You don’t need medical insurance.

* * * *

MY BEST MOMENT

PatioThis patio is where I got married in 2003. There were a surprisingly large number of guests.

And the bride was beautiful in a blue dress. She later regretted not picking white.

* * * *

GETTING ABOUT, PAYING BILLS AND STUFF

Fifteen years ago, public transportation was plentiful and cheap. That has not changed. What has changed are the vehicles. Here on my mountaintop, apart from taxis, the public transportation, 15 years back, consisted of aging Volkswagen hippie vans and rattletrap, belching school buses recycled from above the Rio Bravo.

vanThe belching school buses are all gone, and so are most of the VW vans, replaced by late-model Nissan and Toyota vans. And all remains plentiful and cheap and fast.

Back then, we milled about in mobs in a government office to pay our annual car taxes and get license plates. Now we print the forms from a website and pay online or in a bank. Getting a driver’s license is relatively fast and painless. I hear horror stories of DMVs in the United States.

Mail a letter? Go to the post office. It’s cheap, courteous and usually no wait. Mail is slow, but it gets there. I’ve experienced U.S. post offices, the long lines, the surly service. Pay property taxes (generally very low), water bills, phone bills, electricity bills? Can be done online from your bank account. We now live in modernity.

For years, after we built the Hacienda in 2002-03, our water came from periodic visits from a tanker truck that filled an underground cistern. Now our water comes automatically from the town just like yours does.

We still don’t drink it, however.

* * * *

STUFF TO READ

kindleFifteen years ago, finding books to read in English was dicey. Our town’s library had a few shelves of novels that tourists had dropped off, available for borrowing. Sanborn’s in the capital city would have four or five popular novels in English at sky-high prices.

Most of my reading material, and I still only read books in English, came down in box-loads from Half Price Books during our then-yearly visits above the Rio Bravo, usually from San Antonio, Texas.

Kindle to the rescue. Amazon will send a Kindle to my front gate in three days. I have three now. One for me. One for my wife, and a spare. Problem solved. About any book I want comes via cyberspace.

* * * *

PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENT

ponytailI never grew a ponytail.

Nor a stubble, and I never started dressing like a hippie.

And I don’t smell of patchouli.

* * * *

GRINGO DOINGS

All is not positive,  however. When I arrived in my small mountaintop, lakeside city, there were about 40 foreigners, mostly Gringo* crackpots, living here. Now there are maybe 400, significantly more normal people, and they are setting up art galleries and saving pooches and feeding old folks.

In short, turning the place into another San Miguel de Allende. This is a mixed blessing, mostly negative.

Soon, waiters will respond in broken English; burglars will move here from all over; rents and housing prices will soar; and everybody will dress like an artist. Then some wiseacre will start a blog to make fun of us.

* * * *

NOISE AND ACCLIMATING

One of Mexico’s most notable characteristics is the racket the natives love to make at all hours. In some respects living here is akin to living among millions of unsupervised children.

This long drove me nuts, but not anymore. Amazingly, I am now used to it. When the lunatics light explosives a block away on the plaza at 6 a.m., sometimes I don’t even wake up. If I do, I go right back to sleep.

This is a positive development. And it’s not the only way I’ve changed. Mexico is incredibly different from the United States and Canada. The language is different. The way of thinking is very different, all of which unsettled me a lot when I moved here, in spite of my previously having visited fairly often.

But after 15 years here and — perhaps as important — not having set foot in the United States in seven years, this Mexican world has become the norm. If I ever visit above the border again — which I very well may not — I will find that old Gringo world of mine strange and unsettling, I am sure.

* * * *

MY LOVELY COMPANION

Giggle

The absolutely best result of my moving south is pictured above. My child bride, caught in the middle of a giggle in our Mexico City apartment about four years ago.

Note to the guys:  You can do something similar if you are reasonably presentable and didn’t move south with a wife in tow. If you did, there’s nothing that can be done for you. Sorry. You’re out of luck.

* * * *

15 GREAT YEARS

These 15 years have been kind to me.  And I live in a cool, refreshing world of green, mountain beauty. It’s been my final adventure, one that has yet to end.

It started as quite a challenge. The first couple of years I would have returned to the United States in a nanosecond had I been able to afford it. Now, however, returning is unthinkable. Mexico has greatly improved while the United States has significantly worsened. This was the best move of my life.

* * * *

* Many people will tell you Gringo is disrespectful, an epithet. They are mistaken. It is simply what Mexicans call us, usually behind our backs because they don’t know how we’ll take it. It is a neutral word that can be disrespectful depending on the tone and intent. But, basically, it’s just the locals’ name for us, and has been for ages.

(For my first five years here, I was a pretend Mexican. In 2005, Mexico made me a bona fide citizen and gave me a passport. No more visas, and I can vote, which is great fun.)

(TOMORROW: Drinking, smoking, drugs.)

Bernal to San Miguel

BernalWE DON’T GET out much, but sometimes we do. Mostly, when we leave the Hacienda, we either go to the beach at Zihuatanejo or to Mexico City. It’s hard to imagine two more contrasting spots.

Years ago, before discovering Zihuatanejo, or rather before the autopista to the beach was completed, we headed to San Miguel de Allende when we wanted to get away from home. But we wearied of touristy, Gringo-overrun San Miguel, and then the autopista to Zihuatanejo was opened.

The drive time to either became almost identical, and the route to the beach was far prettier. There are too many tourists at both locations, but sometimes you just have to endure.

Last Sunday, we decided on something different, a place called Bernal, which is northeast of Querétaro by about 45 minutes. Bernal’s claim to fame is a very big rock that sticks out of the ground. It is the world’s third highest rock sticking out of the ground after Gibraltar and Sugarloaf Mountain in Brazil.

Since rocks fascinate New Age people, Bernal is popular with the woo-woo set especially during changes of the seasons. Few things captivate New Age people more than the intersection of a season change with a big rock. The big rock in Bernal is called Peña de Bernal.

Woo-woo people also are very fond of feathers.

It’s only about 3.5 hours from the Hacienda by autopista, which is the only way you should cover long distances in Mexico unless you want to spend days jolting over speed bumps and sitting at red lights behind burros. The autopista will cost you, however, but it’s cash well spent.

We had no hotel reservation, so we strolled about until we found the Hotel Quinta Arantza, which we liked very much. We were on the third floor with a king bed and a glass wall that provided a direct view of the big rock. The small hotel includes a full breakfast, which is why it is sometimes listed as a B&B.

We arrived Sunday afternoon, and Bernal’s small downtown was packed with tourists. After eating pasta at a restaurant named El Meson de la Roca, we walked about a bit and then bought a tour that took us a ways up the big rock. The evening found us gobbling gorditas downtown. And then ice cream on the street.

We watched “The Picture of Dorian Gray” on the hotel telly and sacked out.

Opening the drapes at dawn, the big rock’s top was shrouded in fog, which is what the spirit world does to big rocks in the early morning. We dined at the hotel’s restaurant, packed up the Honda and departed. But we weren’t ready to go home. Let’s go to San Miguel, I said. She concurred.

San Miguel is about two hours from Bernal on the northwest side of the city of Querétaro. We arrived about 12:30, and I headed to Starbucks right off the plaza for an espresso, and she headed to shops, which is what women prefer to do 99 percent of the time given the opportunity.

I sat beside a Starbucks window and watched the people walk by. There were a few Mexicans but mostly lots of Gringos in Bermuda shorts, sandals and cameras, plus other Gringos, the artsy ones, dressed up like buffoons. It’s always a hoot to see a San Miguel sidewalk procession of white people.

We linked up shortly after and headed to a restaurant named Hecho en Mexico, where we’ve eaten numerous times on previous visits. It’s just up the street from the famous Instituto Allende, where foreigners go to try and learn Spanish and other artsy endeavors. I doubt anyone actually learns Spanish, which ain’t that easy.

In keeping with San Miguel’s hippie-dippy spirit, we both ordered vegetarian hamburgers. I got a side of onion rings, and my child bride decided on sweet tater casserole to accompany. My granny’s sweet tater casserole in the old days was far better, but the onion rings were quite tasty, especially with globs of ketchup.

We enjoyed a priceless San Miguel moment while eating our veggie burgers. The moment was provided by another customer, clearly a San Miguel inhabitant, a man who entered sporting a polo shirt with collar upturned jauntily beneath a blue blazer with sleeves pushed up. His hair was tossed carefreely, but the crown jewel of his attire were the pants, chinos with globs of art paint dabbed all over the place. I am an artist! he proclaimed.

After lunch, we drove the remaining three hours to the Hacienda. On alighting from the Honda, we noticed that, due to the spiritual natures of Bernal and San Miguel, we both were walking about two inches above the floor, but by the next morning everything was back to normal. We were grounded. And home again.

* * * *

Note 1: I did not take the photo. I forgot my camera. The shot comes from a series which you may see here.

Note 2: A fun website that pokes fun at the silliness of San Miguel can be found here.

Note 3: A more detailed and more traditional blog post about Bernal can be found here.

Note 4: Bernal is one of the Mexican towns I consider one-shot wonders, which is to say they are worthy of a visit, but not a return. Others in this category are Real de Catorce, Valle de Bravo, Tlalpujahua and Tequisquiapan.