The modern mountaintop

MY HOMETOWN has a new hospital, a large, snazzy spot just two blocks from the main plaza. It’s called the Bora Medical Center (yes, in English*) and Hospital.

The website, like the medical center itself, is still not completed, but both are up and running, open for some business if not all. That will come later, they say.

This is the second significant private medical facility to arrive here, the other being the far humbler but still quite good Clínica Pátzcuaro, as some call it.

When you grow old, medical facilities rise in importance.

When I moved here almost two decades ago, there were two small government hospitals and a few clinics. I would not have voluntarily spent one night in any of them.

Before moving south of the border, I frequented bookstores in Houston, sitting and thumbing through all the “Retire in Mexico” books available. Most did not even mention my current mountaintop pueblo, and those that did didn’t have much good to say about the place, mostly that it got real cold in winter, which it does.

I wish that would keep more Gringos away, but it ain’t working.

When I arrived, there was only one internet provider. Now there are various. What passes as a ring road, called the Libramiento, was a potholed four-laner. Now it’s a smooth six-laner. There were no traffic lights anywhere. Now there are quite a few, all on the Libramiento.

We did have a movie theater that was hidden on the edge of the central market downtown. It was an old, dingy place with two screens and mildewed seats. One showed X-rated movies, and the other showed mainstream fare that had debuted months earlier in the nearby state capital. That theater shuttered years ago.

A huge lot on the Libramiento is currently being leveled. Reliable scuttlebutt says a movie complex will be built and a Domino’s pizza too. Twenty years ago, there were no Gringo-style convenience stores. Now we have lots, a Mexican chain called Oxxo.

When the first Oxxo arrived, many in the Gringo community were outraged. It conflicted with the “authentic” look of the town, they whined. Mexico ignored them, and good for that. Oxxos are very convenient. You can even pay bills and send money about anywhere via an Oxxo cashier. I wish they had ATMs, however.

Two decades back, there were no chain supermarkets. Now we have two. One is the Walmart-owned Bodega Aurrerá, and the other is the Mexican chain Soriana.

I want a Costco and a full-fledged Walmart. A Best Buy too.

We had no department stores till a few years ago when the Coppel chain constructed a large, two-level store across the street from the Bodega Aurrerá.

Mexico now has its own Amazon, which debuted about five years back. It’s just as good and efficient as the branch above the Rio Bravo. It even sells Alexa.

Speaking of Gringos, when I arrived on the mountaintop, there were about 40. Now there are 10 times that number or more, and newbies arrive every year. I wish we could funnel them all to San Miguel de Allende. It’s warmer there, and they’ll be happier. You don’t even have to learn a word of Spanish in San Miguel. Everyone speaks English.

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* This is a bit disturbing. When the natives speak English to you, it usually means you’re gonna be charged more.

Swearing off San Miguel

YEARS AGO a friend said we were in a rut, that the two of us rarely did anything different and new. He was correct.

He was referring to travel, but the accusation likely was accurate in other life activities. I attribute it mostly to age. I used to enjoy travel far more than I do now.

I wonder if I’m becoming as big a fuddy-duddy as was my father all his life. He thought if you’ve seen one city you’ve seen them all. He didn’t want to go anywhere. Of course, that’s ridiculous. There’s a huge difference, for instance, between Houston and nearby New Orleans and even San Antonio, Texas.

I’ve never been to Omaha, but I bet it’s quite a switch from San Francisco.

I was sitting in the central plaza of Mérida years ago, or was it Puebla? I recall looking around and thinking that I could be sitting in the plaza of any Mexican colonial city. Why did I blow airfare and hotel costs to come here?

Colonial Mexican cities are indeed quite similar.

But I have decided to branch out a bit, travel-wise. Not to do it more often, but to go to new places. Part of this change is the decision to never, ever visit the silly city of San Miguel de Allende again. Never, never, never.

It had become a habit, a pattern, on deciding to get off the mountaintop for a spell, to go either to Zihuatanejo on the Pacific Coast or to San Miguel de Allende. They are about the same distance from the Hacienda, but in opposite directions. We were in a rut. Didn’t really give much thought to other options.

With rare exceptions, when we travel we drive. We don’t fly. If memory serves, the last time we flew anywhere, it was to Mérida in 2013, just a year after we flew to Havana for our 10th anniversary. Both jaunts were on Interjet, a nice airline, by the way.

I’m not going to swear off Zihuatanejo because a beach is a beach, and it’s the nearest beach. We’ve gone to Zihua so often, however, that it’s getting a bit ho-hum.  And you’ll sweat your ass off. We haven’t been there in three years.

But we’re swearing off San Miguel. No more. Enough is enough. In spite of having some great restaurants, places you don’t easily find elsewhere in Mexico, it’s just a laughable town inhabited by some Mexicans and lots of goofy Gringos who parade around in funny clothing. It’s amusing at first, but that wears off.

I’m making a list of new places to visit. We’ll be driving, and they are either one day or two days away. We’ll spend one night en route for those two-day spots.

Having just begun this project, the list is short:

  1. Guadalajara. Oddly, we are a bit closer to Guadalajara, Mexico’s second city, than we are to Mexico City. Yet we’ve been to Mexico City a thousand times, and I’ve not been to Guadalajara in 17 years, and just briefly then. My child bride and I have never been there together.
  2. Xilitla, San Luis Potosí. This idea came from one of The Moon‘s frequent visitors, Peggy Langdon. She went to Xilitla once, and I saw her mention of it on Facebook. There’s a place called Las Pozos in Xilitla. I want to see that.
  3. Zacatecas. I’ve been there just once, many years ago. It’s my wife’s favorite Mexican city, and she’s been to most of the biggies. She’s visited every state save one, Quintana Roo. She racked up those trips as a result of her 14 years working as a civil engineer for the federal highway department. She loves Zacatecas, and we can visit Aguascalientes at the same time. Trivia Department: Zacatecas is Mexico’s northernmost Colonial city.
  4. Tequila, Jalísco. This idea came from Steve Cotton who visited there recently. It looks like a fun place. This would be a two-day drive. We’d likely overnight in the Gringo-infested town of Ajijic or nearby. Ajijic, like the aforementioned San Miguel de Allende, is always good for eye-rolling.

That’s the entire list for now. I’m open to suggestions. New places would have to be within a two-day drive. My ideal one-day drive is six hours max. More than six hours turns a drive into an ordeal in my book.

Don’t suggest places that require planes. If I get on a plane, I’m going to Colombia, not to the other side of Mexico.

As for San Miguel, I wish you well, amigos. Try to get on without me. I won’t miss you, but thanks for the hilarity you’ve provided through the years.

Doing time in the State of Guanajuato

dolores
In the jail of Dolores Hidalgo, State of Guanajuato

WHEN LAST we spoke, the Hacienda Duo was hightailing it out of our hardscrabble neighborhood due to the approach of Carnival, which is when our neighbors go berserk.

We stayed three nights in a pretty swanky place off the highway between the Gringo-infested burg of San Miguel and Dolores Hidalgo, which is a bit farther north.

The drive last Sunday was uneventful. We had lunch in a San Miguel restaurant named Hecho en Mexico where we’ve eaten quite a few times.

The following day we drove to Dolores Hidalgo and hit a few tourist spots, one of which was the Colonial building that housed the city’s jail down to 1957. It’s not a place you’d want to be in the slammer, but it’s a museum now. My child bride snapped the mugshot above.

Not surprisingly, it’s not the first time I’ve been in jail.

We dined in the Restaurante Plaza, which faces the plaza as the name indicates. We’ve dined there before, happily. The place where we had intended to eat, a joint called DaMonica, was closed Monday. Dang!

Back in San Miguel on Tuesday, we ate somewhere new for us, a restaurant named La Frontera. It was recommended to us by the inimitable Jennifer Rose, a woman who thinks red shoes are better than bacon. I do not agree.

While Ms. Rose may misjudge the value and/or taste of red shoes, she does know restaurants, and La Frontera was a good call. I had a BLT, and my child bride ate some brisket thing. They were both good, but they weren’t the highlight of the meal.

That was the root beer float. We love root beer floats. The only root beer float my child bride had ever tasted was near San Antonio, Texas, years ago. I have never seen root beer in Mexico. I asked the owner where she got root beer, and she said at the major supermarket in San Miguel.

There are some advantages — few but some — to living in a Gringo-infested town. Having root beer at the store is one of those advantages. I am jealous.

Now let’s venture on to politics. San Miguel hates Donald Trump. We walked through a street market and saw lots of T-shirts on sale that sported (expletive) Trump this and (expletive) Trump that. Tsk-tsk.

We walked around an art gallery and saw a huge oil painting of the great American president, but the artist was really angry with The Donald.

Oh, the ill will at losing an election, fair and square.

Wednesday morning, Ash Wednesday, we packed our bags, hopped into the Honda and headed southwest to our mountaintop home, having avoided the worst of Carnival here, which was the objective, after all.

tita
Child bride on the cobblestones leading to the hotel.
scene
Unoccupied edifice near our hideaway hotel.

Mama’s new look

THE MOON gotta facelift yesterday, and you’re looking at it.

It’s not the first time she’s changed her dress since debuting in 2011, but it’s the first time in a goodly spell, long overdue. And her predecessor, The Zapata Tales (now defunct, 2005-2011) went through a few facelifts too.

I’m like a woman sometimes. I grow weary of looking at the same thing in the mirror, so I toss open the WordPress closet to see what’s new.

And free.

I like this change, but I always like the changes, or I wouldn’t make them. Some folks who write blogs wear the same outfit for years and years. I don’t know how they do it. Have they no sense of style?

Even worse is writing on Blogger when WordPress is immensely superior in every way, and switching is no big deal.

Let’s be blunt: These people are fuddy-duddies.

They should have names like Cora and Dudley.

This new outfit looks best on a PC screen or a decent-sized laptop. Quite a bit is lost on a tablet, and if you read a blog on a cell phone, there’s no hope for you.

The new comment section is quite better. With the previous style, it was often difficult to see who was responding to whom. Not anymore.

The type is larger. I’m not so fond of that, but some of you older folks can remove your glasses or pince-nez. There is nothing Mexican about the header, and there is a little mugshot of me up there, which the old look lacked.

The photo was taken a decade ago as I ate a churro in Mexican actress Margarita Gralia’s hot chocolate-and-churro joint in San Miguel de Allende.

I am fond of the photo because, although you can see me well enough, it’s not sufficiently precise to put out a hit on me.

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Note: I changed the theme yet again after writing the above, so some of the post may not make sense now.