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High society weddings and low-brow art find a home in SMA

semi-overcast 22 °C

San Miguel is a top choice for wealthy Mexican weddings. The city is intimate and photogenic, it boasts spectacular cathedrals, and offers the hotels, wedding venues and service staff necessary to carry off 250-guest lists without a hitch. Last Saturday we stumbled upon not one, but two wedding parties. We began our day by wandering around the Juarez Parque, ghoulishly checking out the ruins of Toller Cranston's home. We had been to a showing of Toller the day before at the library; a highly disappointing montage of Toller's life that began with some campy old CFTO ice skating spectacle that was by no means his best work. This was followed by a tour through his home and garden in San Miguel, with a grim, unsmiling Toller saying very little, other than art was in his DNA. It was depressing to see the state of his home - it has been picked apart by his estranged family - there are lawsuits and rumours flying about town, and all in all - a very sad state of affairs. So we were hanging outside his home, trying to peer in through the broken glass, when an excited group of photographers marched past us to secure this spot for their bride and groom.


Beautiful bride in exquisite gown, handsome groom in morning coat (weirdly making a duck face) and five scruffy photographers.

We carried on towards centro and were walking through the jardin in front of the cathedral when we noticed large men in suits talking into their collars (and packing heat, as we later discovered).


"This looks like security," we astutely observed, and decided to hang around and see what might unfold.

In no time, the guests began to arrive - a stunning collection of gowns, jewels, hair, nails, red lipstick and 5-inch heels ( the men were equally well turned-out.)


This young man appeared to be in charge of keeping things running smoothly. He rolled out the carpet, scooted the old lady out of the way, and never stopped consulting his phone. I was dying to ask him who the couple were, but decided against it.


We (the uninvited ones) listened to the service through the open doors, and then this magnificent couple emerged:


They made their way slowly through the throngs of onlookers, climbed aboard their horse-drawn carriage and were driven away, waving regally to the crowds. It could have been William and Kate, for all the pomp and theatrics. Judging from the brief look I had at both couples, I was putting my money on this pair going the distance. Stephen did not engage.


Speaking of theatrics, we have discovered two small movie theatres here and so far, have been to four movies - making up for lost time. We've seen Truth, Carol, The Lady in the Van and The Big Short - really enjoyed them all. I'm going to Muchachas ( a doc about Mexican maids and their Gringo bosses) on Friday and on Saturday we're both going to see Sicario. We've been avid movie-goers our whole lives. When we lived in Halifax, we would scoot down the street to the Oxford - a small second-run theatre. The same guy who handed out tickets jumped up on stage before the lights went down to introduce the movie and thank everyone for turning off their cellphones. One of the theatres here (called "The Pocket Theatre") is similar in its personal touch, except the movies change daily and the building has two small theatres - each with just 21 seats. The price of admission is 120 pesos - just under 10 dollars, and that includes a bag of popcorn and a drink of your choice. The woman who runs it is delightful - she takes the money, checks off the reservations, pours very healthy drinks, and has a firm hand with the gringos, when necessary. (some will try and swap out their assigned seats for better ones). This is the waiting area to the theatres.


Another waiting area has a fireplace and comfy chairs. There are a series of paintings of Madonna-like women in beatific poses, armed with the tools of their domestic chores - I particularly liked this one.


On the topic of art (high and low)... San Miguel has long been a mecca for artists. The talent here is varied and wide-ranging, and there are galleries that represent international artists, notably the Skot (Scot with a "k") Foreman Gallery who carries the likes of Keith Haring, Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali. There are many artists who also sell internationally, but may not have the same name recognition or price point. There are many artists who are competent and talented and who sell consistently for decent prices. And then there are the would-be artists - the hobbyists who have taken some art classes and found their muse in San Miguel, but perhaps have not yet found people willing to pay for those efforts. Every Saturday and Sunday in Juarez Parque, there is an art show and sale - open to anyone who wants to display. We strolled by last Sunday, and talked with a number of the artists.

We didn't see anything that grabbed us, but we had a couple of very interesting conversations. One Mexican woman had painted a rather violent abstract that she called Barcelona - a depiction of a city she wants to visit because that is where her father (whom she has not seen for over 40 years) lives.


I'm not sure who the artist is with this father and son team, but the younger man kept a protective arm over his dad's shoulder.
They had nice work - moody depictions of SMA street scenes.


After we left the park, we headed over to a showing of "alternative art", that was in fact, less alternative and more geared to the gringo wallet. Some pretty stuff, but quite pricey, and not that edgy. We had to stop when we hit this table though. As you might imagine, "the Donald" is not a big hit down here. These T-shirts were flying off his table at $20 a pop - a great image of Pancho Villa advising Trump what he might do with his wall.


My darling husband expressed a similar sentiment to some folks last week. We arrived in a restaurant and were assaulted by the loud braying of four people who were having a heated discussion about immigration (specifically Mexican). They all seemed to want to distance themselves from appearing to be Trump supporters, but suggested that "he has a point" with some of his policies. We soon found out what those policies are - one of the women kept stating that she had to wait 12 years to be allowed into the U.S., she didn't just "barge in."

We sat and fumed, and whispered to ourselves. We wondered what their fear is? Are they concerned that a desperate young Mexican who can't live on $6 a day in his country might take a fruit-picking job away from their college-bound kids? Do they not see the irony of wanting to keep "them" out, while swarming down to Mexico for cheap holidays? Do they understand how inexpressibly rude it is to have this discussion in a Mexican restaurant, served by a Mexican waiter, in Mexico?

As they got up to leave, Steve leaned over and quietly and politely said that he couldn't help but overhear their conversation. He told them he was a retired teacher and had taken students to Las Vegas years ago on a hospitality field trip. He mentioned that the manager of one of the biggest hotels down there told him that if the day ever came that they could not employ Mexican workers, Las Vegas would shut down. One of the men muttered something about there being two sides to the story and they left. I could not have been more proud.

Back to art in the park, or the jardin to be precise. There are always events happening in the central jardin, and last week there was a Cuban festival. Tied into those festivities were a couple of evenings of dance competitions/ exhibitions. An announcer would describe the dance (salsa, merengue, cha-cha) about to take place, and then the dancers would bound onto the stage and give it their all for about 10 minutes. We're not sure if they were professionals, as there seemed to be large gaps in grace and rhythm, but it was all good fun.


Meanwhile, down on the sidewalk behind the stage... the next act was warming up. I'm not sure why we didn't stick around to watch these girls - I'm sure it would have been quite entertaining.


A couple more performers getting ready for their turn on the stage.


Last year we had a really fun day at the local hot springs, La Gruta, in spite of the fact that we went on Good Friday, along with every Mexican (and their inflatable devices) within a 20-km. radius. It was madness.
This year, we hit up La Gruta again - a much more sedate experience. There are hot springs in the outskirts of San Miguel and la Gruta is one of the more popular destinations. This one is spread out over several beautiful landscaped acres.

There are three hot spring pools, beginning with this one. It is nothing short of heaven to slide your body into this perfect temperature - warm, soothing and clean.


From the first pool, you walk over to this pool, ringed by tall palms and with slightly warmer water. If you look over to the left, you'll notice two heads right in front of a small opening in the stone. That small opening leads through a short tunnel to an inside grotto. The water in there is very warm, the atmosphere is humid and close and at regular intervals, a cascade of water falls blasts from an opening in the wall. People line up to have their turn to stand under the powerful spray. It was powerful enough to blow my bathing suit straps down, so it couldn't be described as a "spa" experience, but memorable nonetheless.


After all that heat and humidity, we were ready for a swim in the Olympic-sized pool (regular temperature), but alas, it was not be be. We arrived to find a gentleman cleaning out the pool, readying it for the opening for Semana Santa (Easter week).

We contented ourselves with a lovely lunch instead.


Our last photo of the day. We watched this little girl feeding the pigeons - very carefully breaking up her bread into tiny pieces and tossing them carefully to the birds. She quietly went about her task, until her little brother stormed in. He flew at the birds, his small feet kicking out at them. We have watched children chase pigeons all over Mexico - like dogs chasing squirrels. We always wonder what they would do if they ever caught them.


Posted by millerburr 20:27 Archived in Mexico

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We too enjoyed La Gruta and met more interesting people there. Not crowded during the week. We witnessed the grand colorful weddings at the cathedral on the small park with the center promenade. Didn't notice the body guards, however. Great places for people watching!

by John Benltey

I remember you mentioning Toller Creanston's home last year. So sad to hear the drama is still going on after a year has elapsed. As for Stephen, kudos to you for speaking up as a result of overhearing that restaurant conversation. I can see why you were proud Ginny!

by Heather

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