Friday, August 7, 2009

True Confessions (San Miguel de Allende)

I don't want to offend anyone, however, sometimes I can't help but do so. And the truth is, I really didn`t like San Miguel de Allende. Yes, it's picturesque. Yes, the people are lovely. Yes, it's got lots of art galleries, festivals, and culture. But it feels more like the States than like Mexico, which is probably exactly why there are so many gringos there.

You can eat Indian, Thai, sushi, or chi-chi. You can pay more and receive less than you would anywhere else I've been in Mexico, and you might, as one American couple told me, still consider things to be inexpensive. And that's no doubt part of the appeal for expatriates and travellers.

Granted, I didn't get too far away from the historic downtown area, where visitors are most likely to congregate. But so many of the conversations I overheard were in English, so many of the signs and menus and everything else were in English, that I felt linguistically disoriented.

Granted, I only spoke English with two United Statesians who have a house there. I spoke Spanish with the vacationing interior designer from Los Angelos, who was so smitten with San Miguel that she didn't want to leave. I confess to misleading an older gentleman (from somewhere smack dab in the middle of the mid-West) into thinking that I was from a Spanish-speaking country, although I never said that I was. In valiant, broken Spanish, he informed me that he had always loved to dance; he proved it by being quite the salsero. I spoke in Spanish, too, with the formerly-from-Pennsylvania, married-to-a-Mexican owner of the Arthur Murray Dance Studio, where I took a free salsa-bachata-rumba-meringue-swing lesson with Ivan (of eyes like a doe's, with lashes that mascara would give its wand for, and of a skinniness that a not-so-gusty gust of wind would send spiralling into the great beyond).

Some nice things happened. I was flattered that a dance partner who turned out to be an artist said he'd like to paint me, but not flattered (or dumb) enough to go to his apartment to view his work. I liked my $2.00 breakfast before I left town: yogurt, honey, and granola atop a fresh fruit salad (an apple, a banana, 1/2 mango, a guava, 1/8 cantaloupe, and a stomach pump, if you please). I enjoyed speaking French during the 3.5-hour bus ride back to Mexico City with a charming (French) ex-pat artist and got to view his impressive oeuvre online. But I still am not a fan of San Miguel de Allende.

Okay, I was only there for two nights. Maybe I didn't give it a fair shot. With time, I'd probably discover some neighborhood joints that are more cheap than hip, appreciate the foreign influences, and uncover the hidden Mexicanishness of San Miguel. But there are so many other places to go in Mexico, that sound and feel like Mexico, that I don't really think I'll be back. Unless someone buys me a plane ticket, rents me a house, and pays for my food and entertainment.

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