by PAMELA HULSE ANDREWS Cascade A&E Publisher
In talking with Toler Cranston, one writer said it was clear he is passionate about the opportunities that San Miguel offers to its residents, including himself. “One catches a new wind here, one catches fire here.”
The photo above was taken with a selfie stick at the home of my friends Baldo and Carol Kelsey Bozovic who had rented a lovely three story home in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. They usually make their home in Dubrovnik, Croatia, but Baldo is a budding artist and for expanding your artistic acumen, San Miguel is truly the place to be. I was fortunate to share a San Miguel experience with my delightfully fun, loving and creative friends recently.
San Miguel de Allende is located in the far eastern part of the state of Guanajuato in central Mexico. It’s only slightly challenging to get there. Flying into Leon sets you down in a typical Mexican town with a variance of wealth and poverty and unkempt streets coupled with pleasant, colorful homes. But a few miles east, a scary taxi ride of about two hours and you settle into a beautiful village of around 70,000 people. Not a street, all cobblestoned, is untidy, not a house is unfinished unless currently in construction.
The houses have solid walls against the sidewalks, painted in various colors, many with bougainvillea vines cascading down the outside and the occasional iron-grated window. Many of the larger structures have large front doors opening to beautiful courtyards, which were once used by horses and carriages and now all makes of autos.
It’s a surprising little oasis of art, music, literary treasurers (Gloria Steinem was there for a writing festival) and Toller Cranston who had lived in San Miguel for many years had just died and there was an art auction in his honor to raise funds for the Children’s Foundation. Cranston was a beloved Olympian Canadian figure skater and furious painter. Multitalented, he prolifically created and exhibited his highly original works of art, during, and now well beyond his remarkable skating and influential career.
The town, with cobblestone streets and multicolored buildings, has attracted a large number of foreign retirees, artists, writers and tourists, which is shifting the area’s economy from agriculture and industry to commerce catering to outside visitors and residents. Still, there are no parking meters, no traffic signals and no fast food restaurants.
The main attraction of the town is its well-preserved historic center, filled with lovely colonial homes and churches from the 17th and 18th centuries. It’s a gathering place on weekends for locals and at the end of everyday by visitors. At the entrance of the city are statues of Ignacio Allende, Juan Aldama, Miguel Hidalgo and Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez, with one of the Archangel Michael in the center.
I have to go back to the full complement of art and culture in this lovely town (the food was quite good as well although it was pure delight to pick up fresh food at the local market and prepare your own dinner.) Each night was a different experience from the art auction, jewelry market to a blues bar, live theatre (in English) to literary festival.
Toller Cranston gave his gift to the world in his skating abilities and then his art, but his legacy lies in his list of why he thought San Miguel was the “best place in Mexico.”
He offered that it’s unique historical charm is because it was founded in 1535, almost 50 years after Columbus discovered America. And so it is replete with Spanish-Colonial architecture. Perfect weather all the time, full of flowers, full of trees, full of beauty; so the beauty permeates the streets and everywhere you look.
And, he says, it’s all about re-invention of self; discovering things you’ve always wanted to do, which are very accessible and available here. And the things to do here are virtually unlimited, but most pertain to some sort of stimulus of the brain. It could be a lecture, a film, an exhibition. It could be some historical tour, some visiting writer or musician.
I will most certainly return.