San Miguel de Allende – part 4
Right alongside the venerable old, we find the quirky and contemporary new. SMA is a hotspot for artists and galleries are sprinkled throughout the city. The Institute Allende teaches visual artists and displays their work in galleries. The Institutio Nacional de Bellas Artes has exhibits, classrooms, and practice spaces for artists, musicians, and dancers. These buildings and many others are decorated with wonderfully expressive murals.
There is also a wide variety of music in SMA. Walk into a restaurant or cantina and you can never tell what kind of music will be playing, some recorded, some live, some Mexican, some American. Then there are a few theaters that feature concerts. So far, we have seen Spanish guitar, Jazz, and Blues concerts. The theaters are small and intimate and the crowds appear to be mostly older Gringos for the shows we saw. By Gringo I mean either USA citizens vacationing or Expats who have settled here. I hope that does not offend anyone.
Part of the fun of visiting a foreign city is seeing how they deal with routine things. One thing we found unusual here is the garbage collection. There is a small fleet of trucks that drive through the city on collection days, usually 7:30 to 8:00 AM. A kid runs ahead of the truck and bangs metal blocks or a triangle together to warn that the truck is coming. Run outside to hand the bags to the men in the truck. Don’t leave bags on the curb overnight or the dogs will ravage them. Don’t leave plastic bins outside overnight or they may get stolen. You can install a hook outside your door so bags are off the street and away from the dogs, if you can’t get up early enough. Don’t worry about separating recyclables. According to the local paper, the trashmen are only paid 148 pesos a day, so they sort the trash and pick out valuables to keep and sell for themselves. During our stay, we also spotted door to door propane gas and ice cream sales, both from trucks playing loud music to attract attention to their wares.
One more thing about SMA that Gringos may find odd about the city is the complete lack of traffic control. There are no stop signs or lights anywhere. The only signs you see are on the sides of buildings, with street name and arrows denoting one way or two. Traffic control is strictly by guts. You merge into moving streams or pass where and when you can get away with it. Toss this mix with motorcyclists threading the needle between cars, and you get streets that are not for the timid. But, to this Gringo, the strangest thing is how seldom you will hear a horn. Unless somebody does something VERY stupid, the streets are mostly quiet. Somehow, traffic is a chaos with mutually agreed upon rules and courtesies.
Next up: even more SMA