"Don Chucho, Dueno de La Cucaracha" San Miguel de Allende by chauncenetta
San Miguel de Allende Travel Guide: 131 reviews and 282 photos
San Miguel de Allende, a picturesque & charming town of preserved Spanish Colonial architecture, winding cobblestone streets, perfect climate and for now, some very pricey real estate.
The history is profound and extensive, bloody and glamorous, for me, deeply personal.
Following World War II, an assortment of British and American war veterans settled in with their artistic avocations and bohemian slant.
A former American beauty queen, named Nell, was married to the governor of Guanajuato. She established Instituto Allende, a small liberal arts college and arts center.
San Miguel evolved into an artist's colony, attracting various quirky folks from around the world.
These were the glory days of San Miguel. It was the Dolce Vita.
(I wax nostalgic)
In the beginning days of disco,
the beginning of the end of civilization,
when I was 20,
I left Arkansas to attend Instituto Allende & live in San Miguel.
I found myself in an environment of geniuses & derelicts, serendipity & magic, beauty & life, artists and writers and dilettantes, all the while marveling at my good luck to be in a world with such a place.
The nights spent in La Cucaracha, a dark little cantina with ancient leather benches,
filled with rancheros, campesinos,expatriates, students, federales, mariachis, war heroes, artists & writers,
owned and quietly managed by Sr. Chucho,
who never spoke a word
yet could fill a room with his presence;
a Buddha incarnate.
The sounds of tinkling shot glasses, clanking beer bottles, raucous laughter
and the rancheros singing and weeping
to a song about the road to Dolores Hidalgo (refer to Atotonilco pages), and in the occasional moments of silence,
before the night took off,
the clack of dominos from the upstairs room.
The smiling shy bartender Herminio, who would lean to me and ask, "Que quieres, Carlota"
and I would answer
un Aqua Tehaucan" ,
thinking I was saying "I want a bottled water" when in fact I was saying
"I want YOU."
And he would lean forward
and ask me again,
and again I would say
A bottle of water.
It was our ritual,
and even after I learned to say
I continued to say
And there were the glass blocks formed in the shape of a cross in the floor of my one room apartment, illuminated every night from the cantina El Infierno directly below me,
with the sounds of more mariachis and whooping and weeping rancheros.
And the swish swish sound I would hear every morning at dawn,
which I finally investigated to discover the prisoners quietly sweeping the street with twig brooms, guarded by a lone policeman with a shotgun.
The smell of jasmine and peppers in the morning and the smell of gunpowder at night from the endless fireworks displays in constant celebration.
The tamales the lady sold from the sidewalk every Thursday.
The tacos outdoors cooked underneath the Portales at midnight.
This was my San Miguel.
I returned 2 years ago,
this time as
a "woman of a certain age"
to find the soul of this glorious place
crippled by expatriates
with stock portfolios, aromatherapy shops, million dollar houses,
new age clinics for high-colonic irrigations,
excursions for plastic surgery in nearby Celaya,
the rancheros all gone,
to find work in the states at minimum wage
and the remaining citizens surviving
at the behest of the American Gentry,
mostly from Texas
& living their fantasies of colonization,
patting themselves on the back for being able to hire such
while watching them every minute to make sure they don't steal.
Don Chucho is dead.
La Cucaracha has been relocated from the main Jardin to a side street,
the food vendors who would set up at night underneath the Portales all gone,
as the expats took a vote and decided it didn't "look right." The "messiness" of this marvelous place has been cleaned up, resulting in a loss of a style of life that in my opinion,
No longer bohemian but corporate. No longer interactive but segregated.
Que lastima !! My heart breaks !!
The photographs, taken August of 2001, are as I knew San Miguel de Allende in 1976. My eye could remember the same as my heart, and this is what I captured.
Forget your car. San Miguel has too many cars. Take the Flecha Amarilla from Mexico City and then just walk.... more travel advice
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