Monday, September 25, 2006

Monday Morning in San Miguel (de Allende)

This beautiful woman was cleaning the street gutter in the Centro area with a little broom. she was wearing some kind of offical uniform. She smiled at me when I glanced at her, and I thought, "Ahah! Maybe she'll let me take her picture. I offered her 10 pesos and her smile got even bigger. And then she looked more serious.
Last night I started noticing how many books there are in this house, which is handy, since I have finished the two books I brought with me. Then I started looking more closely at the books, and noticed a shelf of Mexico books among a wall of books in this room. And now, I am torn. Should I spent my time in San Miguel de Allende reading books about Mexico, or actually go out the door and BE in Mexico? I'm not really torn. Of course I'd rather wander around than read. Maybe.

Anyway, one of the books is "A Visit to Don Otavio" by Subille Bedford, and another was written in 1843 by a Scottish woman, Frances Calderon, who lived in Mexico for several years. It's called "Life in Mexico", and it's amazing. Both books are really holding my attention, and am going back and forth between them. The level of prejudice in these books, regarding race and poverty, is amazing. But why should I be surprised? It's hardly any different now.

I think, for most people, anyone with different skin color, religion or language, or appearance, is generally held with suspicion. It's ugly, but I think it's true. I think it maybe us humans do this because our brains seem to be set up to notice differences between us, not what's the same. We don't think, oh, he has skin, just like me. We tend to think, oh, his skin is red, green, blue, or whatever. Uh-oh, watch out!!

I can't believe how lucky I am to be able to stay in this house and explore San Miguel, and it's nurseries and buildings and gardens. And to have access to books I have never seen before, and New Yorker magazines too. I was up until 1 am reading, and, of course, the dog woke me at 6am. I woke up to her licking my knee, which was a very strange sensation, to say the least.
When I went walking this morning, searching out plant nurseries, viveros, I made a deliberate attempt to photograph only women. I loved the faces of middle-aged and older women, and the clothes the older, indigenuous, women wear. But I didn't have much luck. I always ask first and I got a sting of "no, no" responses today. With big smiles and shaking heads. My theory for the moment that older women here don't believe they are attractive. That's not a problem for boys, men, and young girls. They seem to love to pose for me. The minute they notice my camera, they are ready to go. I'll have to find some new strategies for working with the older women.

ADDED LATER: The photos of the woman in blue at the top of the post were taken later in the day, and I decided trying waiting until someone noticed me first before asking to photograph them. It seemed to work with her. I just loved her face.

I had an hour or so of nervousness when I was going to sleep last night. This house is part of a small "complex", sort of like townhouses, although I didn't notice that at first. Each house seems very separate, and has a private, independent entrance. There are many connecting walls thought, and it's hard to tell where sounds are coming from. San Miguel had a rapist roaming the community several months ago. I think he was attacking older gringa in their homes. He was caught through a DNA sample, according to the newspapers, but I still felt jittery for awhile. Finally I just dropped the thought and went to sleep.
I tipped these kids for letting me photograph them. They were really excited, and went running into the house, yelling Mama, Mama!!! She came out and smiled and waved. I wanted to ask if I could take her picture, but she was kind of a mess, and I knew she would say "No!"
I think many, many houses in Mexico have a similar, courtyard, design. A blank wall with a couple of windows and a big door, right at the sidewalk. Then, inside, the rooms are built around an open patio. I assume they orginally built this way for protection and privacy, but I am just guessing. I also think it's possible that this kind of building design may limit opportunities for cross-venilation and natural light.
This mauve house has a human-sized door cut into
the brown wood car door with driveway, an unusual set-up, I think.
I was planning to go on a formal walking tour of the Centro district this morning. But I ended up falling back asleep after taking the dog out. Woke up at 9am, and missed the walk. But it's offered on Wednesday and Friday too. I will try for Friday, I think. There is a guided tour of the Botanical Garden tomorrow morning, and I am going to get up for that. Maybe even use my new alarm clock to make sure. There's also a big tianguis (street market) tomorrow, right near the Garden. I am looking forward to that. The tianguis around Chacala almost always have plants, so I am crossing my fingers about this one.

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