Each tour, it appears, is different even though it may be to the same place to visit the same sites and to stay at the same places. This time there are ten women from the Bay Area Unity Church led by my driving and dedicated sister Sara. All friends, all spiritual, all fascinated and interested in Mexico and its history, and all love shopping
We flew in together to the airport at Leon in the Mexican state of Guanajuato. Sergio, our thirty-something driver and guide (I’m certain his friends here call him “el guero” because of his bright hazel eyes and his blondish hair) met us at the airport. With considerable effort, he crammed all our giant suitcases (for only eight days mind you) into the back of the van. It was a tight fit.
On the hour and a half drive to San Miguel, he explained in Spanish and I translated for our non-English speaking passengers using the #Quietvox headphones and mic. If you have never tried those, they are wonderful. Small, soft ear buds hook over the ear and plug into a battery pack worn around the neck. I wear the mic and sending unit. Very efficient and effective and used by Road Scholars world-wide.
San Miguel is an ancient town, founded in 1542 by a Franciscan Friar at a natural spring. He arrived to Christianize the local Chichimeca tribes who had been fighting over the spring with their neighbors, the Otomi. As they almost always did the Friar succeeded in convincing the Indians to build him a nice little church and settle down nearby. He named the settlement after the Archangel Michael and called it San Miguel el Grande. It became the center for mule-trains of silver and then the hub of Mexican Independence when local citizen Ignacio Allende joined Father Hidalgo to help lead the revolt. Since we are here on Mexican Independence day, we will get to see fireworks, parades, and great celebrations.
Casa de la O is technically a Bed and Breakfast owned by Sra. Lilia Favela, a local art patron and well-known hostess. She inherited her mother’s San Miguel home (hence the O for her mother’s last name, Olguin) and as many women have done over the centuries, rented out rooms to make a living. I say technically a B&B, because over the years she has kept adding wings and rooms and stacking apartments on top to the point where she has nearly as many rooms as a hotel. The only problem is that now she loses track of how many guests and how many rooms and whether she has overlaps. Sure enough, she did. She had to put us, temporarily, in her niece’s elegant apartment until some of the other guests left. The apartment, done in Mexico City modern was a real pleasure but we have to move out this morning. What the apartments downstairs will be, who knows.
On first meeting her, Sra Lilia appears to be an aging “grande dame,” She wears make-up more appropriate to the stage, with heavy eyeshadow in golds and blues, thick pancake mask and dyed red hair cut short and spikey. On closer acquaintance, however, she is gracious and kindly, loving and affectionate, and loves to take people on tours of town. In our case she took three of us all the way to the small town of Comonfort, named for a Mexican President to see their magnificent gold-bedecked church.
While driving through the tiny, heavily trafficked narrow streets, she faced down taxi drivers, out-maneuvered buses, out-talked traffic cops and blocked traffic with a regal wave of her hand. She also shopped from her car, while cars backed up behind her, waving over the store owner and ordering a kilo of ground coffee (they had to grind it while we waited), a pound of mangos, two bags of diced nopal or special bags of cookies–which they had run out of but we bought sweet treats anyway. Perhaps knowing her Anglo guests, she graciously accepted that we pay for her gas, all the groceries, two mustard-colored blouses (she cuts one up to provide longer sleeves and a wider bodice for the other), an ice cream snack, and some CBD oil for her knee.
When my sister needed to use the facilities, Sra. Lilia merely pulled up in front of a small store-front and sent Sara in. It turns out the store was owned by a dear friend of hers who promptly appeared with a large pitcher of some kind of tomato-based soup. We added that to growing stack of goods in the front seat.
Meanwhile, back in San Miguel, the rest of the crew spent the day shopping. San Miguel is a town with at least a million shops with everything from art and jewelry to Mexican blouses, skirts and shawls, each one distinct and different. The highlights of the trip, so far, have been the restaurants. Great Margaritas, excellent wines, superb food.