GREETINGS FROM SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE

For years I’ve heard of the charm and beauty of San Miguel de Allende, a small Spanish Colonial city and World Heritage site. With a thriving art scene and tons of American expats, with all the pros and cons I imagined of the latter.

At long last, partly at the urging of certain people in my circle that I should “take a vacation,” I am here. Staying at by far the loveliest hotel (in my admittedly limited experience of lovely hotels) of my traveling life!

No doubt about it, the place drips with charm. The weather, reminicent of Southern California at its best, is perfect: 80 or so, sunny, with a breeze. The streets in the central Colonial part of town are cobblestoned, there are no traffict lights, the buildings are weathered stone or adobe painted old rose, deep gold, brick red. Doorways are surrounded by dried flower garlands, balconies stream colored ribbons, and ledges are topped by rows of aged terra cotta pots of geraniums, agaves and succulents.

So the walking is fantastic. Window shopping, people watching, gorgeous cornices, tilework, gardens, public squares, fountains. There is the usual love-hate contempt for tourists, so as always you just try to be grateful and polite

But the best part of the whole town for me is the churches. They’re all over the place, cavernous and cool, festooned with folk art, flowers, gaudy chandeliers, and gruesome statues. Everything looks jerryrigged, unplumbed, held together with paste, dabs of spacking compound and glue, and as if, say, the scallop-and-angel-bedecked stone arches and overhangs might crumble or collapse any minute.

St. Vincent Ferrer in Manhattan is my favorite let’s say white people’s church, but I feel more at home in churches like this than just about anywhere on earth.

The main thing is they do not stint on the major fact of human suffering. Everwhere Jesus is lacerated, scourged, bound, crawling, bloody, in agony, dying, dead. Glass coffins hold effigies of his wounded corpse.

The people around him suffer, too: Mary, John, the disciples, the two guys who were crucified with him on Mount Calvary.

DEDICATED, UNSURPRISINGLY, BY PADRE PIO.

The wages of sin also take center stage, the fires of hell being another central motif.

With all that, Jesus’s love and tenderness are everywhere in evidence, as well as the love of the faithful for him.

THIS IS APPARENTLY THE GUARDIAN ANGEL OF CHILDREN WHO HAVE DIED

So much care, thought, and ongoing labor have gone into these blessed sanctuaries. They’re often empty, save for some sainted soul with a bucket quietly mopping the floors, and a stray pray-er or two, and maybe a tourist couple taking selfies. And the overall effect is of…I guess you could say heaven. Heaven as envisioned by a child which I, for one, hope to be at heart perpetually. Like all those scoffers who are always saying, Ha, I don’t believe God is some old man in the sky! And I always think, Well how do YOU know? Maybe He IS an old man in the sky…and by the way hell is not just a “concept!”

Just as, in the desert, within a couple of days you begin to feel an uncontrollable urge to collect and sort small stones, in Mexico, before long you feel an urge to find a bench, sit down, and stare idly into space.

I love this, and really do “need” it. All around, other people are doing the same. I ponder my visit in light of Jesus, headed to his Passion on Mount Calvary. In the midst of it all, I am sitting with him, walking with him, conversing with him, abiding in silence with him.

The gimcrack sounvenirs are adding to the landfill, the churches will one day crumble to dust, I am forver part of the darkness of the world–but also, I hope, of its light.

Joining my heart and prayers to yours from this beautiful spot.

14 Replies to “GREETINGS FROM SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE”

  1. Once again, traveling vicariously through you. Thank you. Wish our local churches looked like this!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      I walked into the Perroquia de San Miguel, the huge central church of orange-pink stone, the other night around 6. Out in the square, the mariachi bands were playing at full volumen, children cavorting, families chatting, snacking, calling to one another–inside the church there was Adoration. About 10 people sitting up front in this cavernous sanctuary, praying and singing with utter humility, simplicity, reverence with the monstrance on the altar…just beautiful. I sat in the back and said the Rosary and joined in that way. I, too, would LOVE if our churches looked like the ones in Mexico. Melanie. I would even volunteer to be on the decorating committee.

  2. Charlie Volk says: Reply

    I am forver part of the darkness of the world–but also, I hope, of its light.
    I love the honesty in these words. Thank you!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Thank you, Charlie Volk! Blessed Solemnity of the Annunciation!

  3. Jo Raffa Boukhira says: Reply

    Beautiful reflection. You are a light.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Bless you and thank you, Jo. I am quite sure you are a light, too.

  4. Ruth Ann Pilney says: Reply

    “Heaven as envisioned by a child which I, for one, hope to be at heart perpetually.”
    Me, too, Heather!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Thanks, Sister!!

  5. Tina Daoud says: Reply

    hi heather!
    the childlike faith is the best.i just finished a book” he leadeth me” by a priest who worked in the siberian arctic as a prisoner.he had a heart.and he did notvloosecit.
    of course he had a bleak existence but with his heart he found always a way.under interrogation many times.the basis of his faith was: i trust God.everything is from him.
    thats childish faith,and i say childish on purpose.it is the heart.
    and then in mexico you find this childlike faith and God comes near.to your heart.
    then you have to put the heart in your mind.
    thank God for our christianity!

    1. I read “He Leadeth Me” too, and I want to read it again someday. Wonderful book.
      I hope you have a wonderful vacation Heather!

      1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

        Yes, Tina and Susan, Servant of God Walter Ciszek is one of my all-time heroes/candidates for sainthood. I got to write a short essay about him for Magnificat several years ago and probably did an arts and culture column on him, too. Deep suffering, deep heart…he said when they finally let him come home to the States, he still felt in exile there, too…

  6. Am so jealous dear Heather! Please look at everything twice for me. Please write about the food you are enjoying. Please include more photos of everything you see at San Miguel de Allende. Travels blessings!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Ha I eat pretty sparsely or I should say spartanly…street food. Lots of fruit, tortillas, gordiats, today a torta de pollo…I am kind of letting myself be “on vacation” so may or may not post again, butI did get a pic this morning of a tall tall tree full of egrets in their separate nests, and down below, an ancient stone statude of the Blessed Virgin…thanks for thinking of me! Looking closely at everything, rest assured, Glenda!

  7. Toddler Jesus is for parents of sick kids. For example, if one of my 3 kids were sick and I asked toddler Jesus for his help, and he granted it, I’d come back and give him a toy in gratitude. Saying thanks is very important in Mexican culture. There are days he has toys up to his eyeballs. Later, on Jan. 6th, they are distributed to local children by the 3 Kings. You really should come on a tour and read any of the books in the best-selling San Miguel de Allende Secrets series so you’ll understand better what you are experiencing.

I WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS!

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