Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Starting the Process to Return to San Miguel de Allende

Yes it has been 3 1/2 years since we left San Miguel for what I had hoped was going to be an exciting and rewarding period back in the Bay Area.  There were several business related issues that needed to be addressed when we made the decision to return but also some personal items that both Jo Ann and I wanted to clean up.

Now it is looking like the time is right to start planning the process to return home and close the chapter on living in California and for that matter back in the US.  As I reflect on the period we have been back up here, it has been great, but I am more than a little concerned about the lack of leadership at both the Federal and state levels.  Couple that with the ever increasing cost of living here in the Bay Area and I just don't think it makes financial sense to stay here.

We are talking about the timing of the move back and I believe we will be in San Miguel by late October.  This, of course, depends on a number of factors including the sale of our house up here as well as getting all of our "stuff" moved back down to San Miguel.  Oh the joys of border crossing and the government bureaucracy associated with moving goods across the border.

So for those of you who still may have this blog in your rss reader or who have it book marked, yes, I am going to recommence the postings as well as my photography (both on this blog and my other one San Miguel Photo of the Day).  In the interim the posts will be about the process of moving back home, the hassles and inconveniences that are sure to arise and the personal conflict that always happens during such stressful activities.  I hope you will enjoy them, and may engage with them in creating a conversation that others will find interesting.

Soon I will be back and hopefully life can revert to the more peaceful pace that is living in San Miguel.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Adios 2007 y Adios San Miguel

Another year bites the dust today and I sit here this morning thinking back on the past year.  It has been a great year of exploration and adventure, learning more about myself and my outlook at the world and most importantly of friendships and family.  It has been a wonderful year and one where we learned to care and ride the horses, that we finished the renovation of the rancho and the extensive gardens, were able to fully (well almost) communicate with people in the campo, were invited to weddings, first communions and other significant celebrations in the pueblos around our rancho, worked extensively with Patronatos por Niños in the local schools and generally had a wonderful experience.  It was also a year that for the first time in almost eight that I started working close to full time again.

Well it is this last point that is going to dictate the upcoming year as we have decided to return to the Bay Area and will be leaving San Miguel.  It is our plan to leave San Miguel around the middle of March as I commence working full time in 2008 and I need to be back closer to San Francisco and the South Bay.

The experience has been wonderful and one that I would recommend to anyone who is looking to experience life in a different country with different cultures, customs and languages.  We have established many friendships that we will carry forward and continue, but at this point of time we feel we must continue our adventures and move back. 

Because of the work commitments and preparing for the move, my postings both here on this blog and on my photo of the day blog at www.sanmiguelphotooftheday.blogspot.com will be much more limited than what I was able to do during the past two years.  I hope you can understand.

So happy new year and may 2008 bring you continued happiness and good health. 

Monday, November 19, 2007

Blessing of the Horses

The Blessing of the Horses is an annual festival in the small pueblo of San Martín de Terrenos, which is located near the city of Guanajuato.  The festival covers a three day period, commencing on the 9th of November, with the main function being the blessing of the horses on the morning of the 10th of November. 

Last Saturday at 8a we depart from San Miguel de Allende to make the drive to San Martín , the objective of today's adventure being to visit the festival in San Martín related to the blessing of the horses, cowboys and bike riders.  The town of San Martín is a sleepy small town on the road to Guanajuato that many drive by on their way to the airport in Leon, but few ever notice that it exists.  That is true except for the one week of the year when the festiva for the blessing of the horses is held.

People come from far and near, there are buses that come from Celaya, Querétaro and even Pueblo.  But what is more impressive is the people who ride their horses and bicycles for a full day or two to get to San Martín and sleep out in the fields surround the town.

After crossing the pressa Allende, we are almost an hours drive from San Martín, but we are already encountering groups of bicyclers who are peddling to get to the Chapel of San Martín in time for the misa.  It makes the drive very stressful as the roads in Mexico, for the most part, do not have paved shoulders or bike lanes, thus we are having to share the road, while driving like a local (which is fast and aggressive).

Finally after about an hour and a half's drive, we arrive at San Martín.  Even though we have been to this festival before, it amazes me to see all of the people, buses and the size of the open air market.

Way too many people

For the first hour or so we amble around the open area market, sampling food stuff and looking at some very nice albeit inexpensive clothing.  The candies are excellent (no we did not buy any of these), the nuts very tasty (yes we did buy some) and the grilled bread was heavenly (we are going to a religious festival).

Road Side Vendors Sandia Muy Dulce Fish Fry Peanuts Coconut Candy Fresh Bread

Once we arrive to the entrance to the Chapel, the leaders of the events ride into town.

Old Bull 2 Chapel at San Martín

I especially like the man who is in costume looking like he is the new sheriff in town.

Get out of my way San Martin 2 San Martin 8 New Sheriff in Town

For the next hour the various groups of riders are assembled in front of the Chapel.  It is amazing how they are able to pack these horses in so close with no incidences with the horses getting spooked. 

San Martín Blessing of the Horses

Once all of the riders were put into position, the priest came out and gave a blessing and threw holy water on the horses and their riders.  Then the doors to the church were opened and the walkers and bikers were let in for misa.  What is amazing is that the horses then had to stand there for two and a half hours while the walkers and bikers paraded through the church.

What are we going to do next? Sleeping on the horse

While we knew we had some time, we then went looking for someplace to have comida as there was not going to be any good photo-ops until the horses started to leave.  

So we start walking around looking for some place to eat when we look up and are amazed at the way the various street vendors have hooked up to the electricity.

Taping into CFE

We found this excellent stand that was serving a variety of Mexican cuisine, all of which was excellent.  The operators were from Puebla and the whole family was working including their cute little daughter.


When we returned to the Chapel, I discovered that I had shot the entire film card in my camera and my extra ones were in the car.  Thus I was not able to get any good shots of the horses leaving but I hope I have shared enough already in this posting.

The Blessing of the Horses at San Martín is an excellent festival that any person who enjoys horses or Mexican festivals needs to visit.  We had a great time.  If you want to see more photos from San Martín, please check out my complete set at flickr by clicking here.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Traveling el Camino Real to Querétaro

This past week we decided to take the old road from San Miguel to Querétaro, which runs past the pueblo of Jalpa.  We had been warned that the road in the rainy season can be very difficult so we took our Ford truck, which is not as comfortable as the other car but very reliable in tough terrain.

This route has you turn off the main road to Querétaro at the road for Jalpa, which is still a very normal Mexican road (good surface except a lot of pot holes) and after a while we came to the pueblo of Jalpa. 

The first thing you come across in Jalpa is this wonderful old church as shown below.

Iglasia en Jalpa 2

In front of the church is the pressa which is very large and on this wonderful day provided excellent reflections of the hills across the pressa.

Driving from Jalpa to Querétaro

On the grounds surrounding the church are a number of old ruins that kept calling out to us.  We tried to discover what they could have been used for but we will never know.

Doorway to the Ruin 

Another doorway to a ruin 

What was this before

Across the pressa there is also this beautiful cross on the hillside.

Cross on the hillside

As we were leaving the church, we saw this elderly woman come to the front door of the church to offer her prayers for the day. 

We had heard that there was a wonderful old hacienda call the Hacienda Jalpa which has been recently renovated and from it's web site looks very wonderful.  However we did not get down to the hacienda so we can not comment on it, maybe next time.

We headed back to the truck to continue our journey when we see the same elderly lady who was at the church walking down the road.  We stopped and asked if she would like a ride and of course she said yes.

Talking with her it seems that she has lived in Jalpa for her entire life and now lives in a small rancho about 15 kilometers from Jalpa.  Her life is taking care of her family, most of whom still live in Jalpa so she walks into Jalpa on almost a daily basis.  While in Jalpa she will visit with her family and do her grocery shopping and then walk back home.  I would guess she was happy to get a ride from three gringos and shorten her long walk.

Upon leaving Jalpa the road changes from modern construction methods to those used in years past, empedrado and dirt.  These road really do slow your speed down as the empedrado is very bumpy and the dirt roads were very muddy from all of the recent rains.

A Road Well Traveled 

After what seemed like a long while driving on the empedrado and dirt roads we came to this small outdoor alter which looks like it celebrates mass only on the 6th of May at 8:30.  It was in the middle of nowhere but it was so cute that we just had to stop and take some photos.

Little Iglasia 

Continuing on we came to another small pueblo (which we do not know the name of) that was obviously having a festiva soon.  There were these four crosses and all the banners.  Everything looked so joyous and happy.

Festiva 2

Slightly after this pueblo we started the decent into Querétaro and the return to large metropolitan problems (over crowding, traffic, etc.).  However for a couple of hours we were able to transform ourselves back to the country as it existed many years ago.  Yes there were some cars but most people traveled by foot or burro and they were not worried about the latest fashions, crisis on wall street or other world events, but only about their families and friends.  It was a great trip.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Rancho Santa Marína

There is an organic farmers' market that is open on Saturdays in San Miguel de Allende in the La Carpa near the Aurora.  One of the times Jo Ann and I were visiting the market, we stopped and talked with a vendor who was selling organic cheese made from sheep's milk.  He explained to us that they age the cheese in caves using techniques that have been followed for many years.  As we talked we both thought that this would be a fun road trip and he agreed that we could come on down to tour his rancho.

So last week a group of us took off from San Miguel heading towards Atongo, which is in the state of Querétaro, not far off of the toll road that heads to Mexico City.  We had called in advance to ensure we could take a tour and everything seemed ready.

We arrived at Rancho Santa Marína right on time, but alas the gate was locked and we called and called to no avail.  Finally I started honking the horn on our car and someone came out and told us that the person we were suppose to meet was not there.  However shortly after that this young lady came out and introduced herself as Deanna, who was the on site veterinarian, and she would be able to give us our tour.

Deanna and the lamb

We started the tour by walking through the automatic milking facilities.  Unlike cows, the sheep only get milked once a day and that would not be commencing until after 1p or so.  Deanna said that we could be able to return to see the facility in full swing.

Awaiting the sheep

The next stop of our tour was to visit with some of various herds of sheep.  They are kept in distinct groups so they can manage the production of milk.  Here are a couple of photos of the various herds of sheep.

Are You Looking At Me? I'm so cute Sheep 9

The rancho is certified organic and produce all of their own feed so they can ensure that the sheep are feed only the highest quality foods and grains.

After touring some of the various herds (there are over 300 sheep on the rancho), we went to the gardens surrounding the main house on the rancho.  The gardens are very beautiful and have a great mixture of flowers, native plants and fruit trees.

Lilies Butterfly and Lantana

After the gardens we went to the building where the make the cheese and where the cave is that is used to age the cheese.  The production facility is very modern and very sanitary looking.  It is run by one woman who was very focused in what she did.

Then we got to see the cave, which has a big glass wall so people can look in on the various cheese.  I was lucky enough to be invited in with my camera to take some photos of the cheeses in the cave.  All I can tell you is the aroma of the cheeses was absolutely fabulous.  Here a couple of photos to give you an idea of what they looked like, but there is no way that I can duplicate the aroma.

Cheese in the Caves Awaiting Sales

Deanna told us that the cheeses are aged for three months in the caves.  What is interesting is that it takes the milk from ten sheep to make one kilo of cheese, so you can do your own math to understand that this is not a very large production business.

So after so much temptation, we were finally given the opportunity to taste the cheeses.  What was interesting is that we were able to taste the cheese of two different ages, one that was in the cave for only two months and one in for the entire three months.  There was a significant difference between the two, much fuller and much more tasty.

Tasting the cheese

Our final stop was to go back to the automatic milking stations, where they were in full swing for the afternoon milking.  You can see for yourself how this process works.

Milking the sheep 3

So the plan is to try to organize another tour of this rancho for the Down to Earth garden club of San Miguel sometime in October.  The owners of the rancho are offering us a full tour together with a tasting of cheese and wine for 100 pesos per person.  This tour and tasting was great fun and I think that the entire group will greatly enjoy the trip.  If you are interested in coming please visit the Down to Earth Garden Club web site at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/gardensma/.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Festival de Música de Cámara en San Miguel de Allende

One of the highlights of the summer season here in San Miguel is the Chamber Music Festival that takes place in late July and early August.  The series features a number of chamber music ensembles and soloists and has been presenting the festival for 29 years.  If you wish to learn more about this festival you can access their web site by clicking here.

One of the main locations for the concert series is the Teatro Angela Peralta, which always has banners and other signs for the concert series as you can see below.

Teatro Angela Peralta 1

Jo Ann and I live out in the compo and do not come into San Miguel often as we do not like driving at night.  However, this year one of the events were being held at the Santuario in Atotonilco.  This church is a world monument as designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and is part of a submission to have both the town of San Miguel and the Santuario designated as a World Heritage location.

The concert at the Santurio features the Rossetti String Quartet and was held in one of the chapels of the Santuario that had recently been renovated.  The chapel was absolutely stunning in its beauty.  The ceiling murals looked like they had just been painted and all of the artifacts were like new.

I did take a number of photos of the concert, but I have to apologize in advance, the lighting was very low and I had to take the images only by hand holding my camera, which does not have any image stabilization.  So with the apology out of the way, here are some of the images from the Santuario.

Inside the Santuario en Atotonilco


 Ceiling Murals en Atotonilco 1


 Ceiling Murals en Atotonilco 2


 Ceiling Murals en Atotonilco 3

So yes the ambiance was beautiful, but how was the music and the acoustics.  The music was absolutely wonderful and the acoustics were as if the chapel had been built for musical concerts.  Both Jo Ann and I just loved the concert and the setting.  Here is a image of the Rossetti String Quartet as the return from one of their breaks between performances.

 Rossetti String Quartet

I can only hope that the festival will return with another venue to be held in the Santuario next year.  I really recommend that people should go and enjoy these concerts, they are superb.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Too Much of A Good Thing?

For the past few weeks we have had a significant amount of rain.  Living in the high desert having enough rain is always a concern, but for the past week or so we have had more than what I would call normal.  It is starting to impact the farmers as their crops are starting to rot in the ground.  Also the people who live in the pueblos in the compo can not travel the roads that cross the arroyos as they are flooded.

As you can see below the farmer in the property next to our rancho was trying to plow his fields for a late season crop of corn and beans.  However after we got almost 2 1/2 inches of rain on Friday, he got stuck on Saturday and can not move his tractor. 

Stuck in the Mud 1

It is also curtailing some of our favorite activities, like trail riding with our horses and biking around in the compo.  As you can see below we have a small lake in our riding ring so we have not been able to give the horses much exercise for the past week.

The Lake in the Ring 2

We know of farmers who had cut their crop of alfalfa and had it baled hoping to get it sold before it rains, only to have it rain that evening and ruin the entire crop.  This has to be so disheartening to these farmers as they have an excellent crop but then can't get it to market before it rains and ruins the crop.

I hope that we can have a few days of sun and dryness so that the water can be absorbed by the earth.  However, I do hope that we continue to have this excellent rainy season, only I hope it can space itself out more evenly over the remaining months of the season.

As an update, I know that I have not been spending too much time writing on this blog.  I hope to start again posting about the exciting and interesting things that happen living in the compo in Mexico.  However, please continue to enjoy my almost daily photos of life in Mexico which you can find by clicking here sanmiguelphotooftheday.blogspot.com.