It is Sunday, like any other late summer Sunday. The Jardín in el centro de San Miguel is buzzing. Babies coo and cry, toddlers wobble. Tweens gorge on chicharrónes – pork rinds in plastic bags full of salsa. Young adults flirt and steal kisses while others preen looking for dates. Adults window-shop and drink micheladas while grandparents find a shady place to sit. Giant mojigangas, or cartonerías, work the crowd, as people pass a coin or two through a sternum slot and pose for a photo.
Ice cream carts (paleterías), pulled by man or donkey, hold stainless steel containers packed in beds of ice. I had read about rice pudding ice cream and it was beginning to blossom into an obsession. I get a scoop in a cono, pay my 25 pesos. We sit on a bench, while I eat just a bit. I admit to AliSun the arroz y leche helado kind of sucks – firm rice and cheap milk, not the rich buttercream we are used to in a rare indulgence. I find a trash can, resume my seat on the bench and beginning snapping photos of la vida passing before us as clouds roll past changing the balance between light and shadow.
San Miguel is a city in transition. It clutches close to the heart – the corazon – a culture and tradition that has half a millennia of Spanish roots and even deeper those of the indigenous. The Mexican sensibilities of life, death, beauty and art insinuate themselves into every building, celebration, conversation. It is a lovely and friendly town, unable or perhaps unwilling to hide the poverty and difficult life many of it’s citizens endure.
Night falls. La Parroquia is illuminated from within and without, creating its own balance of light and shadow. It sits on the south side of El Jardín, with City Hall and the jail on the north side. The people’s garden in the middle is effectively surrounded by Church and State. As we walk east towards our residence, a poor woman on a doorstep holds out her hand, hoping to squeeze a few more pesos out of her day’s work. A lone vendor walks down the street with his wares, a pile of sombreros improbably reaching far into the night sky.