We've been spending more time in the Jardin lately. It's an amazing place: there is some of everything and everyone there. There are very poor people, like old women begging and small children selling chiclets, out at 10 o'clock at night. This child, with no parent around, was sleeping on the ground in front of a man selling jewelry, his chiclet box tucked firmly beneath him. A young woman reached right over him to pick up a necklace.
And of course it's the place for Mexicans of all ages to see whatever is going on. They are there in family groups with lots of small children as well as elderly parents. They mingle easily with the expats in the crowd.
The Jardin isn't the only happening place at night. San Miguel has a booming nightlife: there are dozens of restaurants and bars, many of which have live music. People cruise from one to the other, laughing and talking. On Friday and Saturday nights the entire town bursts with life and activity. I can't tell you how infectious the happiness is.
Tonight in the Jardin there were performances lasting several hours. Between dance acts, which looked like community amateurs performing enthusiastically but who will never make the big time, the emcee handed out coupons for a raffle to people, preferably children, who could answer various historical questions. What was Ignacio de Allende's birthdate? What was the name of the priest from Dolores Hidalgo who started the insurrection? (By the way, there's a great article, with pictures, on San Miguel, Dolores Hidalgo, and Guanajuato and their role in the Mexican independence movement in tomorrow's New York Times travel section: http://travel.nytimes.com/2010/08/22/travel/22Mexico.html?ref=travel) This is definitely the place to be in Mexico this year, as the independence movement started right here 200 years ago next month. The revolution also took place here 100 years ago next month. As you can imagine, there is a huge amount of national commemoration going on.
Then there were several groups of folkloric dancers, women with full skirts and men with big sombreros. There were other performers as well, including this man who demonstrated a huge live snake (which he wouldn't let me touch: I asked).
To his left I seem to have captured a part of a person in a giraffe suit. I saw a couple on stilts and two men head to foot in the same brilliant pink or blue, even their faces, hair and shoes. Endless entertainment! In fact, as I write this I hear fireworks outside. We hear them every few days.
As we sat on the folding chairs watching the dancers, there was a shy little boy who kept playing peekaboo with us. To entertain him I gave him my little notebook and a pen.
Now when I make notes in the notebook for this blog, I'll see his drawings and smile.
There was a wedding tonight in the Parroquia, the big church at the Jardin. I had not realized before how big an issue class is here. The guests entered the church dressed up in the kind of evening gowns one sees in Academy Awards broadcasts — obviously very haute couture and very expensive. I am no fashion expert, but the bride wore an elaborate, elegant ivory gown that must have cost thousands of dollars.
I noticed that all the women attending the wedding were slender and light-skinned, as were all the men accompanying them in tuxedos. Many if not most of the Mexicans we see here are overweight. Even young girls are stocky. Thinking about that wedding, I am realizing that a stocky body correlates with darker skin. It's hard to be slender here: carbohydrates, which are cheap, are everywhere in the tortillas, enchiladas, quesadillas, burritos, rice, beans, and potatoes. We have been told that there are more diabetics in Mexico per capita than in any other country. Some of the Mexicans we have had extended conversations with, such as Fabiola and her family several weeks ago, are light-skinned, slender, educated, and well to do. It still matters in 2010 in Mexico if you are descended from Spaniards or Indians.
There are many thermal springs in the area around San Miguel, and today we went to one of them. It was a good day for it, nice and cloudy: the sun this far south can be brutal. El Escondido consists of ten pools that capture the warm water. Here are a couple of them.
The temperature of the water in these outdoor pools was like a tepid bath but other pools were entirely enclosed, like grottos, and in those the water was much warmer and the air felt like a steam bath. After going in the pools we lay on the grass and read or just loafed. Look at the grin on Rick's face!
Right near where we spread the blanket I saw a mushroom-looking thing growing in the grass, but it was like no mushroom I ever saw. Ottie the mycologist, do you know what it is? It's about 2 or 3 inches high and grows on a thin stalk beneath the bulbous part you see here.
To get into the Aguas Thermales it costs 90 pesos a person, about $8. The psychology of money, we find, is important. Because there are about 12.5 pesos per dollar, 90 pesos sounds much more expensive than $8. This is so helpful because it keeps our spending down. On the other hand, all the entertainment in the Jardin is absolutely free. This place is an economic treasure.
The only blight on our happiness these past few days is that the house we hoped to rent next year evaporated today. Far from being an inducement as I thought, the prospect of a minimum one year rental proved to be a discouragement to the owners, who decided to keep their options open for moving here themselves. But as I said earlier, we have a couple of other possibilities and we'll check out other places too. We have another month here, and surely we'll find a house we like before then.
But really, everything is good. Walking home tonight we passed the fountain I love, which is especially beautiful at night.
Tomorrow is our 11th anniversary. We will treat ourselves to a fine meal, in this town of fine restaurants which until now we've pretty much ignored. Good night, everyone.