Our 11th anniversary dinner on Sunday was marvelous. There is a San Miguel listserv which many expats use, and it's invaluable for suggestions of where to go for what. I put a request on it for restaurant recommendations, and the "winner" was a place called Jackie's. Here's Rick with his blue-tequila margarita:
And me, dressed up in my pink feather boa for the occasion.
It was an elegant and delicious (and expensive!) meal: a tiny cream of broccoli soup (pureed broccoli with a butter-and-flour roux), cold watermelon gazpacho with grilled shrimp, filet mignon for Rick and duck breast for me, amaretto ice cream, and coffee. I had a wine I'd never had before, a Torrontes from Argentina, which was excellent. The gazpacho -- watermelon balls, shrimp, and sour cream garnished with a mint leaf -- will give you an idea of how beautifully the meal was served.
After we finished eating, Jackie, the owner, came and talked with us for close to an hour. She has such an interesting history! She was born extremely poor a couple of years after the war in a village near Goettingen, Germany. Growing up quite beautiful and apparently with a strong aesthetic sense, she married a US ambassador to Iran and sold jewelry to wealthy people. When that marriage ended she married another wealthy man. Arriving divorced in San Miguel 10 years ago, she bought a lot of property and built herself a big house. A year ago she opened her very upscale restaurant, and it's been a great hit. She raved about how much she loves her life here in a way I've heard others do, but have never heard anywhere else I've ever been.
More about food. Last night we had dinner at a much cheaper restaurant called Hecho en Mexico (made in Mexico). I had grilled cactus leaves and jicama salad! I love the food adventures -- a welcome relief from the endless tortilla-based things.
And after two months of enthusiasm, I want to write to you about the other side of Mexico. Here in San Miguel it's all too easy to forget that this is a developing country. For example, public education is provided only up to the 6th grade, not even totally free because families must buy school uniforms. (The new school year started yesterday, and the streets are now full of children with backpacks and school uniforms.) I find it shocking that in 2010, with steadily increasing literacy and technology requirements, the majority of Mexican children have only a 6th-grade education. One of the many nonprofits here in town is called Mujeres en Cambio, Women in the process of Change, which pays for high school and college for poor girls with good grades and even better ambitions.
And this week there was an article in Atención, the local bilingual newspaper, that is headlined "Six young women jailed in Guanajuato [State] for 'infanticide.'" It has haunted both Rick and me. According to the article, although abortion is legal in Mexico City it is considered a crime in Guanajuato State, where San Miguel is located. All six of the emprisoned women are young, uneducated, and from the countryside. One of them didn't even know she was pregnant, didn't understand that the bleeding meant a miscarriage, and was nevertheless sentenced, like the others, to 19 to 25 years in prison. The state governor insists that all six were convicted of "infanticide" -- "homicide at the family level." Even at the worst of pre-Roe v. Wade times in the United States, we didn't jail people for abortions, especially not for such a large portion of their lives. And I strongly suspect that rich women in Guanajuato State don't go to jail for abortions. That's for the poor ones with no resources or connections.
Tonight after a wonderful talk about Louise Labé, a 16th century French poet whom I learned about (and forgot about!) in graduate school 40 years ago, we went out for a drink with three people: Béa Aaronson (the lecturer), her partner and fellow artist Stephen Eaker -- I've mentioned them both before -- and a friend of Rick's from his writers' group, Louis Cargill. It was the heady kind of conversation we all have much too rarely after college, about art and writing and the creative process. Louis, a gentle and thoughtful man who is 76 and a former English teacher, told us about how he bought a little house here in 1985 which enables him to live, very carefully, on his Social Security of about $575 a month. Imagine, that such a thing is possible!
We have finally found a house to rent for next year, although I'd feel a little better if we had been able to give the house manager a deposit -- there's some question about whether it should be in dollars, check or cash, or in pesos. Here is your room when you visit us (sorry it's a little blurry), and your bathroom with its painted sink and its skylight.
The house has a sala (living room), dining room, bright kitchen, king-sized bedroom for us and bath, a good enclosed patio with a table and umbrella, and a little room off the patio that I'll use as a study, sharing it with the washing machine. I know, unorthodox, but I'll make it work. It's right on a bus line to the center of town and is moreover the only one-story house we've seen: not essential but nice. This house felt warm and welcoming and happy-making. It will cost us $800 per month plus electricity (about $25) and Internet (about $50). And a garage, an extra $20 a month. We are hoping to break even from the rental of our house on Camano Island.