Featuring the photography of Marshall Postnikoff.
It was fourteen years ago, my first time ever in San Miguel. I fell instantly, deeply, madly in love with the town and I wanted to know more about it. I wanted to explore every inch of it.
There was a sign in the jardin, the social center of my newfound love. It advertised an historical walking tour. I hated history in school. But I love history when I’m knee deep in it. I showed up at the advertised 10:00 o’clock start time and a very attractive and very charming woman took me on a tour that married me to San Miguel. Forever and ever. Amen.
That tour was organized and conducted by an organization called Patronato Pro Niños and, fourteen years later, they are still organizing and conducting tours of San Miguel. A few weeks ago I had lunch with another very attractive and very charming woman, Peggy Jones, along with her husband Stan. They are two of the volunteers who guide those fascinating tours. We talked about the charity, Patronato Pro Niños, we talked about food (of course) and we talked about some of the highlights of those walks through the town I fell in love with.
The first interesting fact you may not know concerns Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel or, as it’s better and more simply known, the Parroquia. There are burial crypts in the church and in one of them is the fourth President of Mexico, Anastasio Bustamente. Except he’s not quite all there. At his request, Peggy Jones told me, Bustamente’s heart was buried in Mexico City, with his hero, Agustín de Iturbide, a Mexican general.
There are now three different tours hosted by Patronato Pro Niños, one of them exclusively covering churches, one covering architecture, and one a more general historic tour that’s held three times each week. Every peso that is collected on the walking tours goes to the care of disadvantaged children in San Miguel and the surrounding communities.
After leaving the stunning Parroquia, my choice for lunch would be around the corner on Cuna de Allende at La Posadita. The restaurant has been somewhat forgotten in the last couple of years, but it’s just as good as it ever was. It’s my go to place for tacos de lengua, a dish that can convert anyone to the joys of beef tongue.
If I wasn’t at La Posadita, I would be at Bella Italia, at the corner of Correo and Portal de Guadalupe. There I could sit and admire another fact about the Parroquia that Peggy Jones shared with me. Did you know that each of the bells have names? Did you know that, when the one called La Luz was cast in the 1730’s, the wealthy people of San Miguel were asked to contribute their gold, their silver and their bronze so that the precious metals could be used for the bell?
And why would I choose Restaurante Bella Italia? Not just for a cappuccino and to watch the world walk by. What most people think of as a tourist joint makes some of the best pasta dishes in town.
Down Correo from Bella Italia, then turning right on Sollano, you can check out another of Pro Niños “things you may not know”. On the right you will see La Fuente del Conte. At the back of the Count’s fountain you’ll see a little arched doorway. But why? Peggy Jones told me a convent was once housed behind the fountain and the cloistered nuns could use the little door to get water without ever being seen in public.
And where would I go for lunch after checking out the fountain? Just a few more steps up Sollano to La Alborada. It was the first place I ever ate pozole. It’s been a regular pozole stop ever since.
I asked Peggy Jones how Patronato Pro Niños helps the community.
“By promoting good health and oral hygiene, by providing necessary medical and dental care, by working with other health care providers as an advocate and funding source, we help children from economically disadvantaged families in San Miguel de Allende lead healthier, fuller lives”, said Peggy. “Patronato Pro Niños has been doing this for 45 years. We now see second and third generations of the same family. These families trust Pro Niños. And we’ve earned that trust by helping thousands and thousands of children through the years.”
Heading back to the jardin and diagonally crossing to the corner of San Francisco and Hidalgo you’ll find the original home of the Canal family and over those magnificent front doors you’ll see a woman standing on a house. Peggy Jones told me the woman was Our Lady of Loreto and that she commemorates the transporting by angels of the Virgin Mary’s house to safety during hostile invasions.
From the Canal house, I’d walk down Hidalgo, the street named after the priest and revolutionary leader Miguel Hidalgo, a street I can’t walk down without thinking about a Q&A that came from Peggy.
“Many people called him Father Hidalgo”, she quizzed, “but how many people called him Daddy?” Apparently at least eight from four different mistresses she told me. Hmmmmmm!
On Hidalgo, I would eat lunch at Hank’s and I would eat a reuben. Simply because every few weeks I must eat a reuben and Hank’s makes the best reuben in town.
If I then turned right at Mesones and walked over a couple of blocks to number 38, I would find La Meson de San Jose. Mesones was the street of inns and La Meson de San Jose was one of the first. Inside, you will find a courtyard and, at the back of the courtyard, you will find a water trough. Peggy told me why. San Miguel was on the silver route and when a burro train stopped for the night, the upstairs of the mesones was where the people would be housed while downstairs the burros would be stabled.
For lunch, I wouldn’t make a move. La Meson de San Jose has one of the cheapest bargain buffets in town and the only one that comes with a Cuban touch. And I’d try to be there on a Saturday, the day they roast the suckling pig.
When seated in La Meson’s courtyard, you will have a great view of the last “thing you may not know” that I’m going to share from Peggy Jones. The bell tower of the San Francisco church once had two saints standing at each corner but only seven of the eight remain. The reason, Peggy told me, was that one was toppled by lightning in the 1940s.
During our lunch (at the historically important La Casa Del Diezmo of course), Peggy Jones shared 20 different interesting facts about San Miguel. I’m only sharing five or otherwise you might not take the Patronato Pro Niños tour. And even if you’ve been around town for as long as I have, there are still good reasons to take it. Even if it’s just knowing you’re helping one of the town’s very best charities.
The regular Patronato Pro Niños historical walking tours take place every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The meeting place is the jardin across from the Parroquia at 10:00 am. The cost is $300 pesos. To arrange an architectural or churches tour or to schedule a private tour call 152-7796. You pick the tour’s date and time. The cost for private tours for 1-4 people is $1400 pesos. Add $350 pesos for each additional person over the initial four.
Marshall Postnikoff is a Canadian photographer. To view and potentially order his latest poster, The Doors of San Miguel, go to http://www.photographybymarshall.com/Clients/Posters.