06 Apr Miracle in San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende is one of those places that’s been on my “bucket list” for many years. Lots of folks in the my Hudson Valley neighborhood call it “Woodstock South” since it’s known as an arts colony and many people from our area spend winters there. Located in the heart of Mexico, it’s a four hour drive north of Mexico City, and there’s no easy way to get there. We took a plane to Houston, then another one to Leon, Mexico, then a one and a half hour taxi ride. Plan an entire day traveling each direction and bring snacks, since we only got a meager cookie on each leg of the journey.
I spent a fascinating week walking the cobblestone streets, window shopping, and eating lots of great Mexican food. I especially loved Juan’s Cafe across from the Biblioteca for great local color, delicious breakfast and lunch and lots of anti-Trump paraphernalia. San Miguel has gotten pretty gentrified though so you’ll also find pizza, pasta, sushi and food from all around the world if you’re so inclined. Starbucks just off the main Jardin is definitely the social hub for gringos. Since they offer free wifi you can only imagine how many people I found sitting around staring at their iphones. Thank goodness for an oasis in the internet desert to reconnect with friends back home.
As an artist, traveling for me is an opportunity to see the world anew through sketching and painting whatever catches my eye. It wasn’t as easy as I had hoped to find a good spot to park myself since the sidewalks are narrow, the homes hidden behind walls, and there are very few benches or places to sit. The watercolor above was done from a series of very steep steps that take you to a high hill with breath-taking views of the city below.
I also found several beautiful squares full of benches where people gather to schmooze with friends and people watch. Perfect! One afternoon I joined the Urban Sketchers (perhaps 30 or more artists) that meet every week at different locations to enjoy themselves painting the local color. What fun. I tackled this colorful domed building located just to the left of the famed La Perroquia.
While I was painting, two young Mexican “hermosas”, maybe 8 and 10 years old plopped down on the bench next to me and started watching. Dressed in their spiffy uniforms, I deduced they had just come from school. Resurrecting my high school Spanish, I began talking to them and as they started feeling more comfortable, they came around to my other side where I had just put down one of my paint brushes. The older girl picked it up and began to dab it into my paint box! Wow – rather bold! After a few minutes I remembered the extra inexpensive brush I’d brought along, so I reached in my bag and handed it to her along with a few pieces of extra paper. Her face lit up as she shared the brush with her sister. They excitedly took turns dipping the brush in the water, the paint, and then stroking colors onto their own pictures. What an amazing experience to find myself sitting on a park bench in Mexico painting watercolors with these lovely young girls.
I was so engrossed that I failed to notice many of the people in the square had left. It was close to 4:00 and I imagined people were now heading home to start dinner preparations. I realized I should head back as well so I slowly packed up and wistfully said “adios”. They too seemed sorry to say good-bye, but happy with their new gift. I will long remember these gentle spontaneous moments of sharing and the universal doorway to communication that opened from the experience of making art.
A completely different but equally powerful experience occurred one evening that reconnected me with my faith and reminded me about the humanity we all share. Several good friends invited me to dinner at their favorite neighborhood restaurant where they know the owner and love the food. When we first walked into the small room, we encountered a very loud lounge singer and only two tables available, one directly in front of the musician or one near the hot, smokey kitchen. We debated for a few minutes and opted for the hot smokey table.
The owner brought us over a bottle of wine, we chatted for a few moments, then – an earth shattering explosion occurred and to our stunned amazement a black SUV was coming straight through the wall not 10 feet from us. There was smoke and dust everywhere, people were screaming. It was total mayhem. It was apparent one person was on the ground covered in rubble and another man was covered in blood. The table in front of the singer was also covered in bricks and rubble.
We waited until the woman on the floor was taken off in an ambulance, then walked down the street in silence trying to decide what to do. We knew we were in a state of shock, but forced ourselves into a restaurant to decompress. Later that night as I lay in bed I remembered the little Virgin Mary art piece I had fallen in love with and purchased earlier that day, as well as the carved angels and angel wings I had seen in shops around town. When I closed my eyes I was amazed to feel the beating of hundreds of angel wings all around me. The following day I set out in search of those carved angels and was thrilled to find several I brought back home. They are now an important reminder of my connection to the greater good that some call God.
I’m not sure of the meaning of this event, but I am profoundly aware that a feeling of devotion has been reawakened in me. Perhaps it was enhanced by the strong love the Mexican people have for the Virgin Mary combined with the insecurity of being away from home and family. All of this has served to strengthen my faith in the divine. This apparent “tragedy” was actually a great blessing in reconnecting me with the realm of miracles.
There were many other miracles that circled around this event as well. We discovered a few days later that the brakes had failed on the driver’s car. Rather than crash into pedestrians and other cars on the steep hill, he aimed for the corner of the building, but hit the wall instead. His family and friends have rallied around and promised to help rebuild the restaurant.
Within the last six months the owner of the restaurant had invested a great deal of money reinforcing the structure of the building itself to make sure the roof was stable. Perhaps all the rest of the diners that night (including me) were blessed by this alone.
The woman who was rushed to the hospital with her husband had serious injuries but is on the road to recovery. After I posted on Facebook what had happened that night, 100+ caring people that she’d never met sent her their prayers for healing. Both she and her husband recently discovered this and were grateful for all the love and support from near and far.
To fellow travelers on the road of life, stay open to the miracles each opportunity may bring, whether it appears to be a “bad” or “good” experience. As one of my teachers once said, “All of life is a gift, sometimes we just don’t like how the gift is wrapped!” Carry on with joy!
Here are some of my other favorite saints and angels from San Miguel:
Many people recommended I visit the hot springs just outside of town called La Grupa. My friend Phyllis and I set out on a Monday for a relaxing day trip only to discover they’re closed Mondays and Tuesdays. We had almost given up when our taxi driver told us about their neighbor Escondido Place. We were delighted to discover several large outdoor pools and a series of covered hot pools inside buildings that look like igloos connected by small passages. I especially loved the final hottest pool housed in a circular brick domed structure. When I entered I was the only one in the pool and after floating on my back for a few moments I was blessed by the mandala created by the holes in the ceiling. The whole effect once again brought me to moments of spiritual connection.
Hasta la vista amigos!