On my first night in San Miguel de Allende, I knew it was going to be a place I needed to stay for longer than just a few days. Not only because there happen to be the biggest celebration of the year happening that weekend, the celebration of Archangel San Miguel, but more because of the art presence within the city. There was a lot to see and I imagined, a lot of people to meet.
The second day here I was sick with a cold, most likely as a result of staying in that moldy hotel room the day before so I lost a bit of time there but with the help of some cold medicine I was making my way around the city. I visited churches and art galleries, artists markets and played with musicians on the street. I met up with the Motoclassica club on Thursday at their weekly hangout spot and @MarkMexico gave me the contact of a local artist metalshop.
I began the next day by watching the trapeze artists in the centro. They install this rickety looks metal pole in the ground which stretches over three stories high. The artists climb to the top and sit on the ledge of the rim that is mounted to the top on the pole. Once all 5 of them are up there, one begins playing. Then the other four push off from the pole falling to the ground with a rope tethered to their ankles. The pole turns and slowly swings them around in the air as it unravels the rope and they move closer to the ground as they dance and spin overhead. Once they rope is almost completely let out, they reach the ground and continue their dance on the ground. It’s pretty magical.
After the performance, I checked out one of the artisan markets downtown. Most of the shops carried similar crafts except for a few that were exceptional. Then as I was making my way through the corridor, and saw a store that looked very different from afar, as I got closer it also smelled different, incense….then sounded different, electronic music…. then yep, it was different, amazingly different! It was like entering a whole new realm. Sacred geometry scattered about on the walls, antique lamps above and some of the most beautiful jewelry I have ever seen. I didn’t see Jorge at first, he tells me he was sleeping behind the counter. But after looking for sometime and wondering who was running the store, the tall dreadlocked jeweler pops his head up!
We end up talking for a while, then I end up just hanging with him at his store for a good part of the day as he shows me different techniques of his artistry and we share stories. He has traveled to Argentina from Mexico through a mixture of walking, hitchhiking, bus, and bicycle over about two years. He sustained it through selling his jewelry on the street and at festivals. He also travels to India frequently to get the gems and varies other materials he uses with his work. We make plans to meet up later for the fireworks celebration and in the coming days for lessons in jewelry making. I have never really tried to learn how to make jewelry, many of the skills I already have with metal can apply just on a very small scale, so it’s exciting to imagine getting into it. Especially since it’s not really feasible to carry a welder and the typical metalworking tools on my motorcycle.
I made my way around the city after leaving his shop and somehow pass by a few more great artists at their local gallery. There were two people sitting inside and as I glanced in they greeted me and invited me in. The walls were covered in paintings and beautiful collages of paper and wood, frames and canvases lined the walls. Valeriana and Eduardo are good friends who share the studio together. I ended up spending the rest of the evening with them eating and drinking and talking about lost love. Eduardo is trying to make a more streamline business for his canvases so that he can make art full time and Val paints everyday. It was a lovely evening with them, we swap numbers and ended up visiting them quite a few times throughout the next week.
I meet back up with Jorge and bounce around to different bars and rooftop clubs in town until we eventually find our way back to centro for the parade and fireworks. They do things a bit different here in San Miguel, the main festivities and fireworks start at 4am. So the entire night the city is partying hard, then when everyone makes their way to centro it is madness, beautiful madness. There must have been about 6 full bands walking about, horns, strings, guitar, singers, percussion; maybe about 14 musicians in each band, dispersed throughout the square.You can pay them to play a song for you and many people do. So as you snake your way through the crowd you also travel through different sonic experiences, moving from one song to the other. They try to keep a reasonable distance from each other but the colliding sound is very much part of the excitement of the crowds. You can feel the joy, the life of all the people around you as they sing along to their favorite songs and celebrate this night together.
There was this structure set up in front of the church so we figured somewhere close to that was the best place to be. There were there men dressed in white standing in front of the church, we weren’t sure what they about. Until they all suddenly started throwing very large bottle rockets into the crowd. It was raining fire! It looked like something out of a war zone. They were tossing thousands of rockets every minute. The crowd went wild, people running through the field of fire, laughing, yelling, taking their clothes off, catching fire; at that moment I really knew I loved this country; all of its grit and grime and joy and carefree nature. Oh and craziness!
I stood there in awe for a while just watching as the fire rained down on us, I caught on fire myself a few times, one time pretty bad. They were also shooting off some of the larger typical fireworks from the church and one of them must have gone off course because it hit me right in the side, burned through my shirts, cut up my arm and scorched my leather pouch. But that’s what happens when you choose stand right where the action is and run through the firestorm. Wouldn’t have picked any other place, even with the rocket burn. The fireworks didn’t stop for over an hour, then they finally set off the tower that was in front of us, then more big fireworks then it as over. Well not the party, that doesn’t stop until Monday morning, and there are more fireworks on the next two night. Not as intense or as late as this one but still, every night. I have a really great video I will try to upload and share here another day.
By far the most spectacular celebration I’ve ever seen, New York at New Years can’t touch it.
Saturday was spent with my host family at the parades. The parades are made up of many different groups from all over Mexico performing traditional dances. Some of the dances have been passed down for generations upon generation and some are a bit more modern. But everyone was covered in beautiful custom garments with brilliant headdresses, jewelry and elaborate face paint. The musicians were a whole other part of the experience. Each group would have their own musicians with a variety of different instruments. The percussion of each were so unique and pronounced. As a musician and sound designer, I recorded and sampled much of the sounds of this celebration. I have plans in mind for what will happen with those. More on that another time.
I did more recording at the next days parade, met a few more artists and went back to see Eduardo and Val at the studio. Then hung out with Jorge and learned how to do wire wraps and basic clasp designs.
Monday Capi, the grandfather of my host, who kind of reminded me of my grandfather who passed away recently, wanted to take me to some old abandoned mines north of the city called, Mineral de Pozos. It was first mined extensively for gold, silver, bronze, copper, quartz and other minerals during the 16th century. Now it has been abandoned for over a century. It was a fascinating place, you had to be very careful where you walked as there were many smaller, overgrown mines hiding out in the grass. If you weren’t careful you could easily end up joining the minerals below. We checked out a few spots and were able to actually go down into one of the old mines with the help of a very precarious rope tied to a nearby tree. There are many artists in town and a small gallery which we also checked out before heading back to San Miguel.
Today was spent learning more techniques for jewelry making. I made my first few necklaces which each turned out quite nice. I’m going to get a kit together so that I can craft my own work on the road. Jorge said that I made the chains well enough that if I made them on the road and sent them to him he would buy them from me. I think I may take him up on that offer too, any money helps and that means being paid to improve my skill so that’s pretty much the best arrangement I can find.
After tomorrow I will be in the desert, off the grid, for at least a week. I can’t divulge in much detail what I am going to be doing or where I’ll be going and I won’t have pictures or stories to tell you after on here due to the private nature of the activity. Forewarning, this is going to happen now and again throughout my journey, so if you wonder why I have missing weeks from my RR this is why. For the past few years I have been working, growing and learning spiritually, intellectually and emotionally through the use of traditional, sacred medicines in ceremony. Many of my close friends are musicians that play as a part of these types of ceremonies around the world which has enabled me to connected deeply with these communities. An important part of this rtw trip for me is to further that knowledge through continued practice of these medicines and meditation (vipassana more specifically as there are centers/communities for that worldwide).
I will talk more about my goals and future plans in a later post which will elaborate on the overarching vision I have for each element I am working to intertwine within my travels, this part included. But I will air on the side of caution as I don’t really think this is the place to go into detail about that sort of thing. If you want to know more you can speak to me privately or visit my website when I relaunch it next month. For those of you interested just google, Wirikura desert and Huichol and you should get an idea of what I’m up to.
See you on the other side!