I steady myself, strolling carefully along a cobblestoned street to Jardin Allende, the central plaza of San Miguel de Allende. It’s the first night of my weeklong stay in the small municipality in the state of Guanajuato and I was lured out of an early bedtime by the prospect of acquainting myself with the city. Street lamps illuminate the edges of the park, their light extending just far enough to reach the mariachi band that plays in front of me. Grand voices echo throughout the courtyard; behind them the rosy-hued Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, a 17th century church, ascends into the sky above. I follow its height with my gaze and stare into the stars, allowing the infinity between us to mimic the possibility that lies ahead.
San Miguel de Allende doesn’t simply invite exploration, it encourages exploration. I wandered the aisles of the San Miguel Market, walking besides rows of fresh fruits and vegetables stacked neat and high, and charming restaurant counters in search of treasure. I discovered it in the form of a divine chicken sandwich: a juicy piece of meat tucked into two warm slices of fluffy bread and topped with a decadent spicy sauce.
At the Vinicola Toyan Winery, I traversed a dark cave that led me 45 feet below ground and was rewarded for my journey with a fabulous array of wines that were fermented there. At night I allowed my thirst to lead me as I slipped onto the streets and into bars to practice my Spanish while sipping on smokey mezcals.
On another early morning I ventured off with the intentions of getting lost in the city’s labyrinth-like streets, each one presenting a new path to pursue. The walls that surround me radiated warm tones of orange, yellow, and red, held in place by the serene, blue, sky overhead. Gold rays of sunlight painted the streets as I wandered along, allowing myself to take in the beauty of it all. My breath turns heavy with my steps, a sign of a body still not acclimated to the high altitude of central Mexico, yet, I feel a sense of belonging.
As I roamed San Miguel de Allende I began to navigate my personal history and identity. My grandfather was Mexican. He died before I was born. The family he was born into, it seems, is unreachable. Much like many of us must do, he had to choose a family of his own. He met my grandmother in Germany and together they lived in Texas. I imagined what he was like. How maybe he tried to teach his family Spanish, but probably focused on English to assimilate into an American life. Or how maybe it was too painful to recall a language that he’d left behind. I thought about the disconnect I felt, part of myself that had been lost and, admittedly, ignored. And yet with every turn I took through this maze, I realized there was more of myself to discover.
I encounter a street vendor selling tamales to children playing in the streets. Again, my curiosity strikes. I step up and ask, “Qué tipos de tamales tienes?” She lifts the lid of a large pot, releasing fragrant steam into the summer air. I point to the chicken tamale with a smile. As I make my way back to the square, I savor the taste, each bite of corn sweeter than the next.
Where to stay: Hotel La Morada, Correo #10, Zona Centro, Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto., Mexico. Stay for the lofty spacious rooms with a laid-back feel, just a block away from Jardin Allende.
Where to eat: Áperi, Quebrada 101, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto., Mexico. Each dish at this farm to table restaurant Mexican food that is a complete journey for the senses.
What to see: Fabrica la Aurora, Calz de La Aurora S/N, Aurora, 37710 San Miguel de Allende, Gto., Mexico. This former textile mill now houses galleries and artists in residence.
Continue scrolling to see the remaining images of San Miguel de Allende.