Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Crypt Beneath The Altar



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In the heart of San Miguel de Allende, across the square from El Jardin, stands the Parroquia, the church with the odd façade that has become a symbol of San Miguel. Amazingly, after having visited the city regularly for many years and now having lived here for three years, I had never even been inside. Until last Saturday morning.

I was aware that the crypt that resides beneath the alter existed, but as it is only open to the public one, or occasionally two, days per year I’d never had the opportunity to see it. Finally last year, during Day of the Dead while I was in Patzcuaro, Todd made his first foray into the crypt and his visit resulted in such wonderful pictures that I was determined to visit there myself, and this year I finally did.


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On Saturday morning, as a small group of people waited in hushed silence in the front pews of the Parroquia, a door was opened and an ancient stone staircase became visible descending into the depths below the altar. As we travelled downward cool, damp air and the smell of ammonia reached us from the recently cleaned cavern.


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As we entered the crypt history enveloped us like a cloak. There is some disagreement as to when the crypt was actually built, but the general consensus seems to be that it was the mid 19th century. José Cornelio López Espinoza, a city chronicler, states that it was built between 1760 and 1762, but another historian, Graciela Cruz, says that there is no evidence of that and from the type of burials and the people buried there, that it is far more likely to have been built in the 19th century.

We do know that the crypt was designed by the famous artist/architect Eduardo Tresguerras who is believed to have worked in San Miguel around 1830. Tresguerra was born in Celaya and is most known for his his neo-classic design in the church of El Carmen there, as well as the Fountain of Neptune (1797) and an arch commemorating the proclamation of Charles IV as king, in Querétaro.


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Set of 8 monochrome murals in the crypt, painted by Tresguerras


Before the crypt was constructed there was a cemetery in front of the Parroquia where the esplanade and part of the Jardin now stand and in 1842 the remains of the priests interred in the cemetery were moved into the crypt. During it’s 250 years of service many prominent personages were buried there. One such is former Mexican president Anastasio Bustamente, who first gained fame as a royalist general fighting against the insurgents in the War of Independence, and then later, changed sides to join Agustín Iturbe to help bring independence to Mexico. Oddly enough, though he is buried here, it is without his heart. That organ was removed and taken to the Cathedral in Mexico City where it is entombed near the remains of Agustín Iturbe.


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Other noted personalities present in the crypt, include Padre Francisco de Uraga, who was the the parish priest at the time of the outbreak of the War of Independence. He was a coconspirator of Ignacio Allende and died in 1830 after seeing Mexico achieve independence. Remigio González and his brother Felipe are also in residence in the crypt.

Padre Remigio González was the artist who sculpted the statue of Our Lord of the Column, which is still at the Shrine of Jesús Nazareno in Atotonilco, and is carried in a peregrination to San Miguel each year before Semana Santa, A Day In “El Campo” . He was also padre at the Shrine at the onset of the war, where he aided insurgents Hidalgo and Allende on September 16, 1810. Felipe González was also a coconspirator and joined the insurgents, actually suggesting to Allende that Hidalgo lead the army.


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‘You will also find the stone plaque of Ignacio Hernández Macías, the founder of Parque Benito Juárez, and a primary figure in San Miguel during the office of Porfirio Díaz. I don’t want to overdo the history lesson, LOL, but I would be remiss if I were not to mention Padre Juan Manuel de Villegas who was parish priest of the Parroquia from 1736 to 1776 and was also the commissioner of the Inquisition in San Miguel! He was one of the priests moved from the cemetery in 1842 but unfortunately his grave stone has gone missing.


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The Crypt, photo courtesy of Todd McIntosh


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Back outside in the bright San Miguel sunlight it was a different world.

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Day of the Dead was underway with the tapetes and altars being made ready for the evening’s onlookers.

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Day of the Dead, San Miguel 2014.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Casa Colectiva



Abrazos 107 -1


Yes that is me. If I am looking a little rough around the edges it is because I have just clawed my way out of a miasma of illness that lasted more than a month. After being confined to my bed (and the bathroom!) for the better part of 5 weeks it was wonderful to get out and about.

Gray skies and torrential rains have finally given way to bright blue skies and sunshine with just a hint of a fall nip in the air. Glorious to be alive. On one of my first forays back out into the world, yesterday I discovered Casa Colectiva. Those of you who follow my blog know that I favour local shopping and supporting local businesses over the giant supermarkets, even though it is sometimes more convenient to just stop into Mega or Soriana and do a one-stop-shop.

Casa Colectiva is a great alternative. Several San Miguel businesses have come together in a long narrow building on the Libramiento to sell their wares. Some have locations in “El Centro” as well but want to take advantage of the Libre traffic and the availability of parking.




La Buena Vida is an artisan bakery located across the from Bellas Artes in the Plaza Golondrinas in San Miguel centro. They are now also a part of Casa Colectiva, and my mouth began watering as soon a I caught sight of their counter, laden with sourdough, whole grain and ciabatta breads, scones, empanadas, a pastry turnover stuffed with either savory or sweet ingredients, and a showcase full of pastries that could put weight on a scarecrow (let alone me). La Buena Vida can also be found on Saturdays at the Organic Market in San Antonio.




And they make glazed donuts. Not the usual cake donut with some glaze on it, that is Mexico’s idea of a glazed donut. A real honest to goodness huge, fluffy glazed donut. Charming young Dalia, in the photo above, explained that they come in orange, chocolate and vanilla flavours. Todd and I shared an orange one. It was spectacular.




Now you can’t have an orange glazed donut without coffee, so I plunked myself down on the a stool at the next counter over from the baked goods. La Ventana Café, where Karla made me a beautiful cappuccino from fresh organic beans from Chiapas. Josefina Valentini, the proprietor of La Ventana also has a location in San Miguel centro, at Sollano # 11, right around the corner from the Parroquia.




After donuts and coffee we moved on down to Bodega Organica to find a wonderful array of certified organic produce. They offer farm fresh organic eggs, a great selection of lettuces, including radicchio, alfalfa, cilantrao, parsley, squash, bell peppers, parsnips, carrots, green and purple cabbage, purple onions, cambrays, an incredibly flavourful onion that looks like a large green onion, chives, beets and beet greens, 10 types of tomatoes and even Russian Kale!




Maya Lucas and her husband Luc Monzies are the proprietors of Bodega Organica and Maya was kind enough to sit and chat with me, giving me an overview of everything that they do. And they do a LOT. Their selection of vegetables is extensive and very different than what you will find in Mega. They import certified organic seeds and Maya tells me that they have just planted one of my favourites, rainbow chard.




Maya oversees the Casa Colectiva location and also has a stand at the Saturday Organic Market in San Antonio, while her husband Luc creates organic urban gardens for rooftops and terraces. Not only beautiful, they are also functional and Luc provides maintenance programs as well. They sell seedlings, herbs and soil mixes to cover all your organic gardening needs and will teach you how to become an organic farmer in your own home.

Bright, articulate and passionate about what she and Luc are doing, Maya gave me a huge amount of information in a short space of time, so I hope I have got everything right. I also hope Maya will comment and correct me if I have not, LOL. At any rate, the best way to find out more about Bodega Organica and what it has to offer is to drop by and chat with Maya.




Any orchid growers in town, will be thrilled to discover Jim Robert’s little corner of Casa Colectiva. You can buy the orchids or you can grow your own, with his special orchid mix potting soil. He also has stones and lava rock, possibly for drainage, maybe for decoration. Orchids are very far from my area of expertise, but he appears to have everything you might need to grow them.




Luna de Miel, honeymoon, also has it’s own little corner of Casa Colectiva and offers honey as well as other bee related products, including products containing propolis. Propolis is a resinous mixture that honey bees collect from tree buds, sap flows, or other botanical sources. It is used as a sealant in the hive to stop up small openings, prevent diseases and parasites from entering the hive and to inhibit fungal and bacterial growth. It is also used to “mummify” small animals, such as mice, that find their way into the hive, thus rendering them harmless and odorless.

There is also current biomedical research being done on propolis as an antimicrobia, an emollient, an immunomodulator, as a treatment for allergies, an oral hygiene product  and as an antioxidant, although it has already been used for centuries medicinally.




The upper floor of the building houses SOL, sustainable, organic and local. SOL is in a large open room which can also be used as a meeting room or for any number of other events, but primarily it is where Douglas Cullen offers cooking classes twice a month, for only 100 pesos. Next week he will be teaming up with Luc Monzies for Kitchen Garden Cooking.



Last, but certainly not least, Los Carrizos are also a part of the Casa Colectiva. A group from a small town near Querétaro, they promote all things natural. They make natural medicines, shampoos, creams tinctures and even dental clay as an alternative to toothpaste. They also promote ecological building and solar power.

Well if that didn’t pique your interest, I am doing something wrong, LOL. All that is left is to drop by Casa Colectiva at Libramiento a Dolores # 11, and have a look around. They are open Monday to Saturday from 8 AM to 6 PM and Sunday from 9 AM to 3 PM.




Map picture

Thursday, August 21, 2014

An Afternoon at Casa Angelitos






Perched like a great eagle’s nest atop a hill overlooking San Miguel de Allende, the Casa Angelitos has an incomparable view. Though we have no dearth of boutique hotels here in San Miguel, this one stands head and shoulders above most in it’s warmth and beauty. Tastefully decorated with beautiful Mexican art and furniture, the architectural design is open, airy and built naturally into the cliff on which it rests.




And what a venue for a party! Last Sunday afternoon Todd and I were lucky enough to be invited to join in the celebration of Roger’s birthday. Having taken many pictures of Casa Angelitos, Todd is quite familiar with the property. For me however, this was my first visit and  the first time that I had met Roger Jones and his wife Rosana, the proprietors of Casa Angelitos. They welcomed us to their home with such warmth and charm that I was fairly bowled over.




Two of four or five dining areas offered at the party




No stranger to good food, Rosana runs the Vía Orgánica, an organic vegetable shop and restaurant in Colonia Guadalupe, here in San Miguel. For Roger’s birthday she put on a spread I can only describe as spectacular. Beautiful organic salads, (my favourite was the beet), three kinds of fresh sausage supplied by Antonio, our local creator of Italian and Sicilian style sausage, a wonderful tort with fresh raspberries, strawberries and blueberries that Roger had just brought back from the Lake Chapala area, and much much more.



This kitchen certainly inspires great meals


For dessert, among many other things, we were treated to cinnamon rolls that would put Cinnabon to shame, which Rosana told us her daughter Isabella had casually whipped up at the last minute. This all began with mimosas, then wine with lunch and I finished off with some nice sipping tequila. Life is good!




The house flows seamlessly from one section to another and one level to another.






The suites are elegant and spacious




And the décor warm and inviting




Roger, Rosana and Isabella, thank you so much for your hospitality, you are very gracious hosts.


As is often the case, all the photographs in this post are courtesy of the remarkable talent of my husband Todd McIntosh

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Thin Line


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Robin Williams 1951-2014

photo by Wikipedia

They say that there is a thin line between genius and insanity. I believe that there is a thin line between sanity and insanity. The death by suicide of Robin Williams two days ago, has affected me, like millions of others, quite profoundly. There is no doubt that the man was a comedic genius and that such talent will be greatly missed, but clearly there was another side to his manic public personality.

It is this connection between great talent and emotional disorder that interests me. Most certainly I can lay no claim to any great talent but I am intimately familiar with emotional disorder. My mother suffered from depression, my cousin suffered from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and I take a little pill every morning, without which I become psychco bitch from Hell.

Is there a relationship between talent, genius and chemical imbalance? I also wonder if that relationship carries even further to include addictive personality. Robin Williams not only battled depression but also cocaine and alcohol addiction. Is this simply an unfortunate side effect of living the life of a celebrity, or does it go deeper than that?


Judy Garland 1922-1969

Photo by Wikipedia


"When you have lived the life I've lived, when you've loved and suffered, and been madly happy and desperately sad -- well, that's when you realize you'll never be able to set it all down. Maybe you'd rather die first."


The pubic suffered another devastating loss in 1969 with the death of Judy Garland, certainly one of the greatest talents of all time. Although the official cause of Judy’s death was, “Barbituate Poisoning (quinalbarbitone), incautious self-overdosage, accidental”, the statement above does make one wonder. We know there was no dearth of emotional problems in Ms. Garland’s life and she, as well, counted drugs and alcohol abuse among her personal demons.


John Forbes Nash Jr.,

photo by Wikipedia


John Forbes Nash Jr. A beautiful mind. A mathematician, a genius, a Nobel Prize laureate and a schizophrenic of dramatic proportions. And he is not alone. There is some scientific evidence that there is a higher incidence of bipolar disorder in creative people such as painters, musicians, actors and poets than in the general population.

Writers Mary Shelley, Virginia Woolf, and Ernest Hemingway, composers Irving Berlin and Sergey Rachmaninoff, as well as painters Paul Gauguin and Jackson Pollock were all geniuses believed to have suffered from bipolar disorder. (Patient Health International). If there is a link between genius and creativity and psychological disorders, it seems sad to be given these gifts only to have to suffer for having them.




Thursday, August 7, 2014

Kamikaze Cats



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Thursday Morning Massacre


There has been a marked elevation in the level of destruction around our house lately. Maybe it’s a full moon. It can’t be Spring Fever, it’s August. Candles are being flung off the candelabra on the back patio. Large candles.

The poor harassed, tailless lizards that I find around the house and evacuate to the vacant lot across the street, are escalating in size. The one I found the other day was about six inches long, even with the lack of a tail. As I rescued the poor thing from under the bathroom cabinets, I noticed the malevolent gaze of three cats peering around the corner. Were they snickering?


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“Don’t look at me, I don’t even have any teeth!” 

(not that that slows her down)


I swear the mice are getting bigger as well. I sure hope there are no rats in our back yard. Perhaps it is the lack of freedom during the night. Of late, we have been locking the cat door about the time it gets dark as our cats are not the only ones using the cat door. Firstly we can’t afford to feed the entire neighbourhood, and secondly not all the animals welcoming themselves into our home are cats.

The other night one of the motion sensor lights along the side of the house was activated and spotlighted on the wall outside the window was an opossum the size of a small Labrador retriever. Imagine the fray, not to mention the smell which would permeate the house, if our kamikaze cats laid into that beast in our kitchen.



“What? I didn’t do anything!”

photo courtesy of Todd McIntosh


The day before yesterday I relieved Kashmere, pictured above, of a small dead bird. He was not impressed. Perhaps that was the catalyst ( no pun intended ) for this morning’s debacle. I awoke to find the living room rug full of feathers. Following the feather trail into the kitchen and out the cat door ( no I did not go out the cat door, only the feathers did ) I discovered the site of what could only be described as a massacre.


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Oh my, this can’t bode well.


As I peered in confusion Todd explained that before I got up this morning our three charming kitties had taken down a full grown pigeon. A really large, full grown pigeon. The pigeon now resides in the trash can out front awaiting pickup on Friday. The cat’s are carefully monitoring the trash can, probably waiting for a chance to haul out and eat their kill.


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   “Yah, I did it, so what? Yawn”

Right now I would trade all three of them in for a dog.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Kids, Ya Gotta Love ‘Em!



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In the Biblioteca


Children are universal creatures. To them culture is not important. Language is not important. Appearance is not important. They understand each other on some basic level at which, as adults we can only marvel. To us, who can never return to that blissful state of naiveté, their enthusiasm is infectious. They are our future. They are our last hope of a united world. So let’s try not to f_ _ k them up!

Where is all this coming from you ask? Well it began with an English class that I began teaching today for a group of kids at the local library, and for some reason I was reminded of my step-son when he was very young. He used to bring his friends home from school, of course, like every other kid. But it struck me one day while a group was visiting, that perhaps I was witnessing the beginning of an era of tolerance.



Alexander McIntosh


The school kids were from a VERY diverse background. There were kids who stemmed from Iran, India, China and a couple of indigenous kids in his group of friends.What was brilliant was that to them, they were just all Canadian. It occurred to me then that if the world were integrating at such a rate, then perhaps I really was seeing the beginning of something wonderful.

That was over twenty years ago. My step-son Alexander, is now thirty years old, married, living in Australia and about to have a child of his own. And what has changed in that time? Not much that I can see. Oh I imagine that the children of the upcoming generation will be raised with more tolerance than those of generations past, due to the integrated upbringing of their parents, but is that enough?

I had completely forgotten my ruminations of that day, many years ago, when I watched Alexander and his friends playing around the pool in our apartment complex in North Vancouver. I suspect I would have been surprised and disappointed to discover then how little the world would have changed in over twenty years.


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Today I looked into the happy innocent faces of these Mexican kids who welcome a different appearance and a different culture with open curiosity and enthusiasm. Oh they are aware that the world is full of haves and have nots, and I am sure it seems to them that the world is conspiring to see that the have nots don’t get any. But still their eyes are filled with joy, hope and expectation and they have yet to develop the biases and bigotries that come with experience. 



Children make me happy!




I can’t help but think of the sad, desperate parents here that send their children north alone in the hope that if they survive the journey, they may have a chance at a better life in the USA. I’m sure it never occurred to them that the kids that actually made it that far would be met with rejection and refused entrance to the great US of A. What kind of a message is that sending the youth of this country? Not to mention the kids in the US.

Many countries in the middle east are still trying to blow each other off the map, Africa is…..I don’t even want to go there, and passenger planes are being shot out of the sky over the Ukraine.

I think it may take several more generations of integration before my naïve expectations of a more tolerant world come to pass. I do still believe, though that our children and our children’s children will be our salvation. That as they interbreed our differences will minimalize. If we can just stop poisoning our kid’s minds long enough for them to accomplish this we may just make it.

As is becoming the norm, all the photographs in this post are courtesy of Todd McIntosh.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Chicken, Chatting and Chess





On Thursday afternoon Todd and I were invited to a BBQ at the home of local artists, Joe Miller and his wife Pat. Todd knows Joe, Pat and their gorgeous home well as he is the photographer for the San Miguel de Allende House Tour and the Miller’s home has been on the tour many times. However I had never met these lovely folks or seen their amazing house.

Among other works of art Joe makes giant chess pieces and has a huge chess board set up in his back yard that you can just see at the bottom of the photograph above. Being the airhead that I am I forgot to bring my camera and I am very lucky that Todd has some wonderful pictures of the Millers property.



All set up and waiting for players!


The day was beautiful and warm, but not too hot, perfect for backyard chess. Although I love to play chess, I didn’t actually play as it is a little hard for me to move the pieces around the huge board with my walker, but I enjoyed watching some of the other guests playing a round or two. We had  barbecued chicken and ribs, slow cooked baked beans and couscous salad, all of which was finger lickin’ good.



Even the front door is an intricate piece of art


Todd and I only knew a couple of people there which always makes for an interesting time, chatting with new people and learning about their lives. The guest list was made up of several visitors to San Miguel as well as some long time residents. The wine was abundant and the conversation was lively and fun.




The inside of the house is extraordinary with every room a gallery unto itself. Large and airy with an open floor plan, it houses an eclectic array of beautiful art and furnishings that somehow blend effortlessly into a whole that is striking, yet also warm and welcoming.



The rooms are alive with colour and light


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Every little nook and cranny has been used to full advantage to showcase the Miller’s unique and creative collection of art.





Wall up


We had a wonderful afternoon, met some delightful people and I felt privileged to have been included. We are so lucky to live among so many talented people here in San Miguel.


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