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Many photographers will tell you some of the most fulfilling kinds of photography they do is street photography, defined loosely as candid photographs of people going about their daily lives unaware of the fact that they are being photographed.

Street photography catches people in the moment, in their most natural state defined by the most ordinary sorts of every-day activities when they are at their most authentic, natural, and revealing selves.

Here are a few of those moments.

Street-side florerías are in every neighborhood in San Miguel.  They are everywhere because Mexican people use flowers to accompany both commonplace occasions and more somber occasions like El Día de los Muertos (indigenous people believed the fragrance of flowers guided the dead back home).  Typically, these floreías sell an exquisite variety of flowers. The roses here sell for three dollars a dozen.

 

For me, this street-side elote vendor is a rare sight. I just don’t see these elote vendors as much as I have in the past.  In the foreground is a washtub full of water heated by a propane stove below. The elote is stacked on a rack on top of the tub, and the señora will occasionally spoon the heated water over the corn to make sure they’re always hot.  A customer, waiting for his elote to be prepared, gives me a curious look—Who is this Gringo with a camera on his hip?. Elote is typically served on a stick, spread thick with mayonnaise, then covered with with a crumbly cotija cheese, and sprinkled with chili powder.  This corn is not the typical kind of hybrid sweet corn we find in the states.  I have no doubt that elote sold here is not that much different from the corn that was cultivated by the Aztecs.

To take candid shots I have to hold my Nikon close to my hip, pointed and ready to shoot at any moment. Sometimes, because of the way I hold my camera, the angle is awkward, but even so the camera often catches something interesting. Here two young women are engaged in conversation as they pass under the Quebrada Heroes’ Bridge (see below) while a motorcyclist with a plastic crate mounted on the back speeds down Calle Canal.  What’s interesting to me about the moment is that while one woman does the talking, the other has a far-away look on her face.

 

Locals tend to hang out in the puertas of their favorite tiendas, chatting with people as they pass by, or sometimes just waiting for a bus.  The sidewalks as a rule are very narrow, with barely enough room for one person to walk.  The doorways become natural space to step away from the hectic pedestrian traffic.

 

In the foreground, mounted on the wall is a painted tile of the Virgen de Guadalupe.  Her image is ubiquitous in Mexico.  Rarely is there a street I walk that doesn’t have her image somewhere.  The street in the above photograph, Calle Insurgentes, like many of streets in San Miguel, rises steeply, stretching towards el centro.  The perspective these steep streets and alleyways create is always exciting, but often difficult for me to photograph.  Locals, whether young or old, easily climb these steep streets seemingly without effort.  With camera in hand, I have to use extreme caution climbing up these hills to avoid stumbling. San Miguel has often be described as the “city of fallen women”; this is so for men as well.

 

My NIKON camera shutter settings are too slow here, hence the photograph is out of focus.  But sometimes the mistakes, in this case the blur or haze of the image, give the subject an aesthetic quality.  Photographers call this bokeh, a deliberate attempt to make blurs aesthetically pleasing.  Though the image is blurred, it still tells a story. Whatever that story may be, because of the candid nature of the shot, it’s up to the “viewer” to decide what that story is based on the elements in the photograph.  I like the contrast between the man with the stetson hat, head lowered, hands out of focus, and the graffiti on the wall.

 

I managed to catch the gentleman in the background in an interesting pose. It helps the story to have him in shadow with the “paper” flags stretched over the street in celebration of the upcoming holiday season.  These flags are everywhere in Mexico, especially during fiesta times.  Suffice it to say that these flags are very colorful.

This shot was taken from the Calle Quebrada overpass, looking west down Canal. In the extreme foreground a young man sits in the back of a small pickup, a mode of transportation that is very common here. Note the 110 volt power lines stretching from one side of the street to the other. Some of these lines are also phone lines. You see this everywhere in San Miguel.  The wires are harmless—for the most part—when they stretch over the street.  However, sometimes I find wires hanging ominously over the sidewalks.

Here are a few shots of San Miguel architecture capturing the mysterious and magical quality of SMA:

Bridge of Heroes

 

The archway over Calle Canal is part of the Heroes’ Bridge erected in 1960 most likely to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Mexican Independence that same year.  On the right side of the bridge on wall is a marker that pays tribute to the heroes who fought for the liberty of Mexico:

Puente de los Heroes.
Homenaje de la
ciudad de San
Miguel de Allende
a sus hijos que
lucharon por la
libertad de Mexico.

The Heroes’ Bridge
Tribute from the
city of San Miguel de Allende
to her sons that
fought for the
liberty of Mexico.

 

One of the unique architectural features of the Heroes’ Bridge is this pedestrian passageway leading from Calle Quebrada, the street above, down these stairs to Calle Canal below.

 

Another view from the top of the bridge on Calle Quebrada, looking west.

 

San Miguel is full of restaurants with magnificent courtyard seating.  This is the courtyard of La Sacrista, which because of the patio seating, is dog friendly.  Usually, any restaurant with courtyards and patios welcome dogs if they are well-behaved.

 

Fruit is sold everywhere in San Miguel.  Above is typical of what you can buy: fresh fruit cups.

 

Bar Casanova is a cantina that caters to solo hombres, though I can’t vouch for that as a fact since I have yet had the nerve to go inside of one.  I have heard they do serve mezcal.

 

Windows illustrating colonial-style architectural features of residential apartments.

 

Pollo rosticerías like this one are extremely popular.  The chicken is exceptionally delicious and sell out fast.  Note the patas de pollo (chicken feet) roasting away on the bottom spit.  When I first saw them, I thought chicken wings.

 

 

 

 

 

Globos de Aire Caliente

Up Up and Away

Woke up this morning to the gushing sounds of hot air balloons in the sky outside our bedroom window.  One by one they float gracefully from below the hillside on the north side of San Miguel upward high above the city.  No doubt it’s chilly up there in the early morning, but I’m certain the view is worth it.  There were a total of seven of these multi-colored globos de aire caliente.

Looks as though the horizon is hatching balloons.

The balloons slowly emerge, one-by-one, then gradually drift in the direction of the prevailing morning wind.

Took this one with my zoom lens. Early morning light very dim.

Tried to get close enough with my zoom lens to see inside the basket. Not quite. Sunrise tinting the clouds.

Lavandería

Doing laundry at first was an issue.  We were going to look for a lavandaria close by because the washing machines we have access to are just too dirty to use.  Marisol, our wonderful housekeeper, told us, however, that a new washer and dryer were coming last weekend.  They never arrived.  But this is not surprising.  In Mexico we have learned time is a relative concept and not easily nailed down in Gringo terms.  When Marisol says en Sabado o Domingo, her time frame is not linear; it could mean any weekend in the future; of course, I automatically assumed the “upcoming” weekend.

But in Mexico, time is always flexible, of little real urgency or attention, and is, therefore, an unlimited quantity.  The future has no hold in the sense of “upcoming.” Most everyone is familiar with the Mexican concept of mañana.  Literally, the word can mean “morning,” “tomorrow,” or even “later.”  The word and its concept has to be understood in context.

Example:  Some things, of course, are the exception, especially when dealing with specific services, like water or laundry.  If we need a leaky faucet repaired, mañana applies; but if we need un garrafón de agua, it gets delivered to you right away.

And such is the case with our laundry.  We need it done one a semi-regular basis, and we need it picked up and delivered.  Last winter when we were staying at Weber’s RV park, Carlos came to the campground twice a week to pick up our laundry and then delivered it the same day.  I got his phone number from Hans Weber, gave Carlos a call, and he picked up our laundry the next day.  Laundry problem solved.

 

 

La Casa Katia

La Casa

Our rental at las Cuevitas 26 is actually a long-term Airbnb rental Jackie arranged a couple of months ago.  Our hosts are Adolpho and Irene, who live in Mexico City, but occasionally stay in their own casa next door to us.

The house caretakers are Marisol and Jose who live on the property and who very friendly and welcoming  Jose speaks no English and Marisol only a “teeny” bit (to illustrate this, she shows me her thumb and index finger just barely touching as an indication of how much English knows—very cute).

The hosts gave us Marisol’s cell phone number, and told us to call her upon our arrival, but my cell phone wasn’t able to connect because I didn’t have the correct phone number prefixes.

The outer gate was open so we were able to pull in off the street.  There was a doorbell, but it didn’t seem to be working, so I knuckle-rapped the huge, steel inner gate.  Before long, Jose opened the door and welcomed us.  As the steel inner gate slowly opened, I found myself staring in awe at a steep driveway that sloped upwards towards the house at what must be at least a 15 percent angle:

Looking upward toward the apex of the driveway. Trees loom ominously.

 

A better view of the driveway looking down toward the brown, steel inner gate. Note tree growing out of the cobble stones. Mexicans have a real reluctance to cut trees down, even if they pose a slight hazard as this one does for the unalert driver.  You see this everywhere in Mexico.

The RAV made short work of the hill and we pulled into a level parking area at the top of the driveway:


I was able to turn the RAV around so it faces downward.  At this point we have not driven the RAV out of the compound because we haven’t really needed to.  Obviously, because it’s a brand new rig, we’re reluctant to at this point.

Living in the Altitude

The altitude of San Miguel is over 6,000 ft. above sea level.  Because this is our forth time living in SMA, we are more than aware of the possible physical reactions to high altitude.  Both Jackie and I, for some reason (maybe our age?) seem to be experiencing the effects of the altitude more this time than any time previously.

Last spring living in Colonia San Antonio at Weber’s Tennis Courts and RV Park, we were walking everyday, in some cases up and down the hills to the jardin without any noticeable physical effects.  This time, living on Cuevitas, it’s more of a challenge to tackle the hills, especially the driveway up to the house.

Taxi verde

This means instead of pretty much walking everywhere, we’ve had to rely more on taxis for transportation, though we are getting better at the walking.  Jackie has no fear about taking a taxis on her own to the local super mercado La Comer to do major shopping.  She’s mastered the Spanish necessary to communicar con el taxista, including directions and negotiating pesos.  Truth be told, we prefer the taxis.  The green painted cars are everywhere, and all we need to catch one is to go out on the street and wave an arm to hail them.  The taxistas are always muy amable y servicial.  And they will drive up the steep driveway and help unload our bags of groceries.  All for five bucks, including tip.

On the Horizon

Globos de Aire Caliente