I’ve been working on this post for several days and it’s now Sunday night, the eve of the feast day for the Virgen of Guadalupe, Mexico’s patron saint and there have been fireworks going for the past hour and a half—it’s after 11 p.m. at night and as I write church bells have begun to mark the celebration of her day. So some things just don’t change here. Monday many businesses and local public offices will be closed, but it is not a federal holiday.
However, it seems to me more has changed in San Miguel in the last six months than had changed in the previous year. Stores, especially restaurants, come and go, but there seems to be a lot of construction taking place, both new and remodeling. Streets are being dugup throughout Centro and trucks carrying concrete—in attempting to enter side streets—are creating long lines of frustrated drivers as traffic builds up for a mile or more and doesn’t move until the truck makes its way, sometimes ten minutes after the back-and-forth movement began.
Not every change is touched by gilder. One example is the former grocery store Espino’s, which catered to non-locals: it went out of business as its trade dwindled—it had a fairly good corner location with lots of foot traffic and it’s near two of the ritziest of the hotels. After it closed it was renovated as an upscale food hall, along the lines of Market Hall in Oakland, California. After a year, all that’s open in the location is a branch of a bakery. The guy who used to sell vegetables on the stairway while Espino’s business dwindled has returned. The flower vendor who’s been on the corner for eons outlasted the marketplace as have the popup taco stands on the corner.
The Santa Clara ice cream and dairy products store has closed. It had been a fixture and its ice cream and yogurt were so well-loved that the store often sold out of many products, especially their yogurts and milks. The rumor I heard is that the owner had problems with his franchise, although it’s likely that a rent increase may also have been involved.
Luna de Queso, another high-end food business, is doing extremely well. It moved out of my neighborhood and opened in two new locales—one in Centro and the other opposite the new convention center. It now has more seating for diners, an expanded kitchen, more products and somehow managed to improve the already heady aroma of the shop. You’d swear you were in an Italian deli anywhere in the world due to the wonderful aromas from the cheeses, pastas, salads, and meats.
If I were to attempt to define the difference between the failed marketplace and the success of Luna de Queso I’d say the marketplace was attempting to capitalize on the growing tourist boom, but there was “no there there.” It had lots of shops with young people working in them, young people with no ties to the business other than a paycheck. When you step into Luna de Queso, even though it’s in a far less favorable location, you’d swear that mamma was in the kitchen cooking and papa was in the cold room stuffing sausages.
The Russian dessert shop which had a horrible location on the Salida a Queretaro has moved just off Ancha de San Antonio and Calle Hernandez Macias, which means it’s doing okay. It now calls itself a bistro, but it’s the desserts that are still its drawing card. Another established business that’s doing well is Pollo Feliz, which is making a large expansion of its main San Miguel restaurant.
People have told me more luxury hotels are destined for San Miguel and the airport now meets Mexican federal regulations and is open again (as they complain of planes flying over their homes, their homes being on the approach to the landing path), so it seems to be a good time to be real estate broker or involved with real estate.
The Saturday market has moved to a new location just down the street from its former spot, which is now to become a hotel, according to one unreliable witness and vacant lots continue to be cleared for new construction as in Guadiana.
The Mexico News Daily reported in October that
hotel occupancy rates remain high, as does the number of couples who want to marry there [in San Miguel].
It went on to say
The state of Guanajuato, with one of the strongest economies in the country, has become a de facto battleground for warring cartels who dispute not only drug smuggling territory, but also the tapping of gasoline pipelines and robbing trains traversing the state.
The uptick in crime in San Miguel has been attributed by the state leader of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) to the arrival of several organized crime cells.
The mayor of San Miguel, for his part, believes that up to 95% of all criminal acts in the municipality can be attributed to drug retail sale activities
The recalcitrant casita
The night I arrived I had problems with the lock for the gate. A tumbler (shown at the left) wasn’t working properly. So I took that out and it’s been working fine. Then there was the issue of screaming UV light for the water system – it needs to be replaced every six months or so, and no one had bothered to notify the owners that it was emitting a high-pitched whine. Then there was the issue of the tinaco, which proved to be simply that the power to the water pump had gone off and despite my flipping the switch, I hadn’t turned it back on. Evidently the tinaco is no longer connected to the water system and the water now comes from the city, which is why the UV light is necessary to purify the water.
I hadn’t been too concerned about the water situation because (1) for some reason, the outside spigots were working so I could haul water for washing and flushing and (2) I had drinking water from the garrafon situated atop the ceramic dispenser, but then the lever at the top of the spigot flew off, and I had to transfer the water from the dispenser into the garrafon so I could manually pump it out.
On Friday Dolores came to clean the casita. I had run into her sister the first day I was back and Leonara arranged for Dolores to help out. Before she arrived, one of the brackets came out of the wall when I opened the drapes, and so now that, too, needs help.