Boomeresque:Definition
1. Adj.: Describing a person born between 1 Jan. 1946 and 31 Dec. 1964
2. Adj.: Description of a person, place or thing possessing Baby Boomer je ne sais quoi
3. See also, Boomer, Esq.: A Baby Boomer who is also a licensed attorney (See, e.g., About).

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico — 48 Years Later

by Suzanne Fluhr on April 2, 2012 · 46 comments

Parroquia, San Miguel de Allende

My last post about Mexico was entitled Mexico 1963 and it chronicled the year I spent in the Mexican town of San Miguel de Allende at age nine when my father decided to spend a sabbatical year there.

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Fast forward some 48 years. Ignoring friends and relatives whose only question was where they should send the ransom money, I convinced my husband, Steve, to join me on my first return visit to San Miguel de Allende. Mindful of the State Department warnings about the violent, lawless border region, we flew over the border and northern Mexico, directly to a relatively new international airport in Queretero, Mexico, a city in the central highlands of Mexico in a region known as the Bajío. To lessen the stress of our first day, I arranged for a transport service to meet us at the airport and drive us to San Miguel de Allende, about an hour away.

As we neared San Miguel, it was obvious that things had changed. The town, now a small city of 130,000 souls, sprawled farther out into the countryside. Where I remembered desert scrub, there were now gated communities, a golf course and a shopping mall, including a big box supermarket. But, as the highway gave way to cobblestones, my memories and present day reality started to merge. The similarities even after almost fifty intervening years is at least partially explained by its designation as a National Monument by the Mexican government in 1926 which preserved the nature and Spanish colonial style of the historic central district. The town is also justly proud of having been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.

Our taxi left us off in front of Casa Carmen, the same guest house where I had stayed as a nine year old with my parents and sisters for two weeks in 1963 while my parents looked for more permanent lodging for our year-long stay. As we pulled up along the stuccoed outer wall on the street, I could see a little flicker of concern cross Steve’s eyes.  He knew my family of origin as serious budget travelers. But, as we entered the delightful central courtyard, complete with a fountain and citrus trees, he relaxed.

Front door to Casa Carmen, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

 

Inner Gate Entrance to Casa Carmen

 

Courtyard Casa Carmen, San Miguel de Allende

I remembered a courtyard, but something seemed slightly off. My memory was that our room had been on the second floor in 1963 and that there had been an outdoor flight of stairs to get there. Carolina, the manager, assured me that there had never been a second floor.  Hey, it was a long time ago….

After lunch which the Casa Carmen cook had kept warm for us, we walked the block and a half to the jardin (garden), San Miguel’s central plaza with its center bandstand and manicured trees, fronted on one side by the striking  parroquia, San Miguel’s iconic pink sandstone main church, that is unlike any other in Mexico. To my now well-traveled eyes, it seemed reminiscent of Gaudi’s perennially unfinished cathedral in Barcelona, Spain, La Sagrada Familia.

La Parroquia, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Some forty-nine year old neural pathways kicked in as I led my skeptical husband through a labyrinth of small, cobblestone streets, past art galleries and restaurants that had been non-existent in 1963 until — there it was, la calle de codo (Elbow Street). I stopped in front of a familiar, weathered wooden door in a featureless stucco wall. “This is where you lived?”  I explained that behind the nondescript door had been a block of gardens, and a main house and guest house that came with a live-in maid and gardener for $80 per month — back in the day.

We spent a too short two nights at Casa Carmen and in San Miguel. On the morning we were checking out, Cynthia, the owner of Casa Carmen was in the office. She is the daughter of the woman who had owned it when we stayed there in 1963. We were still both the same age —  just as we were in 1963 when we had tried to be friends across a linguistic and cultural void. Now she spoke excellent English as her mother had married an American and she had spent 44 years living in the United States. We could now communicate in two languages as I had majored in Spanish in college, had spent a semester studying in Colombia and had been using Spanish in my work as a lawyer for lo these many years. I showed her an old slide I had found of her, all dressed in white, a little girl helping to carry the statue of an angel in a long ago religious procession.

We fell into a bilingual time travel reverie. We looked at each other, searching for the little girls we had been when we last saw each other. I would not have recognized her in the street, but as we chatted away, I could catch glimpses of my friend, Cindy, with whom I had been sent off to Catholic school in 1963. We decided we both looked marvelous, having lived parallel lives, shepherding our children through to adulthood and then fulfilling the emotionally wrought task of presiding over the deaths of parents.

She asked me if I remembered Casa Carmen. Ignoring my husband’s rolling eyes, I launched into my soliloquy about the missing stairs to the missing second floor. She paused as she mentally unwrapped four decades of life before smiling and saying, “You know, I’m pretty sure that when I was nine, Casa Carmen was around the corner.  There’s a Fedex office there now.”  I thanked her and took off around the corner and up the street, Steve in tow. There was the Fedex sign. We entered a small courtyard and THERE WAS THE FLIGHT OF STAIRS, exactly as I had remembered. I gave my grinning husband a triumphant look that exalted, “I told you so.”

I explained to the somewhat bemused Fedex workers that  I had stayed there 49 years ago, on the second floor. With their permission, I climbed up to our old room where I had slept as a somewhat bewildered nine year old. As I slowly descended the stairs, I could envision an apprehensive 5th grade girl, on the same stairs, setting off for a new kind of school with her only Mexican friend. I wished I could tell her that she would be okay — that everything turned out better than fine.

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{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Madaline Fluhr April 10, 2012 at 8:53 pm

Hey, Sue – I hadn’t read thisstory of your return to San Miguel all the way through until now. Must say the ending brought a tear to my eye.

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer April 11, 2012 at 8:58 pm

No crying. But, thanks for reading it and for your comment.

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avatar merrily Buck May 1, 2012 at 11:04 pm

Hey Suzanne,
It’s great to read about your adventures, especially in Mexico. You know I love it also. You write really well.
Love, Merrily

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avatar Shanna Schultz January 23, 2013 at 7:44 pm

I just wanted to thank you again for submitting your article to the Byteful Travel Blog Carnival. It’s been featured in the 16th BT Blog Carnival which was published today: http://bit.ly/VX56LM

So, if you could retweet, stumble, or “Like” the blog carnival, I would really appreciate it. It would also help people discover your article, too!

Thanks again. Looking forward to your submissions next time!

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avatar Irene January 24, 2013 at 2:46 am

What a lovely story! I’m headed to San Miguel next month and your story made me feel like I can’t wait to get there.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne (Just One Boomer) January 25, 2013 at 6:35 pm

I’m jealous. I hope to return to San Miguel for a longer stay.

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avatar Josie January 24, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Hi Suzanne,
Such a sweet story! And what a lucky girl you are/were to have had the experience of living in San Miguel. This city is a place I’ve wanted to visit, having heard that it’s artist and bohemian presence is strong. Your account and great pics made me feel like I was there. Thanks for a nice post!
~Josie

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne (Just One Boomer) January 25, 2013 at 6:37 pm

If you’re looking for foreign, artistic, and bohemian, San Miguel de Allende would be a good choice for a visit. I bet there are some house-sitting opportunities there too.

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avatar Michelle August 4, 2014 at 12:44 am

I love Mexico. I have visited several places there more than twenty times, but never visited San Miguel de Allende. It looks and sounds like such a fabulous place. I would love exploring all the art galleries and visiting the beautiful Parroquia. I think it’s wonderful that you got to spend a full year in a foreign country at such a young age.

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avatar santafetraveler August 4, 2014 at 1:03 am

What a great memory piece! Glad you got to go back and that you found your Casa Carmen. I really want to get to San Miguel- though the shopping center and big box store threw me off a bit.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr August 4, 2014 at 1:34 am

Once you get past them and get into the colonial district, it’s as though time stood still.

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avatar Lis Sowerbutts August 4, 2014 at 1:10 am

I have fond memories of St Miguel de Allende – a really pretty little town. But it’s so cool to go back to somewhere that you were a child! I did the same thing in Edinburgh – dragging my partner around finding my old haunts!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr August 4, 2014 at 1:35 am

Then your partner would know how my husband felt. It was kind of strange to be there with him as a mother of two grown boys—-so different from when I lived there as a little girl.

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avatar Betsy Wuebker August 4, 2014 at 1:56 am

I love this dreamy memory and how wonderful to confirm it with your childhood playmate. Es una bendición.

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avatar Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer) August 4, 2014 at 2:18 am

¿Betsy–hablas el español?

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avatar Michele Peterson August 4, 2014 at 9:24 am

What an interesting story! How magical that you found the Casa Carmen of your childhood memories.

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avatar Irene S. Levine August 4, 2014 at 9:56 am

Since I last read this post, I was fortunate to collect my own memories of San Miguel de Allende. Hope I return sooner than you did!:-)

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr August 4, 2014 at 4:14 pm

That would certainly be a good idea since you didn’t visit when you were 9. ;-)

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avatar Jan Ross August 4, 2014 at 10:01 am

That’s so interesting – and you have a much better memory than me! I can’t imagine going back to somewhere I lived as a child and remembering so much.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr August 4, 2014 at 4:15 pm

It really must have been neural pathways that kicked in. At this point in my life, my long term memory is quite a bit better than my short term memory.

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avatar The GypsyNesters August 4, 2014 at 10:16 am

Love, love, love this story! How amazing that you could reconnect with Cindy – the best part of any homecoming is the people. And kudos to Mr. Excitement for being such a trooper!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr August 4, 2014 at 4:16 pm

Mr. Excitement is a trooper (within certain limits that after 32 years, I pretty much have a handle on—so it’s all good.) ;-)

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avatar noel August 4, 2014 at 11:39 am

What a lovely place, I’ve always wanted to visit and hopefully next year will be the time I get to explore this amazing place.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr August 4, 2014 at 4:17 pm

Noel, I hope you do have the chance to visit San Miguel de Allende next year—and while you’re there, you should also visit the nearby towns of Queretero and Guanajuato, all in the Bajio region.

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avatar Donna Janke August 4, 2014 at 12:05 pm

I enjoyed reading about your return to a childhood place. It’s interesting to see how a place has changed and find out how true our memories are. I too think San Miquel’s church is reminiscent of La Sagrada.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr August 4, 2014 at 4:19 pm

I was surprised to find how little certain parts of San Miguel de Allende had changed. Of course, things seemed smaller since the last time I saw them I was a pretty tiny 10 year old.

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avatar Carole Terwilliger Meyers August 4, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Nice story! I love San Miguel. Did you buy a pair of these shoes and east a Chiles en Nogada? http://travelswithcarole.blogspot.com/search/label/San%20Miguel%20de%20Allende

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avatar Patti August 4, 2014 at 12:54 pm

Sometimes it’s really nice to travel full circle and relive the memories of our childhood. And then sometimes, not so much, but this one definitely sounds as if it was a joyful experience, even with your eye-rolling husband in tow. ;) It’s interesting that your father chose to live in a small town in Mexico for a year, how did he come to that decision? At the time, we’re you excited or dragging your feet?

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr August 4, 2014 at 4:23 pm

If you have the time, check out my post about our experience in 1963 http://www.boomeresque.com/mexico-1963/. The truth is, my father didn’t have much of a plan, so we were lucky to have ended up in San Miguel de Allende.

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avatar Doreen Pendgracs August 4, 2014 at 1:10 pm

What a great post, Suzanne! It’s so cool that you stayed in what you thought was the same place, but eventually DID find the same place and confirmed your memories. And that you met up with your friend from so long ago. Those experiences and memories are priceless!

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avatar Juergen August 4, 2014 at 1:13 pm

Lucky you to have experienced San Miguel as a kid – minus the invasion of expats! Must have been lovely back then. I still like the town, but don’t find it that authentic. The only danger of visiting this part of Mexico is probably that you’ll pay “Gringo prices” almost everywhere.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr August 5, 2014 at 7:59 pm

Actually, there were already quite a few expats living in San Miguel in 1963—artists mostly. However, they mostly lived in traditional housing—not gated communities. It did seem that nowadays, the expats are involved in the local community beyond just expats, but it’s definitely it’s own dynamic.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr August 4, 2014 at 4:25 pm

Even in 1963, there was a fairly sizable community of expats in San Miguel de Allende, mostly artists at that time. It’s “authentic” for what it is—and yes, one can find gringo prices now.

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avatar alison @GreenWithRenvy August 4, 2014 at 5:15 pm

Beautifully written Suzanne. People talk about San Miguel as overrun with expats, but I found it charming and would love to go back with my husband one day. I have nothing but beautiful memories. How great that you got to meet up with your friend from long ago. Really nice!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr August 5, 2014 at 8:00 pm

I know there are writing workshops there sometimes. I’d love to do that or study Spanish intensively to brush up.

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avatar Marilyn Jones August 4, 2014 at 5:42 pm

You certainly proved you can go back “home” and back in time! I enjoyed every word; every description!!

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avatar Neva @ Retire for the Fun of it August 4, 2014 at 8:57 pm

What a great experience of returning to a childhood memory and everything was as it should be. Finding your childhood friend and knowing that she had a wonderful life too certainly gave you the peace of mind. I’m sure you were wondering how her life was going now that you were both grown up with adult children.

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avatar Anita @ No Particular Place To Go August 5, 2014 at 5:55 pm

I enjoyed your lovely story about a year spent in Mexico and your impromptu reunion with a childhood friend. And how great to know that your memory was indeed correct!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr August 5, 2014 at 8:01 pm

As I’m sure many Baby Boomers can appreciate, I can remember 1963 better than this morning sometimes. ;-)

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avatar Shelley August 7, 2014 at 8:31 pm

Thanks for the great story Suzanne! Really cool that the two young girls could meet again after so much life experience and reminisce. It’s kind of a surreal thing to go back to a childhood place and see what has only been in our memories for so long. The San Miguel de Allende church looks beautiful, and I can see how it reminds you of Gaudi’s cathedral.

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avatar A Cook Not Mad (Nat) August 10, 2014 at 3:05 am

What a great story, imagine paying $80 a month for all that? How times have changed.

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