Our United Airlines flight touches down at Del Bajío International Airport, (Léon) at 5:55 a.m., twenty-one minutes ahead of schedule. An auspicious beginning to my two and a half month stay in San Miguel. Annis, my writing and travel partner, and I share the hour and a half drive from Léon to San Miguel with Barb, Janet, and Millie, from San Diego. “What brings you to San Miguel?” Annis asks. “We’re going to the San Miguel Writers Conference,” Millie says. “We are, too.” says Annis.
I can’t check into my apartment until 3:00 p.m., so I camp out with Annis at Hotel Real de Minas. We drop our bags in Annis’ room and hit the cobblestone streets of San Miguel. In El Jardin Publico, we run into friends Rose and Cathy from Toronto and plan a lunch date for the following day. Annis and I exchange dollars for pesos then head to Cafe Bagel for a breakfast of chilaquiles. Annis orders chilaquiles verdes and I order rojos. Within minutes of sitting down, we meet the five other diners in the cafe’s atrium and share enthusiastic conversation about San Miguel experiences. People are friendly in San Miguel.
In the Plaza Civica, Rosario shines my old black shoes. “Que bueno,” I say. “Como zapatos nuevos.” Shined shoes lift my spirits; but, a San Miguel shine is incomparable. I love that about San Miguel.
At El Mercado Central, Rufina, our fruit and vegetable lady, is delighted to see us. She shows us a medallion she received acknowledging 30 years of walking in an annual pilgimmage to the Sanctuary at Atotonilco. She gives us each a banana.
The aroma of fresh tortillas from Tortilleria Contreras, the neighborhood tortilleria, beckons as we turn down Animas, the street where we lived last February and where I will take up residence again in March. Stopping at Fertrin Pasteleria y Reposteria (Pastry and Confectionary), we say “hello” to Avelina, queen of tres leches cakes. At the corner quick market we greet Marguerita.
Back at the hotel, Annis and I go over the conference schedule. The conference is five days packed with keynote events, panels, workshops, agent pitch sessions, open mike sessions, and a grand fiesta. We will meet writers from all parts of the world. We will make new friends. At the end of the conference we will be exhausted, but energized for new writing challenges.
At three o’clock, I take a taxi to La Calle San Francisco. Azucena greets me and shows me the apartment that will be my home for the the first four weeks of my stay. I leave my bags and dash to Bonanza Grocery to pick up essentials for the next couple of days. I return to my apartment, eat a bowl of cereal with half of Rufina’s banana and yogurt cremoso, then fall into bed. I am tired, but happy to be in San Miguel.
“San Miguel is magical,” Ginny said when I met her last February. “You’ll be back.” She was right.
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