You set out to get a quiet cup of coffee in the morning and by noon you are sitting down with two incredibly talented artists, discussing their work, their dreams, their ambitions.
That, my friends, is the magic of San Miguel de Allende.
That cup of coffee turned out to be not so quiet as I ended up at an outdoor cafe table with some of my Golosos pals — Efrain, Robert, Ben, Scott, and Colin. They’d been booted out of their regular haunt — guilty of possession of a couple of yipping dogs.
The proprietor told them that animals were now forbidden in food establishments by the city.
Well, maybe noisy dogs.
The Golosos is a loose band of guys in San Miguel who get together for lunch from time to time with no agenda other than to enjoy a nice meal and some easy conversation. Anybody who wants to find a restaurant, make a reservation, and put out the call to assemble is in charge.
The guys mentioned here are the core of a revolving crew who meet up for coffee and breakfast most every Tuesday.
I prefer my first cup of the day like a skidrow gumshoe — alone and hungover, and in the company of a filterless cigarette, some bad memories, and a few good intentions that I know will never see the light.
(Whoa. Where did that come from?)
Anyhow, my regular haunt was shuttered and I knew these mopes would be hanging at Buen Dia Cafe.
Nope. No mopes.
I found them just in time to jump into a group portrait for local hot-shot photographer Sam Perez, who just happened to be passing by. No kidding. One of the town’s top shooters stops to shoot the breeze and take a few snaps.
So here I am, sitting at a roundtable with an artist, a celebrated Facebook flamethrower (kicked off numerous times), a patron of the local arts, a documentary maker, and a guy who is selling his four-story house in Colonia San Antonio. (See me, I’ll hook you up.)
So much for solitude.
No need for details. Suffice to say, these mopes are the real deal. And the coffee was good, too.
When the gang breaks up, I head for Bonanza with a shopping list that includes a can of pumpkin, peanut butter and jam (Rarely do they run out at the same time. This is a special moment.), granola, pasta, and tomato chunks in a can.
Here’s where choice has consequences. Of the three ways I have to walk home, I choose to cut through the plaza in front of the Parroquia. Sure, it’s slightly uphill and crowded with people but I’m beginning to like people again. Two coffees helped.
Who should I run into in the plaza but Efrain Gonzalez from the morning coffee klatch.
“I’m going to a dedication ceremony for a new mural,” says Efrain. “Why don’t you come with me?”
“Is it one of yours?” I ask.
“No, but you’ll really like it. The artist is very talented.”
Long ago in this town, I learned that when Efrain invites you somewhere, you’d be a fool to say no.
He knows people.
And not in the way you’re thinking.
Efrain is just one of those people who are so highly invested in the community, in so many ways, that you begin to suspect there are maybe two or three of him out there. Efrain promotes artists, mentors kids, and finds time to create his own art and murals — and that’s only a fraction of what he’s capable of.
So, hoping that the butter won’t melt in the heat I follow Efrain down Canal, up and over the bridge on Quebrada to the Mi Bistro 300 restaurant’s compound.
The first thing that hits you when you walk in the door is an enormous mural that looks like a soft explosion of graphically realized mathematical concepts — ethereal swoops and curves in pastel colors that rise upward to faint images of — gods?
Shadows from nearby vegetation fall across the “canvas” to add a gray mystical layer that competes gently with the art. At first, the tiny fairy-like creatures barely register. I didn’t even see them until I was leaving. Curious wee folk.
I had no idea that a David Siqueiros mural this grand still survived in San Miguel de Allende outside of Bellas Artes. (What do I know? This isn’t by Siqueiros, but his influence is notable.)
I tell you, the work stopped me in cold awe at the entrance.
“Wow,” I said to nobody. “I can’t wait to see who signs this.”
“This isn’t the mural,” says Efrain. “Come on.”
The mural awaiting signing and dedication was on the second floor of a building adjacent to Mi Bistro 300. My first thought was, “Well this is a rather stunning work in a rather out-of-the-way space. Is this what our art has come to? Masterpieces tucked away on second-floor patios?”
Once again, I misread the moment.
The mural, a black-and-white study of a young boy and girl — he holding a fawn and she shouldering a rabbit, is only the first realization of some very big dreams for this upstairs space.
More on those dreams in a moment.
This mural is by Maríela López González, a native of Oaxaca who is part of a four-person art-and-graphics consortium in Queretaro. This is her first in San Miguel and gauging from her enthusiasm, and the enthusiasm for her work, not her last.
Maríela did not paint this mural, in the traditional sense. The boy and the girl were created from huge stencils. Each speck of space is painstakingly drawn and cut out on massive sheets. Tiny little blots and shapes of blackness which individually suggest chaos — until you draw back and embrace the randomness as a whole.
A young boy and girl cradle nature. They stare right at you, unblinking, not judging, not forgiving, and certainly not about to let you off the hook. With almost Gretta Thunberg-like intensity, they seem to ask, “What are you going to do about our future?” Behind them, the barest outline of a mountainscape devoid of nature, suggests time is running out.
If the mural at the entrance echos Siqueiros, this one reaches back to Marshall McLuhan. Remember? “The forms and methods (the “media”) used to communicate information have a significant impact on the messages they deliver.”
Succinctly McLuhanesque: “The medium is the message.”
Connect the dots, people.
And here is where the mural fits into this space. Maríela represents one of many young and talented artists who will be filling the expansive deck and the adjoining studio with examples of their art at the invitation of Ariadna Galaz Vega and Jorge Peralta Galindo, veteran artists and muralists who collaborate under the signature Calladitos.
The space — called CURAN-DERO — which will be opening to the public in mid-November is not a gallery, says Ariadna. “It is a space for artists to share art and technique and ideas.”
If budding young business entrepreneurs have their incubators where ideas can grow in a supportive atmosphere, techniques can be learned, ideas tested, and life-long connections made — then so can artists.
For Ariadna and Jorge, the world has been their incubator as they traveled from country to country, creating art, meeting other artists, and sharing ideas. Now, they want to do the same for young artists in CURAN-DERO.
The space will be used to bring these artists to the attention of the public, says Ariadna. The raised visibility will, hopefully, improve their chances for success in the art world.
Vision is a crazy thing. When you see it expressed in others it hits you like a contagion, spreading enthusiasm.
The vision of Ariadna Galaz Vega and Jorge Peralta Galindo — Calladitos — is easy to see when you look through the eyes of Maríela López González. Before she was invited to create on these walls, there was just an empty space, devoid of function or purpose.
Now it is easy to imagine CURAN-DERO populated with expressions of genius, brilliant minds clashing and meshing and collaborating with other brilliant minds — all with the one true goal of making great art.
Oh, and that mural out front?
That is the work of Calladitos.