San Miguel de Allende

Dancing for the lives of all women

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Just before 4 p.m. on a brilliant and blazing Sunday afternoon in San Miguel de Allende the sound of a boombox rose above the usual bustle and cacophony of the Jardin Principal.

As if on cue, the several venders with their bright balloons and bouncing pencils were swept away like neon flotsam and jetsam on the shore.

A lone, tall, leggy blonde in jeans and a black top stepped to center stage and began to dance. She got the attention of the milling crowd. A second woman, all in black, bounded into the open space and the two danced as one. (Full disclosure: Woman No. 2 was my wife, Rose Alcantara.) Continue reading

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#smwc2020, San Miguel de Allende, Writings

Welcome to the many rooms of author Madeleine Thien

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Madeleine Thien signing books after her keynote address at #smwc2020 on Wednesday.

If the author Madeleine Thien were an Air B&B, there would be a waiting list 600 people strong to occupy her rooms.

The rooms of her imagination, the rooms of her research, the rooms of metaphor, and tangible rooms of exacting detail. The rooms of her prose and connectedness to the great minds of 20th Century theorists and the early Enlightenment, 17th-century rationalists hunted and scorned by church and body politic alike for questioning the composition and very existence of their God.

What brilliant yet challenging rooms they are, in the prose of Thien.

Spinoza’s rooms, for certain. And Martin Heidegger’s. And the adjoining and more intricately appointed rooms of the mind of his acolyte and lover, Hannah Arendt. Philosophers all who wove brilliant thoughts, existential transports, with universe-spanning concepts that transcended time, space, and dimension. Continue reading

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Rants and raves, San Miguel de Allende, Writings

Sending a photo through artsy filters unearths emotions missed in the original — but is it art?

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This is what you get when you step out your front door around 7 a.m. in San Miguel de Allende. Not every day but when it happens you whisper a little prayer of thanks to the photography gods. (Then curse the limitations of your sad and old iPhone.) But taking the photo is just the beginning of what you can do.

I am not a photographer. I am a guy with a used iPhone who takes pictures.

I emphasize “used” because the newest phones seem to be veering awfully close to mimicking the abilities of a decent camera.

Mine is not in that class.

Even if I had a new phone with the latest camera technology, or even if I owned a halfway decent camera, I would never call myself a photographer. Continue reading

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Rants and raves, San Miguel de Allende, Writings

Hedrick Smith to i3 audience: U.S. political reform can happen but it is up to YOU, not somebody else

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Hedrick Smith speaks to a full house on “Reforming our ailing political system.”

Is there anything better than Nancy Pelosi tearing up the text of President Trump’s State of the Union speech as he basked in the golden shower of applause from Republicans on Tuesday night?

At the moment, no.

But Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Hedrick Smith brought some good news to San Miguel de Allende on Tuesday night: All is not lost.

In a brief speech and documentary presentation titled “Reforming our Ailing Political System,” Smith said to look to the hinterlands, to the grassroots, at the state level,  to see where real reform is going on.

And after three years of crisscrossing the United States, Smith reports that a real revolution is going on  — and it is transcending political parties and racial and economic divides. And it is being overlooked by most of America’s major media outlets. Continue reading

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Rants and raves, San Miguel de Allende, Writings

Think twice before painting a whole nation with broad strokes, avoid the ‘single story’ trap

am-dirtThe last thing I’m going to do is review a book I’ve not read.

Plenty of people are pouncing all over “American Dirt,” especially Latino writers. They don’t need another old white guy to wade in.

The major complaints seem to be around author Jeanine Cummins’ tone-deaf characterizations of immigrants, Mexicans mostly. Her characters could have been more nuanced, more richly detailed, less stereotypical, the critics say.

Some also resent that she made an extraordinary amount of money for writing this story, as though her seven-figure payoff sucked the oxygen right out of the cultural-literary writing room — money that maybe could have gone to authentic Latin/Mexican writers.

Continue reading

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San Miguel de Allende

Miss the parade? Well, just hang around for a while …

IMG_9970Well, I missed the civic and military parade today.

As I turned on to the Ancha, I could see in the distance the bright green uniforms of the municipal sanitation crew, standing politely — and at a distance — behind the last of the horseback riders.

The horses always take up the rear of any San Miguel de Allende parade. And for good reason.

This parade celebrates the 1769 birth of Ignacio Allende — the city’s namesake and among the heroes who launched the War of Independence in 1810 that eventually drove Spain from the country. Continue reading

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Rants and raves, San Miguel de Allende, Uncategorized, Writings

Poem: A writer’s lament during the holidays

img_9813That moment when you realize the offbeat lead to a blog post that you have been struggling with since Thanksgiving isn’t really the lead to a blog post, but an offbeat poem that celebrates the particular insanity that grips us between Halloween and Boxer Day.

I say this, fully cognizant of the fact that I am not a poet.

So you must draw your own conclusions:

Continue reading

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Memoirs -- fact and fiction, Rants and raves, Uncategorized, Writings

Dream sequence: Walking the Length of the Erie Canal

map-erie canalI have been asked today to discuss the proper way to traverse the Erie Canal, the 363-mile waterway that links Albany, New York, to Buffalo and the Great Lakes. 

Before we go any further, it is important for you to know that I was asked to deliver this talk in a dream.

I know.

It shocked me too.

Continue reading

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Memoirs -- fact and fiction, San Miguel de Allende, Uncategorized

Broken hearts, mescal dreams, and torch songs

San Miguel torch singer María Sánchez gave a stunning concert under the trees near Parque Juarez on Saturday, backed by the talent-rich Usual Suspects including Julián Arcos, Rubén Olivera, and Victor Monterrubio.

She is a wonderful singer for whom, my wife says, I carry a big crush. “He moans when she sings,” she tells friends.

Maybe so, on both accounts.

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María Sánchez with her beautiful new granddaughter, Olivia, after her performance.

Her singing does something to me. I can’t deny it. But I am mature enough to separate the singer from the song, from the real person beneath it all. I think. I mean, I was wondering “What on earth is María Sánchez doing singing outside, and at 1 p.m.?” So my imagination does slip in through the backdoor when she sings.

In my mind, she is a torch meant to burn only in the night when the heart and soul are at their darkest and most lonely. Obviously, I do have fantasies about María Sánchez. 

Rather than spoil her concert by trying to describe it, below is the story that wrote itself as I sat in the bright sunlight, listening to her sing. Any relationship to people living or dead is strictly coincidental. Blame it on mescal: Continue reading

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San Miguel de Allende, Writings

In the face of so many who died, ‘I am not resigned. I am not resigned. I am not resigned’

img_9851I have never been good with deaths, weddings, baptisms, or birthdays. Even holidays. Christmas always felt designed to highlight my personal ineptitude at selecting presents for people I love but should get to know better.

Lately, deaths seem to overshadow all else.

I don’t know about you, but I lost an awful lot of good colleagues and friends in 2019. Continue reading

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