Envision if you will 480 little old ladies of all shapes and sizes, white haired, gray haired, kinky, curly, straight haired, elegant and dowdy, short, fat, tall, thin, every conceivable combination. Chattering, hugging, waving, laughing. Some sitting by themselves, the writer’s life, shy, introspective, but friendly when asked. And about twenty elderly men, taller, thinner, many more decrepit, on canes. And perhaps five younger women. No young men at all.
I had expected the Hotel Real de Minas (Royal Mines) to be one of the lovely old 18th century palaces from the years when San Miguel de Allende was one of the stops on the silver route from Guanajuato to Mexico City. The town itself has dozens of them, heavy stone walls, ornate carvings, thick wooden doors, interior patios glowing green and fuschia with ropey bougainvillea. But not this hotel. Here, some modern young architect has envisioned the old styles. Lovely, but not the same. There is no history here. But there is modern elegance. Even to the point of providing cushioned blankets and pillows out on the lawn to lounge on.
The speakers and teachers are the cream of the crop. Everyone who is anyone in the writing field is more than willing to come to San Miguel. And they bring their families to vacation. Except that this week it is colder than Iceland. All the natives are bundled up with thick wool scarves high around their necks and heavy jackets buttoned up, hands tucked deep into pockets. Not much of a vacation spot, but for those from the northern United States, they feel perfectly comfy.
So far we have heard Luis Urrea, a wonderfully funny Mexican American from Tijuana (The Hummingbird’s Daughter) and Scott Simon, a journalist who does Weekend Edition on NPR. Later we’ll hear from Gail Sheehy and Joyce Carol Oates. Then we break up into different sessions in giant white tents scattered on the lawn. Training and teaching about writing from half a dozen professionals. Intense, hour-and-a-half sessions that leave us reeling with information. We desperately need to just sit out on those cushions and recline Roman style to absorb the material. But no time for that.
Lunches are huge long lines crowded around the buffet. The breakfast this morning will be the same, I’m sure. I hope for Huevos Rancheros or something Mexican. We’ll see. Then two back-to-back sessions then more Keynotes and more sessions.
More reports to come tomorrow. For now, gotta run.