And what a Fiesta!
After a long day of intense seminars on everything from Creativity and Points of View to Deep Travel Writing, and Historical research, all in giant white tents that matched their Polar Ice-cap temperatures, it was time to party.
I think all Conferences have to find ways to make their gatherings affordable. They can’t very well provide all the amenities and still keep the price tag under several thousand dollars. They chose to put their money where their party instincts were.
The participants who were here two years ago, were griping about the miserly Continental breakfasts of fruit, cookies and coffee. Two years ago they had a full Mexican buffet, which is still available in the hotel for a price of $170 pesos – that would be about ten dollars, and well worth the money. We stay here at the B&B and eat for free—a full Mexican breakfast served as you like it by the maids.
Last night after a fascinating Keynote address (they bring in about half a dozen best-selling authors to speak throughout the conference), we all hiked down the street to the Instituto Allende. It is a giant two-hundred year-old hacienda on the hills outside San Miguel that belonged to the Canal Family. They used it as a weekend retreat from their home in town. Today both buildings are well within the boundaries of San Miguel itself, but back in the 1750s this was way out of town.
The thick stone walls tower over the street. Stepping inside through a huge wooden gate, we walked and up a flight of stone steps. We received a tiny Styrofoam plate and two tickets for drinks. We thought the plates were pretty pathetic, but it turned out we could go back for seconds or thirds or however many times we wanted to.
The patio opened up into a spacious area as big as a basketball court with a central fountain and fruit trees and flowers in giant vases around the edges. As the crowds poured in, the first thing we were offered were shot-glass sized pottery mugs with tequila. Isn’t there a song about Jose Cuervo and too much tequila? Well, the tequila flowed in great quantities. Volunteers refilled our mugs every time we turned around. We were soon feeling almost warm enough to offset the frigid wind. I’m just glad I wasn’t the “Madrina del Tequila.” That’s the Godmother who supplies the tequila for the parties, because it was evident that’s where the Conference spent their money!
All around the patio the hosts had set up tables with a variety of foods. There were Empanadas stuffed with ground meat, tamales with sour cream and avocado sauce, corn with mayonnaise and cheese, tortilla pockets full of pork, and deep fried sugar and cinnamon covered Churros. It should be against the law to serve day-old, cold Churros since the fresh ones are truly scrumptious. We refilled our plates time and again, and the tequila kept flowing.
In the central patio there was the requisite Mariachi band then later a five-piece band played popular tunes. They even supplied Seenyor Carmelo, an elderly rancher, who had dressed up his donkey with a silly flowered hat and a pack of flowers. He provided the “authentic Mexican” photo-op, happy to put his arm around the cute young things although he gave us oldie goldies our turn too. Turns out he had lived in Houston for a number of years, even bought some land there that he is slowly selling off at a considerable profit.
The real entertainment, however, was out on the immense back patio that looked out over the town from its hilly perch. I found it particularly ironic to see, in the distance, the brightly lit spiky towers of the main Cathedral while in the foreground Aztecs with huge feather headdresses and brightly colored chest and loincloths over bare legs and butts who danced to ancient drums and the wail of conch shells. What a wonderful mix of cultures.
They were followed by the Veracruz dancers with their swirling brightly colored dresses and the guys whacking machetes against each other. Finally, a Castillo of fireworks exploded into light. The wicker-work explosions of fire and smoke outlined the flags of Canada, the U.S, and Mexico while the band played the national anthems.
We were thankful to find a taxi outside to take our drunk little butts home.