Character of the month
By Jade Arroyo
The nickname “Dandy” is more than an affectionate moniker for Carlos Arana. Besides being the name he goes by, the term epitomizes his personality and sartorial panache. He is a dandy as in former days, always with a cane and hat and wearing a sardonic and charming smile.
El Dandy was born in San Miguel more than seven decades ago, and few can escape his nimble eyes and overwhelming congeniality. You could say that El Dandy knows who everyone is in San Miguel de Allende. To recount his life chronologically is difficult, given the countless professions and trades he has practiced and learned throughout his life; however, we’ll try to sketch an overview of his life through the years. Currently, many recognize him selling Atención every Friday morning, or lottery tickets with their promises of wealth, on calle Correo, where he plays the role of goalie and official guardian of the building. The nickname “El Dandy”comes from his early childhood; his mother liked to dress him totally in white. When she saw him looking so smart, she congratulated him, saying, “You look like a little dandy.” And the name has stuck. “Even my family calls me Dandy,” he said. When he was 10 or 12, he began to work, while still in school, as an apprentice baker, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, Juan Aranda, at don Miguel Sierra bakery. Since then he has continued working day after day. Then he tried several trades: mechanic (his least favorite, because it did not allow him to keep his clothing nice), waiter, carpenter, shoemaker, haberdasher, and on and on. Among all these chambas (jobs) he finally decided to be a barber. This seemed to be his ideal career: it was clean, allowed him to express his fashionable mien and further cultivate the art of conversation and friendship with his customers. “Not to brag, but mine was the best barbershop in town,” he says. I have cut the hair of managers, masons, lawyers and presidents….” Initially opened at calle Sollano 4, the shop moved to Corregidora and finally to Correo, where El Dandy has been working for 40 years. At the same time he opened his shop, he began selling lottery tickets; El Dandy was the only lottery vendor in town, and he also had phone booths. This jack of all trades has even been a model. One of his most famous portraits was done by photographer Russell Monk. The Dandy has several children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren; the oldest is 60, and the youngest 15. Perhaps, above all, we can say that his real profession is being a salesman, doing business. The Dandy proclaims himself as a man who loves life and claims that San Miguel is nice as it is, no more, no less: “Our Lord gave me the life to live, whether things go right or wrong, I never will be bitter. Can you image, at my young age and already bitter? Too young for that! [laughter]. About San Miguel I like everything, from the ice cream to the girls (or maybe starting with them).”