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Bye-bye, San Miguel

By Pat Hirschl

In his talk at Bellas Artes on February 23, César Arias de la Canal is warning that the San Miguel de Allende his family has cherished since colonial times is slipping away. His ancestor, Don Manuel de la Canal, built Casa de la Canal, now Casa de Cultura Banamex in the 18th century.

PEN 2016 series
Bye-bye, San Miguel
César Arias de la Canal
Tue, Feb 23, 6pm
Bellas Artes auditorium
Hernández Macías 75
100 pesos

San Miguel is an artist’s Mecca, a quaint village in the heart of Mexico replete with a romantic and historic past and populated by Mexicans in sombreros welcoming all comers is a myth.

The new reality is a different city, where real estate is a more popular topic than the War of Independence, and arriving artists find skyrocketing rents and restaurants where beef bourguignon is on the menu rather than the carrot and potato tacos that used to feed hungry painters on a few pesos a day. World-class string quartets perform at prices low in US dollars, but higher each year in pesos.

The tourist industry booms−growth that may strangle the goose that lays the golden eggs. This is a time to take stock, review options, and preserve San Miguel’s unique worth. Arias de la Canal is proud of his family, not because of its status, but because it has nurtured San Miguel’s heritage for three centuries. His activism follows in its distinguished tradition, including the creation of El Sindicato and El Charco del Ingenio.

El Sindicato, Espacio Cultural Alternativo had its beginnings in the workers’ union at the textile factory, now transformed into Fábrica Aurora. The pre-Hispanic inhabitants of El Charco del Ingenio, Jardín Botánico de San Miguel de Allende felt a religious obligation to respect and preserve the beauty of nature. This March, El Charco will celebrate its first 25 years during the spring equinox with a ceremony that includes Mixteco jazz by the Orquesta de Oaxaca.

A current concern of Arias de la Canal’s is water, an urgent issue in this high desert area. He cites recent history: The crisis in Syria began with a water shortage. Then came the Arab spring, the uprisings against Assad, and the civil war that still rages.

Arias de la Canal’s talk cites the challenges, but focuses on solutions. His goal is to stimulate dialogue and form a community of citizens and visitors to sustain San Miguel.

Hear more on Tuesday, February 23, at 6pm. Arias de la Canal’s talk is part of the 2016 PEN series, which helps San Miguel PEN support freedom of expression around the world. The 100-peso admission includes a glass of wine with dinner after the event at Vivali on Hernández Macías 66. Tickets are available in the Biblioteca tienda or at the door. More info,


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