Carlos Arana: El Dandy
Personality of the month
By Jade Arroyo
The nickname “El Dandy” is more than an affectionate moniker for Carlos Arana. The name epitomizes his personality and sartorial panache. He is a “dandy” like those of former days, always wearing a hat and cane and smiling pleasantly.
Carlos Arana was born in San Miguel more than seven decades ago, and few people escape his nimble eye and overwhelming congeniality. He makes friends with even the shyest people.
You could say that El Dandy knows everyone in San Miguel de Allende. To recount his life chronologically is difficult; given the countless professions and trades he has learned and practiced throughout his life. However, we’ll attempt to sketch an overview of his life. Currently, you may recognize him selling Atención every Friday morning, or lottery tickets with their promises of wealth, on Calle Correo, where he plays the role of official guardian of the building housing his hair salon.
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 said, “You look like a little dandy.” And the nickname has stuck. “Even my family calls me Dandy,” Arana said. When he was about 12 years old, he began to work, while still in school, as an apprentice baker. He followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, Juan Arana, at don Miguel Sierra’s bakery. Since then he has continued working day after day. He later tried several trades: mechanic (his least favorite because it did not allow him to keep his clothes clean), waiter, carpenter, shoemaker, haberdasher, and on and on. From all these jobs, he finally decided to be a barber and hairdresser. This seemed to be his ideal career: it was clean and 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,” Arana claims. “I have cut the hair of managers, masons, lawyers, and presidents…” Initially opened at Sollano 4, the shop moved to Corregidora and finally to Correo, where El Dandy has been working for over 40 years. He also began selling lottery tickets and was, for a while, the only lottery vendor in town. His shop also had phone booths.
This jack of all trades has even been an artist’s model. One of his most famous portraits was done by photographer Russell Monk. El Dandy has several children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren; the oldest of them all is 60 years of age and the youngest, 15 years of age.
Perhaps, above all, we can say that his real passion and calling is being a salesman, doing business. Carlos Arana proclaims himself a man who loves life and claims that San Miguel is nice as it is, no more, and 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).”