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A Journey into the Past Via San Miguel’s Businesses, second part

By Karla Ortiz

We hope you enjoyed the first part of this collection of stories that have tried to capture the rhythm of the city.

In this second part, travel with us to the golden age when local business like Cantina de don Vidargas started. It opened its doors in 1955 on calle Insurgentes on the site of a former grain store where children ran between the bags of corn, beans, or flour.

The place is now run by don Jorge Vidargas’ son, Francisco. Many people still arrive asking about his father and telling him old stories of things that happened there—fistfights, the filming of movies and music videos. While he doesn’t know most of the people who tell him these stories, Francisco knows, for example, stories such as that of a couple who saw their love flourish in the cantina. On their wedding day, to calm their nerves before Mass, they had a beer there.

In fact, the cantina has always been called El Cucú, although many people know it as “La Cantina de Don Vidargas.” The Cucú is the name that don Jorge, originally from Mexico City, used, since it was the name of a bar in the city where men, after leaving the military service, went to relax. Don Jorge decided to use the same name to remember the old days.

Nearby, on calle Hidalgo, is the Cerrajería y Ferretería Lara, in the same place since its founding in 1960. Officially it opened in 1978, because in 1960, making keys was not considered a business. Many houses had giant keys made only by blacksmiths, or people left their houses open because there was no crime. But thanks to the arrival of tourism to the town, hotels began to open and thus the need for keys to the rooms.

At that time, José Refugio Lara, owner of the informal business, worked at Fabrica la Aurora. In reality, making keys was only a hobby. There were days when he only made one key, in the company of one of his friends. Afterwards, he passed on the knowledge to his son, who also worked in the factory. He noticed that locksmithing was becoming a business and decided to formalize it. In the ’80s he began to take courses through English magazines that his wife translated for him, and that’s how his 2×4-meter business became a business with corridors and thousands of products to offer.

In these times, beauty did not go unnoticed, both in men and women, because they made sure to look their best. Going out for a walk or going for a shake took less time than people spent doing their hair or beard. Carmen’s Salon Beauty, helped many young women to find the perfect look and to look sensational in the evenings while they walked around the Jardín. Carmen’s business started in 1977, at the same location where it is today, on Canal 9. Carmen learned the techniques of styling and cosmetology with an instructor in Celaya. Over the years, she took courses to keep up with fashion trends.

Carmen has since passed away, and her son Isaac—who grew up in the salon and took over its administration at the age of 17—inherited it and took over the entire business, with the lack of anyone else in charge. He still offers the same services he grew up watching his mother provide: hairstyles, makeup, manicures, and pedicures. Within the salon, they still have the old machines they used to use to dry hair or fix curls. Some clients ask that they be used on them. They even have an old-fashioned wooden mace that was for curling hair, though today it is rare that they it is used on clientele. These days, they mostly style the hair of mojigangas appearing at weddings with the mace.

In fact, weddings and other businesses have been the salon’s boon: unlike many other businesses that have declined over time, this business has actually come more to life throughout the years, thanks to the great amount of events organized in the city, such as weddings.

Now, men, on the other hand, only needed a good shave and a good fashionable cut back in those bygone days. So they preferred to leave their look in the hands of don Jorge Trujillo, owner of the barbershop “El Pípila.” A pioneer in barbershops specializing in men, don Jorge has never cut a woman’s hair. He started his business in 1972, together with a master who taught him all the techniques of the barbershop. Later, don Jorge remained in charge of the barbershop. Today, haircuts cost 30 pesos, but more than 30 years ago, haircuts cost only 1 peso.

Sadly, he told us that not as many clients arrive as did in his first years, when people crowded to enter his shop. But even when he had such a large number of clients, don Jorge never needed an assistant, and to this day he still runs the business on his own.

This tour of San Miguel’s oldest businesses is not over yet. Stay tuned and continue to enjoy this trip in the next edition.


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