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My “A-ha” Moment On the PPN Tour

Canal House

By Cheryl Young

I remember the exact moment at which I thought that being a tour guide would be the perfect post-retirement job for me. I had retired early and was still traveling, writing, exploring, and generally looking for that thing which would be a good fit for me and would reflect who I aspired to be now that I no longer carried a business card. I love history. I love architecture. I do love to tell a story, but at that time, I knew almost nothing about the rich history or the interesting architecture of San Miguel de Allende. I was actually just travelling through Mexico on my way to the Galapagos. I stayed in SMA just to take some Spanish lessons when I took the Patronato pro Niños Architectural Tour. It took another seven years (and a marriage and a beautiful house in San Miguel, but that’s another story) to turn that thought of becoming a tour guide into reality.

So what was the inspiration for that moment of clarity? It was the front door of the 18th- century Canal mansion, a building considered by UNESCO as an “architectural masterpiece, for its fusion of baroque and neoclassical architecture. “It is,” according to Guanajuato Tourism, “a rare example of high-end colonial architecture that has survived almost completely intact.”

The wealthy and influential Don Manuel Thomas de Canal, from Mexico City, started building this neoclassical masterwork in the mid-18th century for his wife, Maria Josefa Gabriela and their eventual family of nine children. Manuel de Canal was a classic entrepreneur of that era, and the history of the de Canal family is intertwined with the history of San Miguel.

And while they are beautiful, it was not actually the elaborately carved doors of oak and cedar that moved me. It was the unusual presence of two coats of arms representing Maria’s family, the Hervas, as well as Manuel Thomas’s, the de Canals. A marriage of aristocratic equals? Perhaps. But even more interesting to me was the addition of carved feathers: they are said to mean that both families had ancestors who fought in the Crusades to expel the Moors from Spain. My imagination was immediately captured, conjuring medieval knights in armor, daring charges on horseback and bloody battlefields. Just the thing for a retired banker.

Learn more about neoclassical architecture in San Miguel by joining the Architectural Tour given by Patronato pro Niños. All of the tour donations and tips go to support the important work of Patronato Pro Niños. For 48 years, this not-for-profit organization has been providing necessary medical and dental services to children in San Miguel whose families cannot afford to provide it for them. In 2017, over 12,500 children benefited from PPN services: that is more than 1,000 children per month!

All tours are given in English. No reservations are needed, but we may need to limit the group size in high season. With five days’ notice, we can offer private, customized tours. Contact Christina at 415 152 7796 for information and pricing.



The Architectural Historical Tour

Thu, Apr 19, 9:45am

Meet in the Jardín, across from the Parroquia

350 peso per person donation


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