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A Journey into the Past Part 3




By Karla Ortiz

The tranquility of the city has been transformed over the years. People may say that San Miguel de Allende is a good place to rest and find yourself, but San Miguel’s seniors don’t always think so. Talking to them about old San Miguel, we can see how much it has changed over the years. Listen to their stories and start to picture a San Miguel without cars, with more nature—even smaller and more provincial.

Around 1930, don Rosendo López arrived in San Miguel because he was an electrician who worked for the electricity company CFE. His daughter, doña Antonia, says her father arrived to electrify San Miguel, San José Iturbide, San Felipe Torres Mochas, part of Dolores Hidalgo, part of Guanajuato, and other small towns. Everyone considered don Rosendo an engineer. People were looking for him to go to their homes to help them put a light bulb on or sell them wire; that’s how he started El Jonuco, an electrical materials business which initially was for many years located in the post office, next to what is now the restaurant Cumpanio.

In those years, Lopez’s store never had any competition, as they were the only ones who knew how to work with electrical equipment. But because their dad was always around because of his job at the power company, Antonia says he decided to hire someone to run the business. However, the man they hired was not a responsible or honest worker.

One day, Antonia told her father that the workers were never going to be honest, that she was better off helping him out with the business, and so she helped him for two months until she went to school and could only help him out on the weekends.

Antonia studied to become an electrician at a university in Celaya on the weekends that she returned to San Miguel. She helped her father take care of the business and get jobs that to this day are still coming in.

Later, Antonia suggested to her father that they buy a site so that they could stop worrying about being thrown out of the post office one day. So don Rosendo saved up. One day, don Pedro González offered them a shop on calle Juárez 23, where a grocery store called La Cruz de Oro had just gone bankrupt. Don Rosendo bought the shop, where they had been located for more than 60 years. Today, doña Antonia, 88 years old, is still running the business, 10am–7pm daily. People still bring her irons, blenders, or any other electrical appliance that needs maintenance. She’s never closed the shop except for last year, when she suffered an accident that kept her in bed for two months.

Just as the city lacked electricity, so did it lack many other services, such as dry cleaning. At one time, people sent their clothes or hotel blankets to Celaya, but delivery sometimes took up to weeks. In the 1960s, when there were only a few “barrios”— San Antonio, El Valle del Maíz, and La Colonia Aurora, the La Merced Dry Cleaners of Celaya opened a branch in San Miguel.

Sara Escobedo Vargas, Jesús Mercadillo’s aunt, worked in that branch. On one occasion her aunt mentioned to her parents that their laundry business could be successful in San Miguel. They took her advice and started the Tintorería París dry cleaner’s, located on Mesones 91.

They began to receive so many clients that they began to clean clothes at home and began trying to find more space. They entered other towns like Dolores Hidalgo, San Felipe, San Luis de la Paz, San José Iturbide, Dr. Mora, Comonfort, Escobedo, and Santa Cruz de Juventino Rosas. To get to all these villages, they had several vans, but it turned out that in San Miguel there were only three mechanics, and there was no workshop where they washed or changed the oil in the vans, so people had to go to Celaya to get all those services; the vans of the Tintorería París did too. That’s how they decided to build a car workshop, to maintain the dry cleaning vans and open it to the public.

In 1968, they started construction on the workshop, the first place to be built on the Salida a Celaya. They brought in mechanics, tinsmiths, painters, and car washers. Almost all the staff who had come from the suburbs instructed other people in the techniques they knew.

To raise the building, it was necessary to pipe the water from El Chorro in order to create the business, which eventually led to the start of the Gruas Mercadillo towing business.

Once the car workshop opened, it began to serve San Miguel and the surrounding communities, but they realized that every time there was an accident, the cars would stay on the side of the road for days until a tow truck from Celaya could come for them. One day, don Luis Ferro Medina (father of Don Luis Ferro de la Sota, ex-mayor of the municipality), arrived with Jesús Mercadillo’s older brother and suggested that they make a tow truck themselves, so his older brother hired Jorge López, a blacksmith who mounted the crane in a white van, the first tow truck in San Miguel.

As time went by, they acquired a bigger crane and picked up small cars in accidents, trailers, and buses. On one occasion their crane even helped to get all the kitchen equipment from the El Pegaso restaurant through the window above the main door. They served not only in San Miguel but Dolores Hidalgo, San Felipe, San Luis de la Paz, San José Iturbide, and other nearby municipalities.

Mercadillo Towing has had great success with the sale of tires, spare parts, motorcycles, car washes, oil changes, tinsmithery, and general car maintenance. Currently the business is still going strong, with more work every year and phones ringing every 15 minutes.

Dear old San Miguel, you used to lack everything, and now you have everything.

Don’t miss the fourth and final part of this journey into the past in our next edition.


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