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Patronato Pro Niños Historical Walk Offers a New Look at Man’s Best Friend

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By Cheryl Young

Along Patronato pro Niños’s Architectural Walk, you will likely visit Umarán 3, commonly known as La Casa de Los Perros or The House of Dogs, originally owned by don Juan Antonio de Umarán, the scion of a wealthy criollo family and one of Mexican Independence War hero Ignacio Allende’s closest friends.

In the 2008 application for San Miguel’s UNESCO World Heritage Site status, the house is referred to as one of the “urban mansions (that) are exceptionally large and rich for a medium-sized Latin American town and constitute an example of the transition from baroque to neoclassic.” It is further described as having “a unique way of closing the spaces of the lower floor with “segmental arches,” which are among the oldest arch type (dating back to the Romans, 52 AD), and also the strongest.

Smaller rooms on the ground floor, leading one to the other under graceful arches, would make Umarán 3 a perfect choice for its next incarnation: Casa Maxwell.

In the mid-1950s, Robert Maxwell and his wife, doña Lucha Maxwell, owners of a successful retail store on calle Canal, were looking for more space. Miguel Malo, a descendant of one of San Miguel’s most important families, offered them his recently deceased mother’s house, Umarán 3, which connected with the Maxwells’ calle Canal store. Casa Maxwell was at one time the largest handicraft store in San Miguel. Tourists seeking interesting souvenirs could enter the store on Canal and wind their way through to Umarán 3 to check out with their treasures!

So where do the “dogs” of Umarán 3 fit into our story?

Perhaps these small animal statues, acting as corbels under the main balcony, are not dogs. A colleague of PPN weighs in:

“Indian artisans were given significant freedom to express their pre-Hispanic heritage. The corbels could be representative of ancient Aztec carvings and have nothing to do with dogs at all. Maybe they’re jaguars. The stone cutters were hired by the architects for the skills they already had and expressed their indigenous art largely unhampered. Although the home is referred to as the House of the Dogs (La Casa de Los Perros), that may just be one person’s interpretation.”

So, dog or cat? Judge for yourself at the next Architectural Walking Tour on Thursday, May 16. All donations and tips go to support the important work of PPN. For 49 years, this nonprofit organization has been providing medical and dental services to children in San Miguel whose families cannot afford to provide it for them. In 2018, there were 7636 children served: that is more than 600 per month!

All walks are conducted in English. Private tours can be arranged. Contact Christina 415 152 7796. historicalwt@patronatoproninos.org to make a reservation or for more information.

 

Tour

The Architectural Walk from Patronato Pro Niños

Thu, May 16, 10am

Please gather in front of the Parroquia at 9:45am

350 pesos donation

No reservation required

Donation taken onsite

Regular Historical Walks run every Mon,Wed, Fri, same time and place

300 pesos donation

 

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