Found on the Civil List
I am an American living in San Miguel and, to me, this town is wondrous.
For such a modest town, San Miguel is filled with spirit and meaning. It is also a place that triggers the imagination, which is one reason it appeals so much to artists. The town connects each individual to its past, its present, and its future. In the U.S., life is all about the present and, especially, the future. The U.S. is a curiously a historical place; the downside of that is Americans can feel very disconnected with their history and also with each other. In San Miguel, you are reminded of those who have come before—a 16th century church bell chimes as it has for hundreds of years, an iron monger uses techniques passed down through the ages, the Day of the Dead ceremony formally honors and remembers those who have died. You are aware that you are part of that human history, and part of a history that is unfolding now.
The town itself is pure poetry—an exquisitely beautiful place, continually expressing itself in sensuous and unexpected ways that cause one to stop and reflect. For example, the ordinary sounds the street vendors use to sell their wares are unique and intriguing: the rapid, high-pitched sounds of the knife sharpener playing his pan flute, the lyrical chant of the man at the corner selling garbanzo beans. Their singing and playing bring beauty and wonder to the otherwise mundane activity of selling products.
This is also a city of contrasts. Contrasts raise one’s awareness of one’s surroundings and satisfy one’s need for balance. In San Miguel, almost everywhere you look, you see the traditional contrasted with the modern, the rustic and simple juxtaposed with the elegant and sophisticated. In the morning, for example, you may encounter a street musician strumming two strings of a guitar and singing folk songs – then, that evening you could be listening to the Miami string quartet.
Mexicans in San Miguel are accepting and patient, warm and friendly. They are especially patient with foreigners’ clumsy attempts to use their beautiful language. Mexicans have a beautiful manner of courteously greeting strangers who make eye contact with them on the street. In this way, Mexicans acknowledge and value the presence of another as opposed to ignoring those who pass by them. This ritual makes even a stranger to San Miguel feel part of a larger community, welcomed and accepted, and reminds us that we are interconnected.
Personally, I love the common ground I encounter almost every time I talk to a native of San Miguel. Because the border between Mexico and the U.S. is very fluid, you are always discovering someone who has worked in your State, or has cousins living near your hometown. It is a reminder that we are part of a global community and that we all have a responsibility to each other.