The jardín falls into the shadow of the cathedral as boys ring the bells. Every evening. I love this town. No, it’s not a comprehensive view of Mexico by any stretch of the imagination; it is a dazzling one, though. It’s a place where some of the best characteristics of Mexico are simmered down into an emulsion of little gifts.
The cathedral rises magnificently above the jardín and up from the valley in this Sierra Madre village. It emanates warmth from within – no need to step inside its doors to feel it. The four cross streets of the square have been permanently closed off from automobile traffic not as they were 15 years ago. This corral is to allow the 50-year-old gringas in floppy pants and hats to roam freely in the streets without risking a run-in with a 4-wheeler. They run this town: the 4s and the 50s.
As the sun sets, some local teenagers start taping down flattened plastic bags to the stone walkway between the gazebo and the cathedral. They use duct tape. Their aim is the sickest, slickest dance floor they can achieve. Their boom box sits in wait. The local ballroom dance studio sets up at the gazebo 20 steps away. They get the privilege of a sound system. The balloon salesman glides by peddling candy-colored spheres and bouncy projectile rockets. A white poodle plays with an old ball left behind as he keeps up with his owner who ambles towards a cafe for a cafecito.
By 9pm the air is crisp and the jardín explodes in full force. The pairs of lovers have all come to walk hand in hand, and children laugh while kicking a soccer ball. The dance studio’s owner, decked out in guayabera and white hat, explains in a staccato monotone the rhythm of salsa as some students and onlookers alike sally in salsa steps under the trees: Hold, 2 3 4. The teenagers with the plastic tarp dance floor have launched a full scale breakdancing show, taking turns spinning, popping, and locking for cash donation.
The music does not compete somehow. The trance and the salsa marry each other in the air, and we are all just willing, joyful invitees at this wedding.
SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE, MEXICO