My newest novel, The Monarchs, was published recently. Many of the events in the novel were inspired by my numerous visits to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Part of my acquisition of notes came from rereading old journal entries I have written over the years. Here, in one of my entries, I wrote about the energy so many Mexicans exude about their history:
January 22, 2002
Yesterday was Allende’s birthday and since Allende was one of the fathers of Mexican independence and since his name has been added to San Miguel’s name, there were all kinds of celebrations in his honour.
2002 marks San Miguel’s 233rd year as a town.
The commotion started in the morning when Clare and I, positioned on the roof of Reloj 21, heard band music. We went out to the street where we witnessed a parade headed by three men on horseback. One person in full battle regalia represented Allende himself. Following him were people holding out a massive Mexican flag, many marching bands, all kinds of marching students from elementary and secondary schools, clad in their school uniforms, and beauty pageant winners who, for some reason, always take part in these parades.
Everything culminated at the square in front of the San Francisco Church where parade members and audience members gathered on both sides. Members of the military showed up, some with bugles. Members of the police force and firefighters, hoisting their axes over their shoulders, also showed up.
Then came the officials who included such people as San Miguel’s mayor and the Director of Education.
Songs were sung, including the Mexican national anthem when a woman reminded Clare to take off his hat. Speeches were orated and a young boy, dressed as Allende, gave an account of Allende’s part in Mexican independence.
Then, some parade members and the officials walked to Allende’s house near the jardin and posed for pictures.
Later in the evening, Clare and I went back to the square in front of the San Francisco Church and listened to an orchestra which included some classical music.
Happy birthday, Allende! January 21!
When I returned from this trip, one of many that I have taken to San Miguel, an acquaintance of mine said that she had studied art there in 1983 when the population was less than half of the 2002 population.
She told me that when she was there, old women used to sell marijuana plants immersed in alcohol in front of the parish church. Apparently, this was an effective medicine for people with arthritis.