But that describes Mexico in general. People generally refer to the church as Parroquía--it's iconic. It's huge. It's on every piece of tourist merchandise. Well, most pieces. It was designed by an untrained architect who supposedly showed his workers some pictures of churches and told them, this is what we need to do. Yes, this is the church featured in OUATIM--the exterior, anyway. The interior is actually from a church here in Querétaro. Once you see the interior of the Parroquía, the incongruity between the filmed exterior and interior is wickedly pronounced. The Parroquía is gorgeous, huge high ceilings, velas all over the place. The sign outside proclaiming mass times is in both Spanish and English, a convention seen all over San Miguel. While helpful, it serves to reinforce the "the Americans have taken over!" atmosphere of the town. The public square in front of the church is a great place to relax, and the cafe next to the church looks like fun...also looks like where Agents Ramirez and Sands had lunch, but I digress. The tourist bureau is next to the Parroquía, but I found this office to be less than helpful. Go if you need to stock up on some brochures.
I loved walking up and down Canal Street. I was waiting for my family to catch up and happened to look up, seeing what is around me. I could not resist snapping this picture. I don't know the name of the temple or church, but it is awesome to look at in person.
Below the arches is a restaurant you can eat and enjoy the atmosphere from the Jardin Principal. The Parroquia church is to the right of this. I don't know the name of the restaurant. But it sure is nice to look at.
This is called the Jardin (pronounced Hardine, like Sardine). It's a beautiful square in the center of town. There are benches all around, where you can sit in the shade to admire the sights and sounds of this wonderful city. On one side is the breathtaking Parroquia Church. Other sides are stores, restaurants, a bank, police station or tourist information. It is also a wonderful place to meet new or old friends.
As a town that originated as a religious center, San Miguel de Allende is home to numerous beautiful Catholic churches. Certainly the most impressive is La Parroquia (the Parish), which dominates the entire city.
The original La Parroquia was much smaller and built at the turn of the 18th century. It endured various modifications that changed its appearance. In the late 1800s, much or the structure was demolished and rebuilt in its present pseudo gothic style.
The architect of this structure was Zeferino Gutierrez. As the story goes, he based his design solely on some picture postcards from France. This was his only exposure to Gothic architecture!
When we visited San Miguel de Allende, we had no idea we had scheduled our vacation to coincide with a major town holiday (January 21). It was not until we saw these school children, in their navy blue and white school uniforms, marching and singing through the street of San Miguel that we realized we were there on an important day.
We asked about the occasion, and we were told the town was celebrating the birthday of Igancio Allende, who led the town to independence from the Spanish Crown in 1810.
Few cultures care to be dominated by a powerful government forever, and San Miguel was no exception. Jose Ignacio Maria de Allende y Unzaga, a native of San Miguel, played a key role in achieving independence of San Miguel from the Spanish Crown.
From 1808 to 1810, Ignacio Allende presided over the San Miguel revolutionaries. The uprising was massively popular with the San Miguel residents. In 1810, Allende and his compatriots achieved their goal of freeing the town from Spanish rule.
Pictured here is Casa de Allende, the former residence of Ignacio Allende, which is now El Museo Historico de San Miguel. A statue honoring Ignacio Allende stands in the corner of the building.
San Miguel experienced its greatest prosperity during the 18th century. During this time, the landed gentry and aristocracy - the descendants of the peninsulares - built even more elaborate residences in baroque and neoclassic style. The residences were painted in beautiful ocre and cafe colors, displayed sculptures such as stone dogs and were adorned with balconies and forged iron hardrails and banisters.
In the 1700s, San Miguel had a strong self-supporting economy, thanks to local textile, ranching, agricultural and mining industries. Its economic independence from Mexico City and the Spanish Crown contributed toward its prosperity, at least for a while during this particular century.
In the 17th century, San Miguel saw the arrival of wealthy Spaniards (peninsulares) and Creoles from other parts of the American continent. With their money, they built elaborate baroque style homes, permanently distinguishing San Miguel from other towns in the region.
By 1750, the town had earned the reputation of being one of the most important and prosperous centers of New Spain.
Class divisions nevertheless existed. Indigenous people and those of mixed race lived in adobe huts in the outskirts of town ("los barrios").
Although there is evidence of civilization in the area dating back to 200 B.C., and later, a great deal of activity from 950 to 1110 A.D., the town of San Miguel de Allende, as we know it today, was founded in the 16th century by Fray Juan de San Miguel under the Spanish Crown.
In 1542, the good Fray conducted an expedition to locate a place that would serve as a religious center for converting the native people. The Copuce natives, who weren't favorably inclined to conversion, burned the first settlement down to the ground. The location was then moved to a hillside with a spring. The settlement grew around the spring and became the town of San Miguel. To this day the spring provides water to the city.
In honor of Ignacio Allende, on March 8, 1826, the state congress proclaimed San Miguel a city and changed the name to San Miguel de Allende.
So if you are wondering why this city has such a long name, it is because it is named after two people - the patron saint, San Miguel and Ignacio Allende, who led the town to independence from the Spanish Crown.
Stroll through the town and soak in its 17th - 19th century ambience. The town center has not changed much since independence was achieved.
Even the Mexican Army joined the parade celebrating the birthday of Ignacio Allende who led the town of San Miguel de Allende to independence in 1810.
In addition to rifles, the soldiers carried drums and trumpets.
There actually was far less military presence in San Miguel de Allende than other parts of Mexico we have visited.
If you are planning a trip to San Miguel de Allende, try to be here on January 21.
On January 21, San Miguelenses remember the founder of their city, celebrating the birthday of Ignacio Allende with parades.
A wedding cake of a church, soaring into the sky, designed and constructed by an Aztec Indian from a picture on a postcard.
A memory of La Parroquia: one night long ago , I was in an upstairs bar located next to the church.
A man was strumming a guitar
and a woman began to sing.
The song was mournful and
While singing she began to weep.
At the same time
the bells of La Parroquia
began to peal the notice of midnight.
There was no other sound,
the air was deathly still, time stopped,
but for her voice,
and the church bells.
San Miguel De Allende has lots of really interesting doors, many hand-carved timber, and some really cool door handles