Hard to imagine that silly ditty won an Oscar, but it did, and played through my mind during a tour into the countryside during a momentary lull in our frequent downpours.
I knew from the start we wouldn’t get far touring the old Silver Route between two villages outside of town. I pick this route as the road is much the same as during the Silver Route days centuries ago (versus now cobblestoned streets in town). Normally the dusty path features great views, perilous drops and the chapel the Spanish rested for the night before taking the last all day foray into San Miguel. Today the same trip takes about twenty minutes.
After all the rain the road was impassible shortly into our foray. To reinforce the point a mother pig breast fed her piglets nestled deep in the mud, happy as, well, a pig in mud. My guests were enchanted which bode well for a morning in the campos.
Next came the cloistered Benediction monastery with the always chatty Brother Jonas. For those who don’t know, clergy aren’t often extroverted and cloistered ones even less so. Brother Jonas is a Chatty Cathy in comparison so there’s a good reason he runs the store featuring the CDs of the monks chanting, incense from local wildflowers and St. Pascual statues, patron of cooks, to aid you in your meal preparations.
Following a visit to the church in Atotonilco every group faces a choice between touring a pottery factory in Delores specializing in animals or climbing around a local dam. This group chose the dam which I greatly undersold saying with the rain there will likely be a waterfall. You think?
We couldn’t even get out of Atotonilco as the normally sluggish and shallow Laja River overflowed its banks to such an extent you couldn’t even tell where the bridge once was as the water seeped up and into town. I immediately thought of my former housekeeper, Carolina, who has a restaurant alongside the bridge in Cieneguita leading to the airport, just a short distance down river.
We then drove back into town to see if we could approach the dam from the opposite direction. When we got to Cieneguita, again the bridge wasn’t visible and neither was Carolina’s roadside restaurant.
We ventured to San Miguel Viejo, where the town originally started, and while my guests meandered learning about featured Otomi art I contacted Carolina. My thought was she had prepared her buffet dishes the night before not knowing flooding was coming. Perhaps she would like to host my group at her home so she could serve her dishes and make some money on a day when her business was, literally, under water. She did.
Next step was convincing my folks that instead of going to Coyote Flacco, a lovely steak place just outside of Atotonilco, would they like to eat uber-real Mexican food in Los Lopez at Carolina’s home? They did.
They were such a fun crowd engrossed in the food and livestock entertainment. Horses, sheep and dogs traipsed by but they paled in comparison to the young man in charge of goats across the way. Watching goats can get dull so he had a hole in the fence where one could escape and he’d chase the goat around all the puddles leading Billy Goat Gruff back into the pen. The lad was too cute for words, which is more than can be said for a lot of the escaping goats!
Equally adorable was Carolina’s 14 year old daughter that had come home from school. Knowing how to put a nickel in the nickelodeon I asked her about her favorite topic, her upcoming quinceanera and nudged my female guests to query about her dress. This young lass is the first I’ve met that wants a black dress which all the foreign women at lunch assured her was extremely elegant on her part.
As always, I take Carolina aside at some point and ask if she still enjoys the restaurant more than cleaning. Mind you, she works literally all day and at this point she sleeps at the roadside stand to keep folks from stealing her gas stove. Again. Sounds like hell to me, but Carolina assures me she loves it. Her work is fun, her family can visit anytime and she’s her own boss. Same things that drew me to be an entrepreneur decades ago so it is hard to argue with that logic and I must resign myself to the loss of the best housekeeper ever.
As we drove back into San Miguel we passed pickup trucks with their beds filled with machine gun carrying soldiers heading the opposite direction and to where we just were. I raised my children on an island in the Atlantic only reached by boat and knew exactly what that means. Anytime the National Guard showed up that meant a mandatory evacuation is about to happen. And it did.
By the time I got home, Carolina called to say more water was expected from upstream in the next four hours and her home, a 15 minute walk from a normally dry creek bed that feeds into the Laja, was to be left immediately. As always, my home is open to her and her family but the irony wasn’t lost on she or I. Right behind my house is the creek by the Fabrica Auroa. Normally flooding itself, but with the new hotel plans were already in place to divert the water to two villages on the road the Queretaro minimizing the flooding here. The Laja River on the other side of town didn’t receive the same protective measures.
All this occurred on the feast day of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and helpful she was, all day to me, my clients, Carolina and some livestock. If you’ve a friend called Socco, she’s named for this image of Mary believed to have been painted on Mary’s kitchen table by St. Luke when he wasn’t tied up writing the bible.
Finally the rains paused, Carolina went back to her restaurant, her daughter to planning out her party, the pigs to mud and me to in-town, dry (in a tactile sense only) history tours!
Joseph Toone is the Historical Society’s short-story award winning author of the SMA Secrets book series. All books in the series are Amazon bestsellers in Mexican Travel and Holidays. Toone is SMA’s expert and TripAdvisor’s top ranked historical tour guide telling the stories behind what we do in today’s SMA. Visit HistoryAndCultureWalkin