San Miguel’s neighborhoods and streets were first organized by the Spanish. Centro was for the Spanish with the four oldest areas (barrios) set aside for the indigenous in La Palmita, Ojo de Agua, Valle del Maíz and Guadiana.
Colonias are the areas a bit farther afield from the jardín, such as San Antonio, the largest neighborhood.
The word fraccionamiento is used for a planned development while infondant implies an area of similar looking houses built at the same time and assigned to owners as part of the Mexican mortgage system. Assuming you’ve steady work, and are under a certain age (normally 35 so you live long enough to pay off your mortgage), you qualify to buy one of these low cost houses over a 20 or 30 year loan.
Why I mention all this is because neighborhood names and street names repeat themselves and if you want a taxi to take you infondant La Luz it is a different place than fraccionamiento La Luz and so on. If you blithely say to the driver La Luz, it’s anyone’s guess where you’ll end up!
Recent subdivisions tend to focus on themes. Azteca prefers to name streets for ancient Aztec rules. Las Fuentes names streets for famous fountains. My son, Trevyn’s, favorite street in town is Trevi, for the Roman fountain Anita Ekberg famously frolicked in.
Often streets change name every block or so to simply keep you on your toes! Best of luck street walking on Chorro/Barranca/Murillo/Nuñez/Calzada de la Presa as they are all the same street.
Calle means street and a callejon is an alley. A cuesta is a hill or slope. A calzada implies a paved highway of visual importance though I’d question that logic given our use of cobblestones. Libramiento is a freeway while round-abouts are glorietas.
Now on to some secrets behind street names…..
Roque Carbajo – composed the bolero Dry Leaf interpreted by singers since 1946. In the 1970s Roque owned a restaurant called Dry Leaf serving Arab cuisine by his wife who was from that region. While eating, Roque, entertained patrons on the piano. Often drinking and playing, Roque failed to notice when his toupee turned sideways or eventually slid down his back like a run-away mammal.
Roque turned the oldest hacienda in the area, Tirado (now called San Roque) into an elegant health spa with a bar for him to play piano in featuring lovely lake views. Today the hacienda lies in ruins.
The most influential tale surrounding Roque is that one day he told his wife he was going out for cigarettes only to return 32 years later. That event entered popular phrases in both Spanish and English insisting if your man tells you he is “going out for cigarettes” it is code for he isn’t coming back.
Pedro Páramo – a novel written by Juan Rulfo about a man who travels to his recently deceased mother’s hometown to find his father, only to come across a literal ghost town (a town inhabited only by ghosts), a possible illusion to his schizophrenia . The film version starred Mexican-American Psycho star John Gavin who later became a controversial US ambassador to Mexico under Ronald Reagan.
No Me Olvides – Don’t you forget me street, home to a large cemetery.
Álvaro Obregón – President of Mexico from 1920 to 1924 overseeing massive educational reform and bringing U.S. diplomatic recognition by supporting the rights of US based oil companies. Assassinated before beginning his second term by a man offended by the government’s anti-religious laws though a nun named Madre Conchita is thought to be the mastermind behind Obregón’s murder.
Benito Juárez – was the 26th president of Mexico revered as a symbol of Mexican nationalism and resistance to foreign intervention. A major Mexican hero, his birthday (March 21) is a national holiday and the only individual Mexican so honored.
Saint Cecilia – Patroness of musicians with her November feast day widely celebrated around town with concerts. Ask any Cecilia you meet why she was named that and you’ll learn one, or both, of her parents were musicians.
Ángela Peralta – an operatic soprano of international fame in the 19th-century. Called the “Mexican Nightingale” she was the first to perform at theater named for her in centro. She died at 38 from a plague.
Flores Magon – the Flores Magón brothers are left-wing political icons with numerous streets and schools named after them. Followers of the Flores Magón brothers were known as Magonistas helping to spark the Mexican Revolution.
Fray Juan de San Miguel – Franciscan that learned indigenous languages and lived among them prior to founding the original site of San Miguel, now called San Miguel Viejo, after his namesake saint.
Saint Dominic – Dominic started the Dominican order of clergy. His namesake street features a chapel and school in his honor plus a convent for the Dominican nuns that teach at the school. Back in the 1920s the government went to war against the Church and it wasn’t a good time to be clergy. The Dominican nuns fled, except the Mother Superior that spend the war years cleaning the home that had been her convent and was now a house of prostitution.
Following the war, when the Church lost much of its land, there is still emphasis placed on who lives there over whose name is on the deed. This was the opportunity for the Mother Superior to come forward to say “I am a nun. I have always lived here so it has always been a convent.” She won and the home still is for the nuns that teach at the school, while the prostitutes have moved out to the road leading to Delores.
Saint Monica – Monica was an early Catholic and obsessed with the new religion, all she talked about. She had one child, a son, who didn’t share her interest and liked to smoke and drink instead. Then, in his 30s, he started writing and became the great philosopher, St. Augustine, that effected how the world thought throughout the Middle Ages.
In today’s world, Monica, is patron saint for mothers with troublesome children. Her son, the great philosopher, St. Augustine, is now the patron saint of brewers because he was a drinker.
Following freedom from Spain, Malinche was seen as an evil temptress that betrayed her people in books, films and plays. The term malinchista refers to being a traitor, along the lines of US’ Benedict Arnold.
Feminism altered that image to that of an early empowered woman who took control of her life and career, reaching unprecedented heights of power of influence. A more maternal perspective of Malinche insists she was a victim who rose up to become the symbolic mother of the new Mexican race.
St. Martin – an image seen throughout town of a gladiator on a horse cutting his cape in half to give a nude old man. He dreamed that night that old man was Jesus, changing his life and becoming a priest. When he died he still had his half of the cape which he needed to return to his military unit and showed how God doesn’t ask for more than we can do. A small church was built in Rome to house Martin’s half of the cape and cape, in Latin, became the word chapel.
Martin is the patron of cowboys and those that rely on the kindness of strangers. His image is in stores, Spanish language schools and alike that rely on strangers coming in to buy goods and services. Cowboys and cowgirls plow through town each November to gallop to the town of St. Martin and have their horses blessed on his feast day.
by Joseph Toone
- TripAdvisor’s top tour guide in San Miguel de Allende with History and Culture Walking Tours and Joseph Toone Tours.
- Amazon’s best selling author of the San Miguel de Allende’s Secrets book series on history, holidays, tours and living in San Miguel.
DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed hereby are those of the author and not ncessarily those of the San Miguel Times.