Today I stumbled upon Inquisition-era ruins right here in town I’m shocked to not have found before, considering I’ve actually gone looking for them.
In my defense, I’ve normally scouted about in cooler fall weather when plants have received precious rain and are in full defense mode with spurs. No dog walker wants those on their charges! The key is to explore in the Spring.
There’s a local developer that has a reputation for losing interest in his projects only after half-heartedly placing an entrance, unfinished fountain and large sign announcing SMO for Santa Maria Obraje. Today I gamboled by one of his never-to-be-finished projects with my pooch and skirted along the Presa Obrage just above the pool area of the Hotel Live Agua.
The walk was lovely and tranquil, with a duck filled lake below and the Balcones and the botanical garden above. I was surprised to stumble upon arches I’ve only seen from a distance above. What are they?
On tours of the botanical garden the area is referred to as the ruins of chapel. In literature and web sites it is listed as the ruins of the grist mill. It is neither. I’ve been on enough hikes and tours to recognize the remains the of a 1700s tannery. I just had no idea there was one in town. The nearest I knew of are the spectacular ruins, complete with waterfalls, I tour folks in Las Trancas between Delores Hidalgo and Guanajuato.
Granted, in town, we don’t have waterfalls but we do have ruins lovely enough to be featured in photos and paintings. I verified the ruins were a former tannery with a pal whose grandparents once owned the land.
Not just ruins! There is a descansar (marking where one had their appointment with death). Normally they are found along a highway, railroad or water indicating where a loved one spent their last moment on the same plane as you.
I’ve found descansar makers in plenty of odd locations, including mountain tops where I assume the deceased had a heart attack on their way up, or were knocked down by lighting from above. Being next to water made the cause of death obvious but what baffled me were the marker’s dates indicating a 100 year old died there. Sure he could have drowned, tumbled off an arch or simply succumbed to old age, but how in God’s name did he shuffle back here at 100 three years ago!?! Currently at about half his age, it was a work out!
The location of the ruins has always been a hotbed of activity. Pre-Hispanic finds of tools and ceramics indicate it was active even then. The oldest map of San Miguel, drawn in 1580, is of this area now located in a Madrid museum. Following use as a tannery, hydraulic waterworks developed to the point of the giant tube (still featured above) guided water to generate electricity at the factory that made the white muslin used in tennis sneakers throughout most of the 1900s. Today the factory is home to high end art galleries and restaurants called Fabrica Aurora.
Basically the area has always been an industrial park on the outskirts of town and now you can go walk back and explore the ruins of another industrial age and then stride the dam that separates a large, duck-laden body of water from our most expensive hotel’s pools and tennis courts.
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 necessarily those of the San Miguel Times.