After living in Guanajuato for almost two months, my brother Don sends me an email asking, “Staired out yet?” Having lived in Guanajuato himself off and on for the past couple of years, he knows what a mental and physical toll climbing 150 steps, about the equivalent of ten stories every day can take. It’s not just the climb, but the carry. Hauling my “mochilla,” (backpack) filled with books, laptop, and bags of groceries up the steep, uneven steps every day gets to be quite a tedious task. I find myself approaching each outing as a day trip…what all will I possibly need while I am “downtown?” And looking for excuses to prolong the inevitable as evening approaches.
So what does one do when they are “staired out?” Why head to San Miguel de Allende, of course. It’s only an hour ride away on the Primera Plus Luxury Bus. For 280 pesos round trip ($14) the cost of a hotel room, one can have a weekend getaway in what Conde Nast anointed the “World’s Best City!”
In this case, I don’t have to worry about a hotel room, as my dear friend Holly has graciously offered up her spare bedroom. In exchange, I’ll be taking care of her adorable dogs, Lillybell and The Dude, and their dog cousin Maggie while she is away.
Besides, Lila Downs is coming to town! That’s a big deal here in Mexico! Lila (pronounced “LEE-lah”) is one of Mexico’s most popular performing acts. Although she is little known in the US, (unless you happened to catch her performing opposite Selma Hayek in the movie “Frida”) she sells out night after night in Mexico, and even southern California.
But this is not just any concert; this is opening night at San Miguel’s new musical venue, Concha Acústica. The new “acoustic shell,” looking a little like an abstract peace dove spreading its wings, is a recent addition to San Miguel’s new Bicentennial park, a few miles outside of town. Having asked a few local taxi drivers, no one seems to even know where it is, so I beg a ride from my friend Michael, who also has plans to attend.
Que lastima! What a pity to arrive to find ominous skies threatening for this opening night. We make a plan. It it turns out to be sprinkles or light rain, we will stick it out. But if the skies open up and it begins to flood, we will meet back at the car.
I’ve mentioned before the entrepreneurial spirit of the Mexican people, always offering what you need before you even realize you need it. There is no better example than the Concha Acústica. It’s opening night at a brand new venue, and already vendors are walking the aisles with stacks of perfectly-sized foam cushions for rent for 40 Pesos ($2 US.) But as the stadium fills and skies darken, those vendors quickly switch from selling seat cushions to hawking plastic rain ponchos. And the price goes up! Fifty pesos! I deem $2.50US too expensive to pay for a human baggie. Besides, I can’t get past the years of plastic in the landfill, just to keep me dry for a couple of hours. It’s a warm night and the raindrops feel good, so I’ll take my chances. But it’s starting to look like an audience of Smurfs as all the concert-goers don the blue hooded ponchos.
The rains come, but not for long. After the opening act, a breeze blows through and takes the rain clouds with it. We are treated to almost two hours of beautiful bold ballads and cantina songs from one of Mexico’s favorites. The audience loves Lila, and seems to know every word.
After the final encore, a fireworks show goes off beside the auditorium, perfectly coordinated with music over the intercom. Then, as if on cue, at the end of the show, a clap of thunder splits the night sky, and the rain returns. The audience scrambles, blue ponchos billowing in the breeze. We make a mad dash back to the car, with a late night “drive by” stop at Andy’s Street Tacos on the way home.
What a wonderful weekend break from the mounting heat and monotony of stairs!