Un poco sobre del gringo.

San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico
I'm spending my summer in San Miguel de Allende, México. San Miguel de Allende is located in Central Mexico in the central state of Guanajuato and about 180 miles north of Mexico City. Texas A&M University will soon have its Santa Clara center open beginning Fall 2010. This center will be open and available to all TAMU students with a variety of study abroad, research, volunteer, and internship opportunities. It will have special opportunities and focuses on agriculture, veterinary medicine, RPTS, education, hispanic studies, and more soon to come. My main focus here for the summer will be to create external opportunities with non-profits, local businesses, and cultural/historic sites of Central Mexico & Mexico City. This blog will give a glimpse of the the summer journeys, the progress of the center, the World Cup here in México, and all the life here in San Miguel de Allende and the rest of México. Vive Mexico

La Cruz de San Miguel de Allende

La Cruz de San Miguel de Allende
La Cruz de San Miguel de Allende...Lo Mejor Punto de Vista de San Miguel de Allende

Unos Fotos de Mi Aventura a Querétaro

Sunday, May 30, 2010

First Visits to Santa Clara, SMA Food, Calderón, Food Poisoning

On Tuesday, we woke up and went out to breakfast to a place that has an organic farm where most of its fruits/vegetables are produced. That's something to notice about San Miguel-within there tourism, cultural patrimonies, historical sites, and lifestyle--it is all moving towards a green society and becoming more resourceful. It's a top down type of movement and many of the non-profits and institutions of the area are assisting with transitioning the people of San Miguel and those in the surrounding municipalities. TAMU and the Santa Clara Center will be a major player with this as it too will be a green, resourceful, and minimal waste center.

After breakfast, we ventured out the the Santa Clara Center. The Santa Clara Center is not directly in the city of San Miguel de Allende. It's about a 20 minute drive from the city, but it is located in the municipality of San Miguel de Allende and right outside of the town of Los Rodriguez. The property is on 200+ acres. It's a hacienda and will grow beans, corn, and along with other agriculture.

I last visited Santa Clara back in November 2009 which is only a couple of months after the project began. At the time, the main building for was undergoing a clean-up demolition and rebuilding the infrastructure. Walls were being rebuilt, the ceilings were being put together, and it was only in its beginnings stages. Since that last visit, the place is incomparable! It looks completely different and has advanced in many ways. The vision that Pablo, Barbara, and Teresa have had is truly being realized. The classrooms infrastructure is complete lacking only small touch-up and just the furnishings and furniture. There is an indoor plaza area near the main entrance which has a fountain with fish, a brick-layed path, landscape, barbacoa pit, authentic and old-fashioned Mexican kitchen...complete. The second floor is layout is complete and they are laying the columns to begin the roofing. The cafeteria and main kitchen infrastructure is complete and the beams and roof will soon begin. The pictures will tell all.

We took another tour of the center today and discussed the location of solar panels, processing of wastes, water heating, etc. Not the most exciting but essential. This will be an ongoing discussion, but the objective is to utilize the maximize the energy produced at the center while minimizing the use of energy needed and purchased from the an outside power source. The center will run mostly off of the generated energy from solar panels and wind turbines. The water pumps will be one of the few sources that utilize power from an external power source. However, the power that is not utilized from the solar and wind energy will be pumped back into the power grid and the Santa Clara Center will rack up credits that can be utilized for the water pumps. Essentially, the Santa Clara center will bear a no-cost energy system. The sanitary water system is still in question at this time. They are searching for the best option possible so that water can be captured via rain and run-off. The Santa Clara Center and San Miguel de Allende sit in a massive valley and are surrounded by mountains around it.

Later that afternoon we grabbed lunch at Pueblo Viejo which is owned by a Spaniard who also owns a pretty sweet bar on top called La Azotea. He also owns another placed called La Planta Baja which is were we ate Thanksgiving Dinner last November and watched the A&M vs t.u. football game. Thus, these places are great to go to and are located right off the center plaza called the Jardin.

Later on that evening, we all got together at La Carcazon with some Sanmiguelenses, or the San Miguel locals. The group was Teresa, the architect for the project; Timo and his wife, the landscape architect and brother of Teresa; and Iliana and Santiago, a well-known real estate agent who found the Santa Clara Property and her Spaniard husband who is a high-ranking director at La Esmeralda. La Esmeralda is a cheese factory here in San Miguel de Allende and the largest cheese-producing factory in all of Latin America. You may ask why they are here in San Miguel and not in a more industrial or commercialized city. Well, there was an agreement to have La Esmeralda remain here. It provides over 1,000 jobs to people here and supports the local economy to maintain the tourist businesses as well. It's the business like these that maintain the strong infrastructure and diversity of economic inputs to San Miguel.

Also on this day was the day Mexican President Felipe Calderón met with President Barack Obama and the US Congress to discuss US Immigration, Free Trade Agreements, Drug Trafficking/Security, and Mexican/US relations. It was interesting to hear about the discussions on this side of the border. There was quite a bit of frustration in the...terrible translation...on Calderón's first day and seemed to be a hinderance in Calderón's message. The message seemed to come across much clearer the second day when Calderón spoke in English. However, some explained this take away from the culture of his message and that the people of Mexico expressed that their desire was for their president to speak his native tongue and the language of his people. Nevertheless, his message came across strong and clear that Arizona was not focusing on the source...Economics and Jobs. Calderón pointed out something interesting in that Mexico does not want its people to leave and many that are leaving are only leaving for a time to find a source of income for families. Mexico has increased its national job market though and addressing this issue. More to come on the future discussions. It is unfortunate Calderón did not get to concentrate on his primary agenda...NAFTA and the economic investments between the 2 countries. If politics would stop for just a second and focus on that, they just might indirectly fix some of the immigration and find ways to suffice the poverty, illegal immigration, and development of bi-national industries. Imagine that!

We came home after a great dinner and had a shot of tequila. Not quite the same way we do it in the states where you down it just to get through it, rather you sip it and drink it down enjoying the...burn as it goes down. I'm still learning to get used to it and not let the Gringo part of me hinder me. After that, we called it a night....well, just keep reading.

Around 3AM, I encountered the greetings of the not so exciting part of Mexico. Yes, it's true, after my 10+ visits to Mexico, I finally was blessed with some Food Poisoning! It was not pretty and I'll save you from the details.

The recap-
Positives: We found a great doctor here in San Miguel that we'll probably use for the center(glad I could sacrifice myself for the cause). As Forrest Gump would say, "I got shot in the buttock," but mine was twice. Seemed to do the trick. Got filled will pills for a week and recovered well. On the latter end of recovery, I set-up skype and got my parents to do it as well, it's amazing how technology intrigues some people. If you've read this far already and want to skype my Skype name is: crladen.
Negatives: I lost somewhere between 5-10lbs in a few days, extreme dehydration, and just laying in bed for a good few days.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Flights, Festivals, Fantasmas...Bienvenidos Verano

It's been a week in Mexico. A week that I wasn't sure how it would end, that's for certain. It started out like many of my other Mexican journeys...say goodbye America and bienvenidos Mexico.

Saturday(5/15)The flight was quite an interesting one. I applaud Continental Express for supplying Spanish CDs with travel safety, announcements for pretzels and drinks, turbulence messages, and arrival information. However, our southern flight attendant relied heavily on that and couldn't serve half the flight and her gauge to determine Spanish speaking persons versus English speakers just wasn't on par today. Maybe she bordered the wrong flight, or left her handy Spanish conversation survival notebook at home. She also wasn't sure if some people's luggage was going to make it to Mexico. Her advice: "look for it when you get there." She meant well and definitely had them pearly whites smiling away from take-off to landing. Well, best of luck on her future international endeavors!

I arrived to the Leon/Guanajuato International Airport of 4 gates and we happened to be the only plane there during the middle of the hot Mexican Saturday. I made it through immigration and luckily did not leave my passport on the plane like I did the previous summer in Monterrey. I waited for my luggage, which was strategically placed on the bottom. I grabbed my bags last and went through customs with a push of button...Green Light right into México!

As I walked from international territory to the real thing I had a name on a piece of paper that led me to the van that led me to the city that led me to the house that Teresa built for Pablo. (the House that Jack built anyone?) I'll get to Teresa later on, but I just tried to insert the creative element.

I'm not going to lie that by the time I got here on Saturday it was about 2:30pm and all I wanted to do was crash for a bit after an intense, wild, fun, bittersweet semester. So I did what any Mexican would did and had a siesta till about 5:00pm and then was ready to venture out to my home for the next 2 months. San Miguel de Allende.

Now the home that I'm staying at his owned by Pablo Marvin who is a former student of Texas A&M and the gentleman whom I am working with over the summer with the Texas A&M center. He would not arrive until Monday night so I had several days to myself here in Mexico. The street that he lives on is about 5-6 blocks from the main city's plaza. I walked down the street and around the corner to the main plaza. Here is the main Parroquia, which could easily pass as the historic and Catholic Disneyland Church of Mexico.

I grabbed some dinner from a little restaurant off the main square and I went with Pasta. Strange yes? But I know I'll get my Mexican food fix for the summer. I then strolled through the city plaza for a bit where I was surrounded my mariachi bands, grandparents updating each on the latest gossip, jovenes-teenagers chasing each other around and texting everyone on the latest break-ups and get-togethers, and the little kids pulling the toy turtle with wheels they just bought from a vendor.

As the bells of the Parroquia began to strike 10pm I started walking back towards my house for the night and came across a massive concert and party full of people masked and dressed up with all sorts of costumes. I stayed and watched for a bit. Found out later the entire month of May has celebrations dedicated to keeping out the "fantasmas" y "espíritus" from San Miguel de Allende. With San Miguel being an ancient city, its known for being "haunted" so the people celebrate in order to provide safety and protection while keeping the peace. All in all, its a reason to dance, sing, eat, and have fireworks AT ALL TIMES OF THE DAY/NIGHT during the weekend.

Sunday(5/16)-The highlight from Sunday comes on Sunday night when I'm walking through town and a parade of the people dressed up in masks comes through the street. A lady who is dressed and masked to look like an extremely old woman pulls me into the parade to dance for a couple of blocks. Me, having no shame, decided why not. Wasn't expecting this one but it was definitely a site to see.

Monday(5/17)-On Monday night, Pablo arrived along with Brent Lanier & Ryan Gunter. Brent and Ryan are from the Corps of Cadets and Pablo invited them down for a few days to get the Corps perspective and begin seeking out opportunities for them. We would start going out and talking about the center, San Miguel, and the opportunities on Tuesday.