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.
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.