Whatever city I go to, I feel at home in a theater. But it had been a dry spell for live theater in San Miguel, and I was feeling its absence with the much anticipated Caja Negra Theater Company’s sudden move from one location to another causing it to shut its doors for months. So we were very eager to attend Caja Negra’s first production in its new space given for their list of donors .
A woman about my age sat down next to me at the cafe table to have a glass of wine before the show. She had carrot-red and purple hair and was wearing black leggings with Spanish words printed in white., a colorful patchwork jacket, sparkly sneakers, large tortoise-shell glasses, and bright red lipstick. I guessed correctly that she was an artist. She said her name is Hope Palmer and she and her husband have lived in San Miguel for 16years. She was quite friendly and had such a spark that I was drawn to her immediately. She was also interested in knowing that I am a writer and that Jack and I have been living in town since July and are loving it here. She gave me her card and said we should stay in touch. The next day I dropped her a quick note to say I had enjoyed meeting her and that I was hoping for the best for the theater in its new home.
Hope answered immediately, inviting us to come to dinner at her house and meet a few other friends who live in the “hood.” What we thought was going to be a casual evening with a simple meal, was a total surprise. Although I knew from our first meeting that Hope was an artist and a free spirit, I had no idea what that really meant.
It turns out that her home that she shares with her husband Dirk is an enormous and magnificent contemporary gallery, filled with important works of contemporary art. The table settings are museum-quality, and every piece of furniture in their loft-style enormous downstairs is curated and displayed with an artist’s eye. Dirk is a fine art photographer born and raised in Holland who has lived and worked in many countries around the world. Art books that fill the floor to sky-high bookshelves contain many examples of his work. “I don’t do Bar Mitzvahs or weddings,” he said wryly. The other four guests at dinner were also long-time residents of San Miguel and good friends of our hosts’ and also interesting. The movie theater with surround sound in a corner of the living room was where we ended our evening, sometime after midnight that night.
We have gone out with Hope and Dirk for dinner at a neighborhood restaurant since then, and we have visited Hope’s studio at La Fabrica La Aurora, a high-end collection of art galleries in a renovated mill that is well-known all over Mexico. I told her we’d love to have them over for dinner at our house, but our patio table where we prefer to eat only seats four. “Who cares about that? The table doesn’t matter. I’m sure we’ll find other fascinating things to talk about. Our conversation will be all that matters,” she said, with a wave of her hand. And I trust that she means that.
This city of San Miguel draws people who are interested in the world, who appreciate beauty, who embrace change and new experiences. They welcome others, no matter how much money they do or don’t have. We meet through our shared interests and they become our tribe.