The first time I saw the Jardin in el Centro in the main plaza, in front of the Parroquia, the large, magnificent pink church that can be seen from high places everywhere in the city, I couldn’t help but feel let down. It is not a garden, as I expected it to be, not a park as I had imagined, but it is a square of greenery with benches where people gather, under rows of sculpted shade trees. But as I took my seat on one of the benches, I began to see why it is referred to as the hub of the city. There North Americans meet up with English speaking friends, and visitors come to people watch, eat ice cream, buy little toys for their children, and photograph the activity around them and each other. I struck up a conversation in my rudimentary Spanish with the Mexican woman sitting next to me who looked to be around my age. She seemed pleased to pass the time talking with me, smiling and laughing as one of the dogs, a silly-looking but well-behaved mutt, strutted by with his owner.
“Me gusta los perros,” I said. I like dogs. She responded enthusiastically, telling me that she had two of them herself, frisky little guys who drove her crazy. She had moved to San Miguel de Allende from Mexico City where she had lived all of her previous years, and now lives with her son and his children. “La familia,” she said, as though there were no need for further explanation. We chatted for a bit longer, until I ran out of words and her Spanish got faster and faster as she got more comfortable with me, leaving me in the dust, and Jack was ready to move on. Yes, the Jardin is a perfect place to meet friends old and new, ex-pats, tourists and Mexicans alike.
In search of he park I had envisioned, we walked on to Parque Juarez, and there it was; a lovely, ;large tranquil park with colorful flowers, winding paths for strolling or walking a dog, public art placed throughout, and benches for reading and talking, plus a relatively new children’s playground, a basketball court, and exercise course. Most of the people we saw were Mexicans. Every day we’re here we miss and think about our wonderful Kanga, but our thoughts were especially of him there. If he had lived long enough to come with us, he would have had a terrible time trying to navigate the streets and the stairs in our house, but I could imagine him lying at our feet under the shade of the bench, loving the day.
On Sunday, we went back to Parque Juarez for a second visit. The park on Sunday was bursting with life like a scene that had been lifted from a Mexican version of Sunday in the Park with Jorge. There was an art show set up around the perimeter, with works for sale, and many more people strolling and sitting than had been there on our last visit, more little girls in fancy dresses shooting hoops, more lovers strolling arm in arm, stopping to kiss, the young women with bouquets of flowers in their hands. Suddenly an aria from La Boheme rose from behind one of the garden areas, as a middle aged man with a glorious voice strolled down the path, carrying his jacket over his shoulder. The song came freely from him as his way of enjoying the beauty of the park and the day. As he disappeared down the path, we heard a different kind of music coming softly from a row of benches where a group of young people sat together playing a guitar, a ukelele, a woodblock, and singing. The fourth member of the group danced flamenco on a small wood stand in front of them. It was an unobtrusive performance and few heard it. They had no tip jar out, they, too, were playing strictly for their own enjoyment. We sat nearby enjoying the intimate performance in the park, in the middle of our new city, savoring the moment.