San Miguel de Allende: ‘The Ungodly Hours…’

The Cathedral in The Jardin at 5:30am...

The Ungodly Hours…

Those of you who have traveled with me on photography workshops and tours know that I abhor shooting the sunrise hour. Something about getting up at an Ungodly Hour does not  usually work for me, especially now that I’ve retired. But, there have been some exceptions and getting up at 5am (yes, not a typo)  to shoot in San Miguel de Allende was one of them. I’m glad I did!

The Jardin…

Located in the center of town, The Jardin during the day and into the evening, is filled with tourists, locals, vendors of all sorts, musicians and just about everything else one would expect in a small Mexican town. At 5:30am it is a different story.

The Jardin at 6:30am...

Restaurants too were silently waiting to reopen…

The gazebo, where the night before was filled with musicians and young Mexican break-dancers, was eerily silent…

Outside the entrances to small souvenir shops, banks, and restaurants, there was a quiet calm…

Street vendors started working their way to the Jardin around 7am..

The Catarinas were ready to start their day…

And the dogs were posing for these crazy photographers, wondering what on earth they were doing out so early in the morning…

Of course the streets were empty so we had a good opportunity to shoot them and show off their wonderful colors.

All in all it was very worthwhile getting up at “The Ungodly Hour”.

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San Miguel de Allende: The People

The People…

San Miguel de Allende is a photographers paradise. From the wonderful rich colors of the buildings to the people who can be found all over this little town, there is much to shoot. Today I focus on the people of San Miguel.

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Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

e&E

The Evening Before: Day of the Dead in The Jardin…

Altar Image - In The Jardin

The Jardin in San Miguel de Allende…

Following a tradition brought by the Spaniards nearly 500 years ago, every town in Mexico, large and small, has a central square. It’s where friends meet, where gossip gets passed around, where you learn what’s going on—and who did it.

In most Mexican towns, it’s referred to as the zocalo. But in San Miguel de Allende, that central square is called the Jardín Principal, the “Main Garden.” But don’t worry about translating it. Everyone, Mexican and foreign, just calls it the Jardín, (pronounced har-DEEN) and it is San Miguel’s center, the main point of reference, the locale for fireworks and folkloric dancing, music and munching and just generally hanging out.

On ‘Erev’ Day of the Dead  locals set up altars for family members and friends that have passed away. Some set them up in cemeteries at the grave sites (another blog post), some set up altars in their homes and others go to the Jardin to make their altars.

A common symbol of the holiday is the skull, which celebrants represent in masks , called calacas (colloquial term for “skeleton”), and foods such as sugar or chocolate skulls, which are inscribed with the name of the recipient on the forehead. Sugar skulls are gifts that can be given to both the living and the dead. Other holiday foods include pan de muerto, a sweet egg bread made in various shapes from plain rounds to skulls and rabbits, often decorated with white frosting to look like twisted bones. Toys are brought for dead children (los angelitos, or “the little angels”), and bottles of tequila, mexcal or pulque or jars of atole for adults. For my dear friends who might (LOL) set up an altar for me…Jack Daniels please!

The Altars at The Jardin

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Day of the Dead: Juarez Park, El Chorro, and The Catrinas….

Our trip continues…

Planning is everything on a trip like this, but sometimes luck plays its’ part. John wanted to take us to another area of San Miguel that we had not visited. He suggested we head to El Chorro. Of course he was unsure of exactly how to get there, so we side-tripped  into Benito Juarez Park, a  small French-style garden that was recently restored for its 100th birthday, hoping that the parks paths would lead us to El Chorro.

As luck would have it, there was a small art show celebrating the Day of the Dead being held in the park. The festivities culminated with music and of course the traditional Catrinas. Everyone was friendly and in a celebratory mood! We were too!

Young Catrinas waiting for the festivities to begin...

The Art Show…

Although rather small, it gave us the opportunity to meet, talk with, and shoot the people who were there.

El Chorro…

El Chorro, the town’s waterworks and public laundry, is located next to the park. The tubs look like a sculptured fountain, but Mexican women still come to wash clothes in them. Chorro means “spout” or “spring,” and this spring determined the location of the town when the Franciscan Juan de San Miguel arrived in 1542.

Let the festival begin…

After a delicious lunch at a local hotel we returned to Juarez Park for the festivities.  José Guadalupe Posada created a famous print of a figure that he called La Calavera de la Catrina (“calavera of the rich woman”) as a parody of a Mexican upper-class female.

'La Calavera Catarina' by Posada

Posada’s striking image of a costumed female with a skeleton face has become associated with the Day of the Dead, and Catarina figures often are a prominent part of modern Day of the Dead observances. Our Catrinas were getting ready!

The music begins…

And the families gather to watch…

This was the continuation of another terrific day in San Miguel de Allende.

Sanctuary of Atotonilco: A World Heritage Site…

The Sanctuary of Atotonilco  is a church complex and a World Heritage Site, designated along with nearby San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The complex was built in the 18th century by Father Luis Felipe Neri de Alfaro who, according to tradition, was called upon by a vision of Jesus with a crown of thorns on his head and carrying a cross.

The main feature of the complex is the rich Mexican Baroque mural work that adorns the main nave and chapels. This was chiefly the work of Antonio Martinez de Pocasangre over a period of thirty years. The mural work has led the complex to be dubbed the “Sistine Chapel of Mexico”.

The complex remains a place of worship and penance to this day, attracting as many as 5,000 visitors every week. We were lucky, only a few visitors were there when our group arrived so we were able to shoot without too much interference.

The Sanctuary, officially called the “Santuario de Dios y de la Patria” (Sanctuary of God and Country), but is better known as the Sanctuary of Jesús Nazareno de Atotonilco. It is located in the small, rural community of Atotonilco, which has a population of approx. 600.

The main church is a single nave without a cupola, lined on the north and south flanks by chapels and chambers

Main Nave

The Capilla del Santo Sepulcro or Chapel of the Holy Burial was built between 1759 and 1763. The murals here were begun in 1760 and center on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

Capilla del Santo Sepulcro


The Capilla de Soledad or Chapel of Solitude was built between 1740 and 1748. The main altar contains the Virgin of Sorrows weeping for the crucified Jesus.

The Virgin of Sorrows

An altar was prepared for the Day of the Dead.

Altar for Day of the Dead

Outside the sanctuary, several locals can be found hanging around looking for spare pesos (which allowed us to take their pictures).

To be continued…

San Miguel de Allende: The Children

As many of you might know I recently went on a ‘Photography Tour’ of San Miguel de Allende in Mexico. I had always wanted to go to this special town and when John Barclay and Dan Sniffin said they’d be returning and leading a tour including the Day of the Dead, I was there!

I was particularly excited about shooting the Day of the Dead celebrations, the Catrinas, the Day of the Dead altars, the churches, as well as the colors and antiquities of San Miguel. However, once there, the subjects that I found to be the most interesting to shoot were the children. These kids were beautiful (see above), friendly, photogenic and often made me laugh! I know that the other photographers who were shooting with me felt the same.

So, when thinking about which blog to post first,  it was a ‘no brainer‘.  Here are some of the kids we shot. As I look back at each image, it still brings a smile to my face recalling the fun times we had shooting them.

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