When I came here in 1975, I knew no Spanish, I knew nothing about Mexico, I knew no one. I was alone in a new world. I had left behind my family and friends, the security of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School and that miserable life I had been living. Thus kind of radical event can change your Life.
I had gotten into San Miguel de Allende, Mexico well after midnight and woke up on Sunday to lots of loud Church bells. In the morning got dressed to explore around town, and find the Instituto Allende where I would spend the next school year.
I walked down nearly every street and loved the feeling I had stepped back in time. The colors, smells, textures and the quiet laziness of this city was delightful. I ended up in the Jardín around 8 PM.
I was not exactly lost, but not exactly sure how to get back my hotel. Situations like this situation will change your life. I stood on the corner and watched the people walking around the square. I realized they were mostly men.
A corridor of men as if on a conveyor belt were circling the jardin. Many were young, my age and one in particular caught my eye right away. However I needed to figure out how to find a cab. How would ask for the hotel if I did not know the name. Besides I spoke no Spanish.
I saw the young man strolling by, NOW I was sure he saw me. He wore a bright magenta shirt with black and yellow stripped bell bottoms. After he passed I reached in my pocket for the hotel key to see if it had information on it, it said 12 but nothing else in Spanish.
The guy passed again but this time he was looking back over his shoulder at me to see if I was looking at him. I would later learn this was called the Sunday night “Paseo,” a cultural tradition designed to find the mate of your choice. As the men promenade around the garden square in one direction the girls with chaperons would promenade in the opposite direction. When this guy passed by again the situation had definitely become flirtatious, so I left.
I walked diagonally across the garden and sat on the wall to listen to the Mariachi. Then the beautiful man that I had been making eyes at sat down beside me. Surprised I stood up and then he did. We looked at each other. He said Cafe? Chocolate? Coca Cola?
He pointed at the cafe on the corner. In the light of the cafe I realized two things, he was better looking that I thought and he spoke no English. I thought Mary Jane, this is an opportunity to change your Life and learn some Spanish all at once. I pulled out my sketchpad and began drawing pictures of stuff I had seen that day. I drew a picture and he would say a word in Spanish ; Donkey/Burro , Dog /pero, boots/ botas cloud/nube church/ eglesia , hat/ Sombrero etc. We had a lovely and strange kind of evening but lots of fun as it got late.
Outside on the street I said hotel?
He pointed to the San Francisco Hotel , I said no, he said Las Monjas, Casa Carmen… “La Quinta Loreto,” I said, “Si!” Walking two fingers across my hand, I indicated he go there with me. We walked zig zaging down empty streets. Eventually we turned down a dark marrow street, I was wondering if this was a good idea?
Eventually he pointed to a looming stone arch that said LA QUINTA LORETA HOTEL.
He said Bueas Noches, shook my hand and walked down the street in the dark .
Monday morning I went to the Instituto Allende. Leaving school in the afternoon, I saw Valentin, born on Valentines day the man from the night before. He was standing in the doorway!
I passed him without a word thinking he was probably waiting for someone else.
After walking a few blocks someone tapped my shoulder, I heard, “Ola Amiga” I grinned. I opened my trusty sketchpad. I flipped to the drawing of the boots. He looked like he understood. He walked his fingers across the palm of his hand and indicated I followed him.
I had seen a beautiful pair of boots on a window sill on Sunday, he must have known the place. We walked there. We walked in the side door he began talking to the old man. The place was full of leather stuff; saddles, harnesses, old shoes, assorted hides and really disorganized. Before I knew it, I was standing on a piece of cardboard in my bare feet. The old man drew a line around each foot.
He measure the height of a low boot. I picked out a leather hide……… the color of gold.
The old man held up 7 fingers. I planned to come back in 7 days or pay 7 hundred pesos? I had no idea.
Tuesday I saw Valentin but not Wednesday or Thursday. And Friday afters school I was disappointed to not see him. I went back to my room and there was Valentin waiting for me. He had a package with him wrapped in newsprint with twine. The Boots!. He had picked up them up at the cobblers. I slipped them on one at a time …………….he knelt to lace them up for me.
My feet fit in them perfectly.
It wasn’t exactly an engagement ring. I really felt like Cinderella.
I had found my Prince and my Prince had found me.