A year ago this week, our family had the ultimate Valentine's Day celebration: my sister's gorgeous wedding in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, one of the most romantic places in the world. Like the commercials say, San Miguel de Allende is likely not the Mexico you thought you knew. No turquoise waters, no margaritas on sandy beaches, no Senor Frogs… Located in the central state of Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende is a small colorful colonial town that has been beautifully preserved.
Beyond its beauty, San Miguel de Allende was historically important in Mexico's struggle for independence. Well after its founding, the city was renamed after Ignacio Allende, a captain of the Spanish army that began to sympathize and support the Mexican Independence movement who was born in the municipality. Eventually he rose to leadership in the Independence movement fighting alongside leaders of the rebellion, but was eventually captured by Spanish authorities and executed. His head hung in a cage off the side of a building in the nearby capital of the state, Guanajuato, which I had a chance to see (the building, not the head).
During the colonial period, San Miguel de Allende was a flourishing commercial center for silver and after the war of Independence it collapsed into a practical ghost town by the early 20th century. However, during this time nationalist sentiments prompted the government to reinvest and rehabilitate the city by commissioning murals and preserving its colonial architecture. In more recent years, droves of expats have been settling in San Miguel de Allende, often running small businesses in and around the city. About 16 percent of the population are ex-patriots the majority of them from the United States. As high as this number is, the town has not become a fragmented clone of just another American city. Residents, both Mexican and expat, are extremely hospitable and have an a unique reverence for the city that allows visitors to truly experience its physical and cultural space at the city's calm pace. And while the opening of the first Starbucks (albeit seamlessly and invisibly blended into a colonial building) may be cause for concern about how tourism is transforming the city, locals still have a strong sense of maintaining San Miguel's off-the-map character.
During the week of the wedding, our family stayed at Casa Chorro, a beautiful colonial style estate where the wedding was held. We explored the cobble-stoned streets of the city and nearby bustling Guanajuato. Each day was a new adventure to markets, tortillerias, museums, craft markets, galleries, restaurants, bars. However all the wedding guests quickly found their way to what in a week became a regular stop: San Agustin, a cafe selling the best fresh churros and hot chocolate I've ever had. Churros are the holy grail for someone who has a “fried-tooth” like myself and perhaps a week-long diet of churros and hot chocolate wasn't the best idea for a maid-of-honor with a very snug dress. But, the joyous spirit of the wedding threw such trivial concerns out the window.
Coming back I knew I had to take a stab at making churros and was pleasantly surprised at how easy they are to make at home. So this week, we'll be celebrating Valentine's Day by making some churros y chocolate. I guarantee these will be the best things you've ever fried!