Churros, Chocolate and Love in Mexico

by Karen on Monday, February 7, 2011

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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!



Deana February 7, 2011 at 10:22 am

Beautiful city, beautiful wedding, and beautiful family. Thanks for putting into words what I never realized a had- a fried tooth!

Valerie February 7, 2011 at 11:01 am

Made me tear up!! Gorgeous story and pictures. The shoes and socks are love! Final shot of you is my fav LOL

Erica February 7, 2011 at 1:58 pm

can’t wait for churros y chocolate!!

p.s. you were the best maid of honor a sister could ask for!! xx

The Food Hound February 7, 2011 at 8:21 pm

THAT DRESS!!! Gorgeous photos! Love the history lesson, too! I love authentic churros and chocolate… the really thick stuff 🙂 There’s a Spanish tapas place here that does a bang-up job on it!

Adriana February 7, 2011 at 9:07 pm

Karen, this brings back such wonderful memories. I can’t believe it’s been a year already! It was by far one of the best weddings I have been too. Thanks for sharing : )

pauline February 8, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Lovely photos, happy travelling.

The Quest For Zest February 10, 2011 at 7:14 am

I am thrilled to have found your blog. You captured, so eloquently, your time in San Miguel de Allende. Those churros you described have me craving the ones Rick Bayless sells at Xoco (in Chicago) with warm mugs of thick Mexican hot chocolate. I haven’t made it through your other articles yet, but there appears to be an exciting amount of material on Mexico. We are currently planning a return trip there for this November, and I think I know what one of our stops may be. Also, I love the “Fried-Tooth”. I think I have one of those too.

Margot February 10, 2011 at 10:24 pm

Makes me so nostalgic… Such a magical week last year and I love seeing a few photos I haven’t seen before.

Lentil Breakdown February 11, 2011 at 11:13 am

What a charming and wonderful post! I LOVED San Miguel and Guanajuato and would like to return. Was there about 10 years ago and had been warned of all the ex-pats, but I did not find it touristy at all (and I could see myself living there). Fantastic photos and content!

Karen February 11, 2011 at 2:23 pm

@Deana Adriana Erica and Margot: Good memories eh? Can you believe it’s been a year?! I want to go back!
@Valerie: aw, wish you could’ve been there…
@The Food Hound: Isn’t the dress incredible!? surprisingly didn’t take long to find it!
@Pauline: Thanks
@The Quest for Zest: Glad you found us! Enjoy and do make it a stop for your trip– so amazing!
@Lentil Breakdown: Ah you’ve been? I bet 10 years ago it was also very different. Can’t wait to go back.

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