Walking Around Salvatierra | Mexico | Living in Mexico

Walking Around Salvatierra

To get to Salvatierra from San Miguel de Allende, drive about 75 kilometers south through Celaya. You’ll run right into it. Couldn’t be simpler, except maybe for the part where you get lost in Celaya. If you’re planning a trip to Michoacán or Pátzcuaro, you could stop off for an hour or two on your way.
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Salvatierra is a great walking town. Vehicular traffic is light and there’s a lot to see within walking distance from the Plaza las Armas.
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The city has any number of venerable churches. This one, the Templo y Convento de San Buenaventura, is also known as the Templo de San Francisco, and is as fine an example of Eighteenth-Century church architecture as you could want to see. A visitor could spend an entire weekend just investigating all the colonial churches in town.
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The low wall in front of the San Francisco Temple guards an old irrigation canal named Gugorrones. Maybe its waters, drawn from the Rio Lerma, give the city its green leafy ambiance. Salvatierra boasts a sweet little jail smack in the historical center. The guard looks fierce but he’s friendly—you can talk to him.
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Through double doors, we see a young mother and her daughter speaking with the jailer through a barred window. Maybe dad drank a little too much pulque last night; got into a fight. Mom’s responsibility to see he’s properly fed, and to maintain his affairs in the outside world until he’s released. The prisoner’s incarceration is nothing to be ashamed of. His friends may well see it as an achievement, a reaffirmation of his machismo.
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Attractive façades flank downtown streets. Why do they seem so welcoming? Unlike San MIguel de Allende’s, the walls of Salvatierra’s buildings are pierced by many large windows, presenting an open, friendly aspect.
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A closer look at the first building reveals what I think of as “Happy Tooth” dentist advertising. Images like Dra. Sandra J. Vera’s are common in Mexico. They’re of a piece with “Happy Chicken” pollorias and “Happy Pig” carnitas joints. Once you catch on to the idiom, you’ll see “Happy Teeth” everywhere.
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The Plaza las Armas is ringed with businesses shaded by arched galleries. Prosperity not having caught up with Salvatierra, the arcades house modest businesses—here the offices of Dr. Aguirre, and Sr. Rangel, CPA, and what we used to call a Turkish Bath. Give the place another decade, these will be displaced by chi-chi restaurants and art galleries.
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Nearby, a decidedly non-chi-chi eatery—Neveria Susana—offers seating for Paul (El Guapo) Latoures.
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Susana’s schtick is ice cream, but she’ll serve you a serviceable lunch for not much money. Her breaded pork cutlet sandwich costs 20 pesos—about $1.40 as of this writing.
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Salvatierra is kept spotless by squads of street sweepers. In recent years, many Mexican cities have tackled litter. Towns once abysmally dirty have become pleasant places to walk, views unmarred by styrofoam cups and beer bottles.
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The street sweeper is passing in front of the Hotel Isabel. I like the feel of this inn, with its courtyard restaurant sheltered by a spectacular stained glass roof. I can’t recall the prices, but I do remember thinking any US traveler would rank this place as inexpensive. One word of warning, though. The Hotel Isabel hosts wedding receptions and family reunions. You will not want to stay here when one of those is happening unless you are a party animal. Incredibly loud music into the wee hours will eliminate any chance of sleeping, so check carefully.
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This is a real Mexican town, where real Mexicans live typical lives. Nobody here will try to sell you a timeshare. You won’t find two-for-one margaritas. You’ll run into few beggars, if any, since Mexican nationals aren’t as likely to hand out a few coins as gringos. But it’s a place full of history and flavor and photo ops for any traveller willing to venture off the beaten track, well worth the modest effort needed to visit.
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