Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Field Trip to Dolores Hidalgo and Pozos

The days are counting down to when my month here is over.

Already! I'm definitely not ready to leave. I've started looking at real estate listings and wondering if staying here for an extended period of time would be a good option for me.

Anyway, I have a few things to see still. I think I've given up on day trips to Guanajuato and Queretaro—I'm running out of time and it's good to have a reason to return—but I knew I had to see Dolores Hidalgo, which is the birthplace of Mexican independence and right down the road. That's an easy trip. All I'd have to do is catch the local jitney to the bus station, then hop on the next bus for the hour-ish ride to Dolores Hidalgo. What's to see there? The church. The zocalo. Some pottery factories. The exotic ice cream stand.

The lilac color creates the ultramarine glaze.
But I also wanted to see Pozos, an old mining town that nearly became a ghost town but now has a few thousand inhabitants. From Dolores Hidalgo, I'd have to take two buses. That was turning into a day of six buses and two jitneys.


We all know I like a little inconvenience, but that sounded kind of unpleasant.

But when I'd done the local walking tour, it had finished in the library courtyard, where a man had handed me a flyer. Seems the library was launching field trips. And one of them was to Dolores Hidalgo and Pozos. Sixty bucks? But it's a fundraiser for the library.

So I signed up. "Your guide will pick you up at nine," said the woman who took my pesos.

Great. I only had to go out my front door to get a lift.

At quarter to nine, my cell phone chirped.
Brushes are made of squirrel tails


"Hello, this is Francisco, your guide for today."

"Hello," I replied to Francisco, my guide for today.

He paused.

"Can you hear me?"


 "Hello, this is Francisco, your guide for today."

I kept quiet this time and waited to hear what he had to say. I hadn't intended to confuse him.

"I will be 10-15 minutes late to pick you up. So 9:10 or 9:15."

My doorbell rang at 9:10. I don't know how he knew which bell to ring. I bet he rang them all.

I went downstairs, hair still wet, and got into a red Suburban. Francisco drove me to a much swankier part of town than where I live and we picked up three other tourists, all friends.

We drove an hour to Dolores Hidalgo, along long straight roads running through fields of broccoli. Francisco showed the others where to get off the bus to go to the hot springs, and how they could take a walk to a small town on the way back. He explained we were going to a Talavera ceramics factory first in Dolores to see the process Dolores was famous for.

The factory was fascinating, but there's this.

"The pottery makers in this town are highly skilled," said Francisco.

"Francisco," I asked. "Does that mean they are paid well?"

He paused. "Sadly, for many, this is all they know how to do. They grew up in this town. Some of them get minimum wage, which in Mexico is per day. For some, maybe eight or ten dollars a day."

He later explained that while San Miguel de Allende is one of the most expensive places in Mexico to live, the higher minimum wage is in the cities. This is not SMA, at least where we are looking at ceramics, but while SMA is a beautiful place to live, it can be pretty tough for a Mexican who isn't rich to live there.

We took a long look at the gift shop, but there was no way for me to get any of this home since I had to fly a budget airline to the Yucatan (luggage restrictions) and then take buses along to Cancun.

If I ever renovate a non-Victorian, I'm coming down here in my car and filling it up with tile.

I did buy a donkey plate at a smaller shop we passed on the way to the church where Hidalgo had made his famous call for Mexican independence. We went inside to look around the church then tried various odd flavors of ice cream from a vendor on the corner of the square.

I tried spoonfuls of a type of butter pecan, coffee flavored, chocolate, avocado, rose petal, some kind of purple cactus flower, fruit, and a bunch of other stuff I've forgotten. I refused to try the octopus-and-shrimp.

"How did it taste," I asked the one guy who tried it. He made a face.

"It tasted like octopus and shrimp."

We drove on then to Pozos, for a delicious enchilada lunch in a lovely hotel, then checked out a storefront with indigenous instruments, then drove out to an old mine to take a look around.

I never could have seen that by public transport. This was a full day, but a good day.

After we dropped off the other tourists, Francisco drove me back to Animas.

"How do you think that went for the first trip?" He asked.

"First ever?" I was surprised.

"Well, I've done it before with a tour group, but this is the first one where I am volunteering with the library."

Excellent. I couldn't have been happier with it. I visited the library the next day to see when their next trip was. Unfortunately, the only other one running between now and when I depart was an overnight trip to Mexico City.

I'm sure that one will be great too.

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