Gille grabs a second chance at life by buying a home in San Miguel de Allende.
Gille had always fondly remembered San Miguel de Allende from a visit when she was 20. Fed up with her life in Seattle, where she had lost her retail business, she impulsively bought a second home in the idyllic Mexican hill town 28 years later, renewing a love affair with Mexico that she chronicles here with considerable literary flair. “[A]fter battling endless questions, depression, and guilt, San Miguel seemed like a second chance in life,” she recalls. Casa Chepitos—the name the author’s family gives to their “fairy-tale castle” with “breathtaking views”—sits on an alleyway in one of San Miguel’s less chic neighborhoods. Gille worried initially that she and her husband “might never really fit in. That we’d end up traversing the alley, barely acknowledged by the people we lived among. Like temporary guests on some exotic island.” But during her extended visits to San Miguel, she gradually befriended her neighbors and became part of their lives, hunting for bargains with them at the town’s huge open-air market or celebrating Mexican holidays such as the Day of the Dead and Independence Day. One elderly neighbor reminded her “of Mexico itself—ravaged yet beautiful, riddled with disease, bullied by a man with an oversized ego.” Gille takes a leaf out of such traveler-abroad books as A Year in Provence (1989) and Under the Tuscan Sun (1996), but her contribution to the genre comes alive with her sharply observed re-creations of local events, such as a baseball game in which her teenage son plays, and in her eye for detail: San Miguel’s walls are “drenched in the colors of exotic spices—nutmeg, turmeric, saffron.” To her credit, she also delves beneath the surface of Mexican life, exploring the gentrification of San Miguel and the flight of young Mexicans to the U.S. in search of an economic future. As a result of this exodus, the author observes, “a new subculture has emerged in Mexico: the hundreds of thousands of wives, mothers, and children who are left behind. They live in a state of limbo.”
A travelogue that comes alive with colorful detail.