This conference is very intense. The calibre of the presenters is very high and the workshops are productive and pertinent. I get a bit exhausted and so this afternoon I went on an excursion to a nearby town justly famous for its church. This is the Church of Atotonilco. This is the site of the beginning of the Mexican uprising against the Spanish by the great hero Hidalgo. The ceilings and walls are covered in biblical scenes and texts. It happens to be the start of lent so there were groups of men attending retreats. They approached the church in procession with banners representing their communities and singing. I was very happy to see the church actively in use. Some things are nonsensical, as with many religious rituals but people’s faith is touching too. In the church yard were a couple of signs of spring – a flowering almond and a few little green plants pushing up through the ever-present cobblestones. It has been very rainy and cold over four days and attending the sessions in tents was very damp. I was glad of a good pair of thick shoes and a wooly poncho my kind landlady left for me. Some participants from Texas and Louisianna were up in arms but I thought of shovelling my steps and kept silent.
After visiting the church we went to a wonderful art studio. It was born of a collector’s interest in the artists of Mexico. Mayer Shacter was a renown ceramicist for decades. When his wife Susan Page went on a book tour to promote her self help book he took some time off to accompany her. Ms. Page is the executive director of the San Miguel Writers’ Conference. Mr. Shacter became interested in the many wonderful Mexican artists and out of his enthusiasm for collecting beautiful pieces his studio and shop developed. Our group spent a long time admiring the very interesting pieces, both contemporary and antique. As a museum guide, I can sincerely say this is one of the most impressive collections I have ever seen. The variety and quality of the carvings, ceramics, fabrics and antiques is stunning. I did a little modest shopping for my friends and family at home. Perhaps the photos are the greatest treasure. The name is the gallery is Galeria Atotonilco. Don’t hesitate to google it and if ever you are in San Miguel, it is a must.