Often, when visitors to San Miguel tell of their experience there I've heard about the nearby Delores Hidago, a smaller city, population just over 50,000 which is known in Mexico as the cradle of national independence. In 1810 a wayward priest, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla led a rising against Spanish colonial rule on September 15. His leadership and the speech he delivered after ringing the village church bell at midnight ignited the 11-year war of independence. Hildago didn't live to see Mexico liberated from Spanish rule, he was captured a few years after his declaration and his head was delivered on a pike to be displayed in the public square as a warning to others who might carry on the struggle for independence. Several did who were also from this small town, known even today as Insurgentes.
Today, Delores Hildago, aside from its historic place in Mexican history is renowned for its pottery, crafted by artisans with a worldwide reputation. Talavera is especially prized by collectors because of its exquisite and colorful glaze. In public institutions, like the Insituto Allende, and in private homes built by Anglos in San Miguel it is common to see bathrooms decorated with Talavera tiles and wash basins. The first floor men's room at the Instituo Allende has side-by-side basins that at first glance took my breath away. One had a rainbow trout curled around the side of the basin, in a green background that was just breathtakingly beautiful. Other designs in bright colors include calla lilies, geometric patterns of blue and gold, and, sometimes, plain, but bright gold or cobalt blue. Beside kitchen and bath tiles, Talavera potters make dishes, planters, large standing covered jugs, and many other decorative items.
In the Plaza Principal in Delores Hidalgo, a busy little city, stands a huge statue honoring Miguel Hidalgo and other revolutionary heroes. It is a monumental stone sculpture wrought from stone in an obvious Mexican style—hard to explain, but easily recognizable as Mexican by its design and special use of native natural materials.
I have seen other examples of clever and appealing design by Mexicans, built by craftsmen accustomed to using materials at hand, often recycled. At the botanical garden, El Charco del Indigenous, for example, there was a windmill made from two 55-gallon drums, sliced in half top to bottom joined at inside to outer edges around a central pole making a two-sided half drum on each side of the central pole to catch the wind. Two of these severed drums combined spinned to make a fast-turning windmill that drew water from the lagoon, a quarter mile away, up to the conservatory for use in irrigating plants in the nursery.