I remember hearing once about a joke about the famous Mexican actor “Cantinflas” (Fortino Mario Alfonso Moreno Reyes [Mario Moreno] 1911-1993), who was being interviewed one time and the reporter asked him if he had been to San Miguel de Allende. Oh no, Cantinflas answered, I cannot go there. Why? the reporter asked. Because I don’t speak English, the actor answered, laughing.
Of course like many funny stories, it is not quite true. In the giant film Around the world in 80 days, Cantinflas spoke rather good English in his important role beside David Niven, and furthermore, my personal research, although limited, seems to indicate that like many other successful Mexican artists and performers, he owned a vacation home in San Miguel.
Be that as it may or may not be, the point of the joke — la neta, como dicen “los jovenes” — is that San Miguel de Allende is full of foreigners, most of them gringos who don’t speak any Spanish.
That too, is largely false. Gringos are a minority of the population in San Miguel (again, this is based on my little bit of research). But, like most “untrue” (or at least exagerated) stories, there is a grain of truth in there.
When I wrote an email to the San Miguel writers’ conference hotel reservation volunteer asking about a room at the inn, her response was kind enough, and welcome. But she did say that she would be handling all the reservations because the people at the hotel do not speak English. The subtext was, and is, that she does and perhaps I do not.
I note, however, with great pleasure that va ser unos clases — o talleres — in Spanish. Maybe I will even enroll myself in one. A ver si me atrevo.