Near San Miguel de Allende, in the sleepy little community of Atotonilco, a sign on a wall advertises land for sale.
The huge lot is covered with picturesque ruins. Broken arches reach skyward, hope and doom carried in the same stones. Stone ruins are prized in faux colonial architecture. Mexican hotels sometimes feature newly built arches, artfully truncated, phony as those fake Tara columns that adorn McMansions. These, though, are the real thing. They draw the eye of the passer-by, redolent of sunny decay as a Frederick Catherwood lithograph.
A few arched ceilings remain, opportunistic plants growing on top. Roots, some of Nature’s most powerful stoneworking tools, do their slow, inexorable work. In a year—or in a decade—this roof will fall.
Iconic cacti perch on stone walls. Sight of one says “Mexico” to me, perhaps more than any other image. The water tank is a more recent ruin, but it too is abandoned and will fall eventually. The shape looks alien—like a landing machine of the Pod People.
For all the crumbling stonework, this land is desirable because it possesses the sine qua non of real estate: location. The adjacent building, seen here behind your (apparently narcoleptic) correspondent, is the Santuario de Atotonilco, an extraordinary church, the objective of thousands of pilgrims, an especially holy place.
Photo: Paul (El Guapo) Latoures. (Next time, Paul, take an insurance shot.)
Last year, Atotonilco was added to the roster of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. That bodes well for real estate values in these parts.