Potholed streets are getting new surfaces. I see construction crews all over San Miguel de Allende. Everyone has to endure inconvenient street closings and the snarled traffic that ensues. Apparently some federal money came in, so workers are tearing up the roads, filling potholes, re-setting cobblestones.
As late as last year, masons set paving stones in dirt just like in the Seventeenth Century. What little concrete they used they mixed by hand. They filled spaces between stones with a runny plaster slurry—painstakingly poured from cut-off plastic Coke bottles.
Today they use ready-mix from the Cemex plant out on the periferico—a sudden leap into modern times.
Construction methods quickly revert to the Nineteenth Century though. Laborers fill wheelbarrows from the cement truck and dump the concrete onto the street where its needed, a few square feet at a time.
Masons spread the mix and set cobblestones one at a time. Apparently the ancient art of cobblestone paving can't be mechanized.
Just before opening to traffic, Pila Seca looks pristine. Gone are the lumps, the loose stones, the potholes.
Built to newer construction standards, the street looks smoother than I've ever seen it.
Cobblestone streets don't last long. Unlike concrete or macadam roads, they need re-paving every few years. But they form an important part of the character of the Centro Historico, so we all put up with the vibration and jolts that prematurely degrade the suspensions of our vehicles, the stumbles and falls when our feet catch on uneven stones.
Despite the expense, the inconvenience, the hazards of cobblestone streets, we love their look, and we'd vigorously oppose any movement to modernize them.