Wood Working: River Falls could look to lovely San Miguel for bountiful diversityI’m all for the sign on Main Street that warns visitors that River Falls is striving to become an “inclusive” city.
By: Dave Wood, columnist, River Falls Journal
I’m all for the sign on Main Street that warns visitors that River Falls is striving to become an “inclusive” city.
I like the idea of inclusivity, for it makes me feel sophisticated, with it, not some xenophobic slob who figures that diversity sucks, man, like, you know.
So if there would be away to accelerate what we’ve already begun here in River City, I’d be all for it.
Having recently returned from a trip to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, I figure I’m somewhat of an expert on the subject of diversity.
Not too long ago San Miguel was a sleepy little town of a few thousand folks, sort of a Martell south of the border. Then, in the 1950s, Senator Joe McCarthy and his band of merry bigots began investigating folks with so-called Communist connections.
These folks were blackballed, especially in Hollywood. Many of the movie script writers were among this persecuted group and found themselves without a job.
San Miguel was cheap, the weather was fine and so many moved to the sleepy town, took pen names and continued to write movies.
Today, San Miguel has a population of 150,000, a town full of American, Canadian and central European expatriates. There are a few Mexicans, too, to do the work. It’s a veritable boom town.
And talk about diverse!
Here’s a town, about the size of Rochester, Minn., which has five American restaurants, two Arab restaurants, two Argentine restaurants, two Chinese restaurants, 10 continental restaurants, four French restaurants, eight Italian restaurants, three Spanish restaurants, and, of course, 21 Mexican restaurants.
It even boasts a “low-fat” restaurant. (I never bothered to find out if low-fat referred to customers or to menu.)
We ate twice at a Texas barbeque and mentioned to a local that the owner always seemed to be around greeting customers. She said, “Yes, he’s from London, England.”
There’s La Malinche, a restaurant that caters to lesbians. And there’s a New Orleans joint specializing in Cajun and a diner called Los Bisquets, aimed at diners who like baking powder biscuits.
There’s even a restaurant for Germanophiles called “Berlin,” which, according to our guide book, is “…run by expatriates from Germany, a chill and trendy bar which draws a silver fox set who stop by for its strong drinks and artsy crowd.”
We asked ourselves when those expatriates from Germany arrived. (Like around 1945? “Berlin Restaurant-Bar: Martin Bormann, maitre’d; Leni Riefenstahl, chanteuse.”)
We passed on that one.
We ate in the courtyard of a wonderful Sri Lankan restaurant. As we waited for our curries to arrive, four elderly ladies, who looked to be refugees from a resort in the Catskills, plunked down at the next table, unpacked an elaborate game board and began playing mahjong.
A Sri Lankan waiter came over and said, “What are you ladies playing?”
“It’s Mahjong,” said one lady. “Don’t you know anything?”
Our worst meal, it turned out, was Mexican. A rancher invited the writer’s workshop faculty to his ranch outside of town, where he fed us carnitas, a pork stew that he forgot to remove the pigskin from after it had simmered for hours.
But he was no Mexican. American expatriate ranchers should stick to charcoal broiling T-bones.
Enough about food already. San Miguel’s diversity goes way beyond the kitchen.
Suzee, who shared her beautiful villa with Ruth and me, was a busy lady.
Playing croquet one day, then bridge the next, then croquet, then bridge, so she was too busy to come with us and meet our friend from Minneapolis, Gary Gilson, longtime director of the Minnesota News Council and former MPR talk show host.
What was he doing in San Miguel?
He was doing his annual show at the San Miguel Public Library. It’s a standup comedy called, “You Don’t Have to Be Jewish, But It Couldn’t Hurt.”
We arrived at the library half an hour before the show to find that it was sold out. Fortunately a few people didn’t show up and so we were able to scalp two tickets and see Gary’s hilarious performance.
And so who didn’t show up?
Probably the four ladies who were still playing mahjong at the Sri Lankan restaurant.
Now that’s diversity.
Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.