Relox 16, Centro, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto., Mexico
Noah's Arc - Jewish Whimsey in Catholic MexicoSemana Santa, Day of the Dead, the Aztec "conchero" dancers of Our Lord of the Conquest, Los Locos dancing for St. Anthony--San Miguel de Allende is famous for these and more Catholic religious observances. And they are all worth seeing.
But wander down Calle Relox, just half a block from the central Jardín, and you get a glimpse into the mind of a Jewish "sanmiguelense" with a sense of humor. Arca de Noe--Noah's Arc--is a building featuring some of the most impish, charming and endearing gargoyles you've ever encountered. Monkeys and sheep, puppy dogs and big-eyed deer, a bull and what looks like a smiling hippo--all of them giving you a look that says they're just delighted to be there. Atop the roof line, lions and birds and dogs strut their stuff. A frieze of horses, camels, elephants and a bison march along below the cornice. A couple of cats look ready to pounce. And look, there's a scorpion. And over there an armadillo. And what on earth is that fantastical creature? A coat of arms proudly tops it all, while over the big wooden doors a large Star of David beckons you enter the Arca de Noe.
The building, made of the same local golden-pink "cantera" stone as the Parroquia church, has been home to the Casa Cohen hardware and ironware store for decades--though rumor has it that they may be going out of business. I hope rumor lies.
In any case, a stroll past Noah's Arc is well worth the time. And take your camera. The critters like to pose and their grins are waiting.