Christmas, Mexico by Conrad Hilberry

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Christmas, Mexico
by Conrad Hilberry

December here, with sun and the faint smell
of wood smoke in the air—
a late September day. The jasmine drops
a few last blooms; limes swell

and ripen, one by one, outside the door.
Dusk comes a little earlier.
Here, we will have months or years to eat
the apple of our hearts down

to the dark seeds. How leisurely the fall.
How slow the holy cold comes on.

SOURCE: Poetry (December 1980).

PHOTO: Town Square, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel Cathedral (photo, right) is one of the most-photographed churches in Mexico, and the towers of its neo-Gothic façade can be seen from most parts of town. Built in 1683,  the cathedral’s current Gothic façade was constructed in 1880 by Zeferino Gutierrez, an indigenous bricklayer and self-taught architect. Gutierrez’s inspiration came from postcards and lithographs of Gothic churches in Europe, with the result more a work of imagination than a faithful reconstruction. (Photo by William Perry, used by permission.)

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NOTE: San Miguel de Allende is located in Central Mexico, about 170 miles from Mexico City.  At the beginning of the 20th century, the town was in danger of becoming a ghost town after an influenza pandemic. Gradually, its Baroque/Neoclassical colonial structures were “discovered” by foreign artists who moved in and founded art and cultural institutes. This gave the town a reputation, attracting artists and foreign art students,  especially former U.S. soldiers studying on the G.I. Bill after World War II. Since then, the town has attracted a significant number of foreign retirees, artists, writers, and tourists, shifting the economy from agriculture and industry to commerce catering to visitors and residents. San Miguel de Allende’s historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is filled with well-preserved buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries. The 2020 Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards named San Miguel de Allende as the “Best Small City in the World,” a designation the city also achieved in 2017 and 2018. 

PHOTO: Christmas wedding decorations at La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel Cathedral in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Photo by William Perry, used by permission.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Conrad Hilberry (1928-2017) earned a BA from Oberlin College and an MA and PhD from the University of Wisconsin, Madison; he was a professor of English at Kalamazoo College in Michigan from 1962 to 1998. Hilberry’s poetry collections include Encounter on Burrows Hill and Other Poems (1968), Rust (1974), Man in the Attic (1980), Knowing Rivers, You Know the Shape and Bias (1980), The Moon Seen as a Slice of Pineapple (1984), Jacob’s Dancing Tune (1986), Sorting the Smoke: New and Selected Poems (1990), winner of the Iowa Prize, Player Piano: Poems (2000), The Fingernail of Luck (2005), and Until the Full Moon Has Its Say (2014). He also co-authored This Awkward Art: Poems by a Father and Daughter (2009) with the poet Jane Hilberry, his daughter. His awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in poetry and a Michigan Arts Award.

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