Exploring the Plaza of San IgnacioThe plaza rests under the shade of great Laurels of India. Each morning before dawn, a man sweeps the whole area with a long wand of date palm while early worshippers walk to Mass. From Casa Lereé I can hear the coffee drinkers gathering to chat at Josephina's kiosk on the corner, where you, too, can sit and enjoy her wonderful huevos rancheros.
In late afternoon the food vendors open. The succulent beef tacos at Augustine's Taquería 'Lupita' often draw me to the square; then from 'El CA PU' an icy raspado de tamarindo with the surprising pit to chew on. Oscar sometimes sells homemade sherbet from his old bus, parked next to the ambulance he drives in emergencies. I enjoy dinner sitting on a bench facing the mission, watching sunset colors on the old stone walls. With a date pie from Chepita at her window across the street, I head home to Casa Lereé.
The culmination of the year in the plaza comes when we celebrate the Tradicionales Fiestas de San Ignacio during the last week of July. The statue of San Ignacio is carried along the streets each afternoon by the people of a different neighborhood singing martial songs of Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order. The plaza is ringed with booths, while carnival rides fill the arroyo beyond the mission. In the opening ceremony, the governor, mayor and all assembled enjoy folkloric dancing presented by local young people. Contestants for queen parade in beautiful hand-made costumes recalling the traditions of San Ignacio. As the night mellows, the band begins to play for dancing under the huge laurel trees. And the dancing continues all night, each night of the fiesta.
West Side of the PlazaThe beautiful Misión San Ignacio Kadakaamán fills with worshippers on Sundays at 11 a.m. Each day at dawn you will hear the bells for early Mass. To the rear of the church roof is a beautiful white dome. Ignacianos smile and say, 'that is our media-naranja, our half-orange.'
The left wing of the mission was the storeroom, La Bodega, but now it houses the exquisite Museum of the Rock Art of the Sierra de San Francisco. The culmination of the exhibit is a replica of a great concave respaldo covered with gigantic human figures and prancing deer, the unique art of the indigenous people.
Step down into the subterranean office next to the museum to arrange your Cave Tour Permits for one-day or more challenging multi-day visits by pack animal, guided by one of the local ranchers who act as guardians of this national treasure. There is a small office fee, a small fee for each camera, and you can ask the appropriate amount to pay your guide. If you like, while you explore the caves a ranch artisan will make the traditional leather shoes or teguas, to the pattern of your foot. Several tour operators in town help with outfitting and transportation.
South Side of the PlazaOn the southwest corner you can sit at the tables of Restaurant la Misión Kadakaamán and enjoy a very good meal with Efraín and his family while you admire the mission and watch the life of the plaza. Then walk along to Fischer Tours, where Jorge Fischer can help you explore the area. Next, Jorge’s grandfather José (Cheché) Fischer has a grocery store, J. Fischer Tienda, where you are led to the bathroom by a little white dog named "Sin cola," without tail.
Farther along under brick arches at Restaurant Chalita you may enjoy her famous Chiles Rellenos and Bisteck Ranchero. Behind her open window, Chepita Romero offers Date Pie, Date Cake and a beautiful smile. At Abarrotes Arnoldo look for groceries, milk and greens, hosted by Arnoldo himself who also likes to practice Italian with his visitors. The Video Club Premier has small electronics, film, clothing, shoes and toys.
Down the block to the East you will find Restaurant René on the right with its brick arches, a downtown gathering place with memorable seafood. The acequia that flows through the garden of Casa Lereé fills the octagonal pond behind Rene's and waters the farms below, as it did in the mission years. The historic adobe across the street, now Farmacía LaFe, was called 'Las Arces' after the Arce family, and was a center of community activity.
East Side of the PlazaOn the SE corner you will find Ecoturismo Kuyimá, where you can arrange tours. The Bazaar offers a wide variety of handy household items. Some wonderful food is produced in the kiosks here: Agustín’s kiosk “Lupe,” named after his wife, offers succulent tacos of braised beef in the evenings and Rosa’s Antojitos Mexicanos "Alejandra", named after her granddaughter, opens at 7 a.m. and offers traditional meals, beautifully cooked and presented.
At the corner, cross the street to La Purisima - 1939, now Mercado Mayoral Lopez for fresh milk, groceries, clothing and friendly visits with grandmother Magdalena 'Nena' and son Humberto Mayoral Lopez, who is now our state legislator. Between La Purísima and Casa Lereé is the new Tienda "Juanita" with beautiful clothing imported by Humberto’s wife, Juanita Liera.
North Side of the PlazaOn the NW corner Manuel 'Chacho' Meza at Nuevo Almacenes Meza offers groceries, tee shirts, leather work and cargo boxes or cacaistles, made by local ranchers. Dago Fischer has a good Internet service midblock and also offers reliable Tours. Farther along is Western Union, Novedades "Keneth", for clothing and linens, and a doctor’s office where visitors are welcome for treatment.
North Side, One Block OverThe long blue adobe of Casa Lereé is open all day to visitors. Enter around the corner by the garden gate. You can tour the house and garden and shop for books in Spanish and English, work of local artisans and the painter Clemente Arce. The complete Photo Archive of San Ignacio is available in binders.
From in front of Casa Lereé you see the Estrella del Norte, the old social hall ruined in 1985 when the great laurel tree fell. Peek in to see the tree still lying in the courtyard. At the end of the block is Miscelanea Castro, a fine hardware and stationery shop offering excellent copying and laminating, where you will receive a friendly greeting from Luis Castro, his wife Rebeca Lereé and their son Abel.