This week I was sure my Photo of the Week would be of Rio Santiago. My friend Cintain told me about it the week I arrived here. Rio Santiago is an old river that once ran through San Luis Potosí, but at some point its riverbed was turned into a road. It was a practical choice: the river course offered a smooth, clear path through mountainous terrain, and I suppose in the desert atmosphere it was dry most of the time anyway. So a road was born, and as the city expanded it became Boulevard Rio Santiago.
That sounded amazing to me. I pictured a winding, steep-sided road with houses built up along the banks. Cintain told me that it still floods when it rains, and I wondered if the houses were on stilts. I promised myself to take my camera, walk to the north side of town and find out.
Unfortunately, reality is sometimes not nearly as strange as fiction. “Boulevard” Rio Santiago turns out to look like this:
Yeah, it’s just a freeway. I was deeply disappointed. But I wondered if maybe it became more of a city street closer to the town center, so I decided to follow it a little ways—using the surface streets behind retainer walls in the neighborhoods to either side.
It never got much prettier, although I did find this old bridge:
I’m no expert, but the construction of this bridge does not look Colonial era to me. But it is old(ish), and I wonder if it was originally a bridge over the waters of the river. It’s wide enough for horses, bicycles or people, but probably not wagons.
I did get a little adventure out of it. The far side is covered in graffiti and garbage, and leads to a gravel alleyway through a little neighborhood I never would have visited otherwise. I took my leave of the Rio and wandered back southward.
I love this kind of exploration day, even if the thing you wanted to see turns out to fizzle. You always find some spot worth remembering. This little corner market, on an empty street, represents San Luis Potosí a lot better than colonial vistas or old riverbeds:
Later, a little research showed me that the giant gross boulevard does eventually end. In fact, there’s a total dead end where the highway stops and the river suddenly starts again. You can see it for yourself.
Anyway, since the river road turned out to be so ugly, I’ve got something better.
Have you ever noticed how many cafés have a print of Van Gogh’s “Café Terrace at Night”? It seems sort of sad to see it hanging in a café, as if that somehow makes the space more like the one in the picture. You can’t make an incredible, moody café by hanging pictures of moody cafés on the wall, but you can choose + create a space that has personality. That’s the whole reason Van Gogh painted the one on Place du Forum in the first place—because someone had taken the time to give it character, and it inspired him. He could’ve put those stars anywhere.
On a callejon (alley) off Avenida Carranza, someone has taken the time to make a café with character. Walking up to it is more magical than any painting. And that’s why it gets Photo of the Week:
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