I always envy the houses I walk past that have rooftop terraces. I rarely see anyone on them, but I imagine them there, enjoying a cup of coffee and watching the pulse of the city from above.
As much as I like my own outside space, it’s fully enclosed by walls, limiting my view to the yellowing leaves of the plants that I can’t quite figure out how to grow. There’s little in that view to remind me that I’m in Mexico or that makes me feel a part of it.
I finally got my rooftop last week when we spent a few days in San Miguel de Allende. The house we stayed in was small. But because it was built into a hill, there were six different levels, some separated by only a few steps. The terrace was on the fifth level, with the second bedroom above and behind it, further up the hill.
I sat on the terrace several times a day and saw sunsets, a hot air balloon, a rainbow, and a cityscape that clearly told me I was in Mexico. I listened to dogs barking, church bells ringing, kids playing in walkways, and roosters that didn’t seem to limit their crowing to early morning hours.
As I stood on the edge of the terrace, I got glimpses into houses further down the hill. Rooftops ranged from tile to tin and courtyard doors were sometimes as simple as a single curtain. Well established potted plants with stalks as thick as small trees stood as evidence of long time residents. Identical weathered brick exteriors stood as evidence of a commonality, even as the courtyard floors varied from bare dirt to decorative stone.
It seemed a place untouched by time. Until I turned my head to the left and saw new construction of condos further up the hill. Or when I walked down the narrow cobblestone streets to the city center where English menus were common, shopkeepers and tour guides were quick to switch to English, and foreigners were frequent.
The house we stayed in was not fancy and was not unlike the houses viewed from the rooftop. But I couldn’t help thinking that someone at some point was undoubtedly displaced when this house was bought and turned into a rental for people like me who sit on the rooftop and look down, marveling at the charm below.
And hoping it doesn’t get lost.