Lobsters, Huaraches, Sombreros, and Art

By Natalie Taylor

Richard Simeone was born and raised in the United States; he came from Boston, Massachusetts, where he also went to school. In 1963, he graduated from Columbia University with a Ph.D. in Philosophy and Logic. Instead of pursuing his field of studies, he went into real estate by joining his father’s construction company in Boston. But in 1979, Simeone was ready for more studies. He went to Italy to participate in a summer course in languages and history at the University of Perugia. 

Donnie Turner was born in Carlsbad, New Mexico—on the banks of the Rio Grande, in the shadow of the Guadalupe Mountains, she likes to say. She had always heard about San Miguel de Allende from her father and grandfather, who had visited and loved it. Her grandfather had even spoken of moving the family here. Those family tales of colonial architecture, colorful tiles, and metal works, burros, hombres wearing sombreros, ponchos, and huaraches fueled her desire to travel the world.

Turner’s involvement in the arts seemed inevitable. When she was nine, she told her father that she was in love with Leonardo Da Vinci and wanted to live near his home someday. She graduated with honors from the University of Texas in Fine Art and Education. She was married for a brief period, but when the marriage ended, she began to fulfill her dreams of travel. It was not only art that motivated her to travel and learn about different cultures; she was fascinated by ancient history. She pursued her post-graduate studies in Middle East Studies, Art, and Philosophy in Beirut. Then in 1976, she went to Malta to assist in founding an International School, which is there to this day. Three years later, she decided to go to Perugia to learn Italian and study sculpture at the Accademia di Belle Arte. 

One evening in Perugia, Turner was waiting for a friend and heard laughter and English spoken at the table next to her. It was a group of Americans, and she turned to them, asking one of the men—the one with the crescendo laugh—for the time. That man happened to be Simeone, and his laughter charms her to this day. After that meeting, they kept running into each other in the city and eventually became a couple. 

Together they moved to Florence and married there in 1985. While living in Tuscany, Simeone befriended the owner of a vineyard and proposed that they import lobsters from Maine. Lobsters were extremely expensive in Italy, but rather cheap in the United States. Thus began a unique business of lobster dinners and wine pairings. Simeone continues to do dinner and wine pairings to this day in San Miguel for various restaurants in town. 

When Simeone visited Turner’s family in New Mexico, he fell in love with the Southwest: the arid climate, the mountains, and the expansiveness of the landscape. He also began hearing about the lovely colonial city in a green valley amid mountains—San Miguel. Years later, when they were ready for a new phase in life, they began considering different places where they could move. The Mediterranean region and Morocco were both high on the list. They especially loved Italy and had considered it a potential place to retire. But they felt that living in Italy is quite difficult because of the endless—sometimes illogical—bureaucracy, the many strikes that paralyze a region or even the entire country, and the high cost of living. Instead, they focused on San Miguel because of the ideal climate and its proximity to the United States. When they came to visit here in 2008, they both loved it. They found San Miguel an easy community to live in, and they could not imagine better year-round weather anywhere. 

Since they moved here, Turner has been busy with her artwork and has had many exhibits throughout San Miguel—at the Bellas Artes, at Casa de Europa, and at Fabrica Aurora. Her works are large, many of them charcoal drawings, many of them focused on women and her particular interpretation of femininity and motherhood. 

I asked them both to tell me what it is about San Miguel that they love. They both said they are fascinated by its ancient history, the still present ancient civilizations, the language, the beautiful landscapes, and, of course, the wonderful weather. They are also enchanted by the local and foreign community that is open and welcoming.

Natalie Taylor received a B.A. in English Literature and Journalism from Loyola University, Chicago in 1995. She also has an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Vermont College in Montpelier, Vermont in 1999. She is a published writer, editor, and journalist and a Spanish teacher in the United States and an English teacher in Buenos Aires, Argentina, as well as a translator. Contact tangonata@gmail.com or www.natalietaylor.org.