Top 10 reasons to love San Miguel
Land of eternal spring
Temperatures range from highs of about 21°C/70°F with lows around 7°C/45°F in December, the coldest month—to highs of about 31°C/88°F with lows around 14°C/57°F in May (the hottest month).
June, July and August have the most rain (about 13cm/5″), while rain in the winter is scant (less than 1cm/half inch on average per month). In the summer, the high desert comes alive with the rains, and fields of wildflowers explode in color.
You want a light jacket/sweater/jumper in the winter months—and the summer is rarely warm enough to warrant air conditioning (most houses have multiple ceiling fans).
Established in 1541
San Miguel de Allende was founded by the Spanish in 1541 but later became the first municipality declared independent of Spanish rule (during the Mexican War of Independence, 1810–1821). It became a quiet, calm place frequented by rich Mexicans because of its proximity to the hot springs.
After WWII, the returning GIs in America discovered that their education grants went further in Mexico and began using them to attend the US-accredited art school, the Instituto Allende. The tourism industry in San Miguel was born.
Today, the bustling town of 140,000 (approximately 10,000 are gringos) is home to stunning art galleries, intriguing stores and 5-star restaurants. At the same time, vendors bring wares to the square, meandering down the cobblestone paths with their burros. It’s all part of the magic of San Miguel.
There are world-class restaurants in this town—from international to local cuisine, not to mention street food—and pollo asado (roast chicken) take-out spots. We’ve listed some of them in our Eat section.
It’s not a tourist destination
There’s not a lot of typical tourist stuff going on (I really don’t see the kids ever wanting to come for spring break). Not to say there’s not a lot of partying going on. There are a lot of Fiestas. But this is ‘Old México’, not Beach Blanket Bingo.
There are 140,000 in San Miguel (including the ’burbs, as it were), roughly 8% of whom are gringos. There are also many weekend homes belonging to Mexican nationals. The people are friendly and civilised.
There are more than 140 NGOs in San Miguel doing very important work from senior care to hospice to orphans to animal advocacy and action. It’s a very community-minded city—and that’s nice.
It’s not a community where the gringos have taken over and I like that too. Most of them work with the locals and do their utmost to assimilate into the culture and language.
Location, location, location!
From day trips to weekend getaways, there are many places to explore, using San Miguel as your base. Positioned just a 4-hour drive (or first class bus trip) from the third largest city in the world (Mexico City with a population of 20,450,000 ranks slightly behind Seoul, South Korea at 20,550,000 and well below Tokyo Japan at 32,450,000).
Near Guadalajara—which is about a 3-hour drive—the adjoining areas of Tlaquepaque and Tonala are popular shopping destinations. The former features world-class galleries such as that of Sergio Bustamante and the other is a street market, created twice a week (Thursdays and Sundays) by literally hundreds of vendors and artisan craftsmen from the surrounding mountains, who set up a small village of market tables to sell their wares.
Day trips from San Miguel range from the hot springs (choose from several options) to Dolores Hidalgo (a mecca of Talavera Pottery) and Guanajuato, home to the Mummy Museum and, like San Miguel, a UNESCO World Hertiage Site.
No, it’s not a plan for salvation. But the light in San Miguel is very good and if you’re an artist, you’ll know what I mean. Some places have good light. Some don’t.
The light draws artistic talent (of all ilks—not just visual artists and filmmakers, but also writers and musicians). There’s something almost divine about the light here, particularly in the morning.
The local culture
I love the life values in Mexico. Elders are treated with respect, children play in the streets, no one is judged by what they own. Everything in life is a celebration, even death, as seen in Dia de los Muertos.
Then, in mid-June, we have Dia de los Locos. Everyone is included, you see, from the dead to the crazy. Life is what it is. You can celebrate or mourn. Sing, don’t cry… Canta, no llores …San Miguel.
The gringo culture
Artists. Musicians. Writers. San Miguel is overflowing with the arts overall. It has a fantastic local theatre. There are 20,000 books in local biblioteca (about half Spanish, half English). Live music can be found almost any night of the week.
You can take a class in oil painting, guitar playing or How to Write Your Memoirs. There are many social charitable events to attend and always an eclectic array of seminars or workshops to pick from. Yoga? Reiki? Looking for good naturopathy? You’ve come to the right place.
Our footprint is small
One uses fewer natural resources here (it’s hard to drive your Hummer down these narrow, cobblestone streets) and I’d venture to say (in my humble opinion) that people here consume and possess less ‘stuff’. They choose quality over quantity (that’s why the buildings are standing after hundreds of years).