San Miguel de Allende, Just What is All the Hoopla About?

I just don’t get it. For years I’ve been hearing about San Miguel de Allende. People rave about it being the place to go in Mexico, pointing to its huge American expat community, its strong ties to arts and culture, its lovely architecture, etc., etc. But for some reason, I just could not make up my mind if I wanted to spend any time in San Miguel, so I opted for a day tour from Guanajuato to check it out.

Gorgeous pink granite Church of St. Michael the Archangel, surprisingly, is not a Cathedral
Typical street scene in San Miguel de Allende, with earthen tones predominating
In a nod to colonial days, some police are still mounted and dressed in traditional uniforms
Band kiosk in the central plaza (jardin/garden) at San Miguel de Allende

It may have had something to do with the fact that I was on a detested tour, being subjected to stops at the guide’s preferred stores to shop and his favorite “excellent buffet” (isn’t that an oxymoron?) restaurant for lunch. Or it may just be that seeing Guanajuato first has ruined me for all other Mexican cities, but basically, I couldn’t wait to leave San Miguel de Allende.

Its central plaza is a lovely, lushly planted open space with the obligatory gazebo (band kiosk), shoeshine stands, and food vendors. But despite the placid scene, there was a heaviness about the city. People slouched on benches, immobile but for swatting at an occasional mosquito. The few people moving about the square seemed to dredge up their last ounce of energy to take the next sluggish step. Even the massive pink granite church anchoring the square has an inferiority complex: though it looks like a Cathedral it is only a parish church.

School portion of the parroquia – the parish church – seen from the central jardin (garden)
Colonial house in the center of San Miguel de Allende
Buildings are almost all painted gold, red, or brown

Walking up and down the hilly streets of the historic center I could appreciate the wealth of colonial architecture, but as almost every structure is painted in some shade of brown, gold, or terracotta I quickly grew weary of the sights to the point that I stopped taking pictures. Back at the Plaza, I noticed a real estate office and, being a former RE/MAX agent, I couldn’t help but poke my head in the door and introduce myself to the agent on duty while waiting for our tour guide to collect us for the return trip. Since real estate sales depend upon Americans who can pay cash, it’s been a tough couple of years for business in San Miguel; as the U.S. real estate market goes, so goes the San Miguel market. More than most Mexican cities it is feeling the depressed economy, and this may be the heavy energy that I felt.

San Miguel de Allende from the overlook above the town

I realize it is quite impossible to get to know a city in a couple of hours during a day tour, and there is undoubtedly much that I did not see or experience. San Miguel de Allende may indeed harbor a thriving cultural and arts community. The food (other than buffet lunches) may indeed be exquisite. But I always rely on my gut, and in this case it told me quite clearly that I don’t want to spend any more time in this Mexican city.

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San Miguel de Allende, Just What is All the Hoopla About?

117 thoughts on “San Miguel de Allende, Just What is All the Hoopla About?”

  1. I just read your article and do hope you return for another visit. We moved to San Miguel de Allende 2 years ago and have not looked back. We find this to be an exciting city, vibrant with incredible traditions, rich culture, an amazing 500+ year history, superb restaurants, and a very cool arts scene. You were here 9 years ago and a lot has changed in that period of time. I hope you return and take one of our historical walking tours – for which I’m a volunteer tour guide. I won’t tell you about “my favorite buffets” but I will regale you with 500 years of great history.

    • Thanks so much Skip. If I do decide to give SMA another try, I’ll definitely take you up on your offer.

  2. Having lived in SMA for years and left, I understand why one would need to”defend” the town like a wolf would her young, but the fact remains that there is little to attract a visitor for any length of time, SMA has become a party town on weekends since it was ” discovered” by Mexicans in 2010 as an historical icon and birthplace of the Mexican War of Independence 1810.
    However, the town existed prior to that mainly by support of the expat community ,which at one time was over 10,000 and they ran/ run a myriad of charities to benefit the local population. The other side is the huge problem of alcoholism among the expats and the americanization of the local culture. Rents have risen 50% in the last 5 years and the expats are leaving. It is not a place for young people with little chance of any meaningful opportunities, unless waitering is your goal. Educational opportunities are non existent and one corrupt city administration after another has squandered resources. Those younger expats seem to have a different reason for living in SMA ,it has been suggested on many occasions that the law enforcement authorities in the U.S. and other countries might seek their whereabouts. Besides a couple of fine hotels Matilda and Rosewood there is not the infrastructure for high end vacations. I was asked many times while living there by tourists ,what was the attraction, all I could say was the light. Due to uncontrolled burning of rubber tires and plastics in nearby brick factories the air has become polluted and the influx of cars makes the place crowded.

    My two bits

  3. Interesting to read so many negative comments about SMA, it was my first visit to SMA, but with in 2 days, I took more than a 1000 Pictures of the Doors alone, I am currently compiling a presentation of just those !
    For me, starting from Centro to all the alleys and Hi-end eateries to Bars to little bakeries , everything was Fascinating, I’m even thinking of retiring in SMA, the inclines, the cobblestone roads, the horses posts, But then Different Strokes for different folks !


  4. As someone who lives in San Miguel and loves it thoroughly, it was hard for me to read your piece. It was like watching someone criticize a beloved family member. But I do agree that different places resonate differently with different people.
    My larger question is why you chose to come on a \”detested\” one-day bus tour? It is simple enough to take a bus from Guanajuato and be in SMA about an hour later, to wander about on your own get a truer feel for the place, and most definitely skip the guides favorite souvenir shops and buffet! You just have never struck me as the kind of traveler who would choose that option, so I\’m curious why you did. It was pretty much guaranteed to set you up for disliking the place.
    There is one (and really only one) observation you made that I agree with whole-heartedly… about the color of the buildings in the Centro. I HATE what the city has done to them. Believe it or not, they used to look much more like the ones in your beloved Guanajuato. In fact, before about 2008, nearly every travel article written about San Miguel noted the \”jewel-box colors\” of the houses here. There were cobalt blue houses and mint green ones, mustard, candy pink, raspberry and deep rose, rich teal with dusty rose trim. Apparently someone in power (perhaps as part of the UNESCO application) had the incredibly stupid idea that they should all be painted in earth tones. SMA lost a little bit of her sparkle and charm when that happened.
    You mentioned in one of the comments that someone sent you a listing of all the cultural and artistic events going on here and perhaps you needed to come back and give it another chance. I think such a visit would pay dividends, for this city is very rich indeed in its cultural life. Then again, perhaps not. Like any other place, SMA is not for everyone. No place is. I was not much blown away by Stockholm when I spent almost 10 days there this year. But if you do come back, I\’d love to help show you a better, lighter, sparkling and FAR more vibrant side to San Miguel.

    • Thank you Donna, for your very considerate reply. I appreciate the fact that you recognize that different people can have different opinions, without descending into name calling and vitriol. There’s just too much of that these days. As for the day tour, I chose to do it in order to see if I might want to come for a longer visit. Unfortunately, as you say, it just didn’t resonate with me. If I ever do come back, I will definitely look you up and you can show me the SMA you love so much – that would be great fun.

      • I agree with Barbara W: sometimes you visit a place and wonder why some many rave about it, when you leave without feeling it.
        I admit before hand that my comment is prejudiced but, just the fact that San Miguel has become over the years the settlement of a large community of Anglo retirees and expats, tells me that the city is somewhat “loosing” (inevitably) its Mexican identity and becoming a place of cultural fusion.
        With that said, I’d like to see San Miguel with my own eyes. I’m making plans to visit Guanajuato and SMA the end of May 2017 and, although, initially I thought about spending a couple of days in each town, after reading the comments posted, I’m inclined to stay in Guanajuato the entire time and take a day trip (via taxi) to SMA. I think that arriving at mid morning and leaving after dinner will allow me to get a flavor of the place that I’ve seen only in pictures. Any suggestions?

        • Hi Carl: LOL, you can read the abuse I’ve suffered for stating my opinion after seeing SMA on a day trip, so I think I’ll leave that decision to you. But I do highly recommend a longer stay in Guanajuato. It’s spectacular.

      • You must look me up too if you return. There is more to SM than the Centro Historico. Im involved in an entirely different scene than you described. There are many faces to this town.

      • Hello Barbara,

        I totally agree with Donna.
        ”detested”? Not fair to SMA and for just couple of hours you made up your mind and wrote an article of how much you did not like it?
        Did they pay you to write this? feels like you were promoting Guanajuato.

  5. Two or three hours really isnt enough time to have any serious insights into SMA. You missed most of it. Having traveled all over Mexico for years, my wife and I just keep coming back to SMA. It really is a special place. There’s places we like a lot, including Guanajuato, but they just don’t have that special magic of San Miguel. San Miguel is still awesome, even with the expats, even with the tourists, even with the changes…like the Starbucks etc. I know it’s so cool to say the Guanajuato is so much better because it’s more Mexican but it’s just not… It’s not better. San Miguel has the culture and a great mix of people. Guanajuato is very interesting but there’s no electricity in the air. A 5 to 10 minute walk from el centro in SMA gets you to a ton of non gringo barrios if you’re looking to submerge yourself completely in Mexican culture. But, I guess if you missed it/don’t get it, don’t want to get it, it’s your loss.

  6. I always tell people – “it’s not for everyone”
    San Miguel de Allende works for a great deal of us, but not for everyone.
    Different people look for different things in a place.

    • Yes! We all Agree with Barbara! Finally some one who is not into real estate has made an Excellent Honest & True Report about San Miguel. Yes! We have been to San Miguel and quickly discovered what depressing city San Miguel is for any one who is not dim witted, senile or brain dead. The cost of all real estate is super over priced and the cost of all rentals are super over priced in San Miguel. Only a senile brain dead American or Canadian would buy any real estate any where in San Miguel today. Actually, San Miguel is the one of the most depressing cities we ever visited in Mexico and we have been all over Mexico.
      Basically the city is a very ugly and a very depressing place to walk or drive through.
      The Central Park in San Miguel had to of been designed and built by some one with an
      IQ below 65 !
      There are basically no fun enjoyable daily, evening or weekly fun enjoyable activities in San Miguel. San Miguel is one very boring depressing city to visit, let alone live there full time. You would need to be at least 97% brain dead to visit or enjoy San Miguel for more than one day. We stayed one full week to confirm 100% that San Miguel is one very Ugly, very depressing & boring city with NO fun enjoyable daily or weekly activities. We believe that the Negatives in San Miguel are about 100 Negatives for every positive for anyone who has done their Home work. San Miguel really offers nothing to anyone who is not senile. We suggest that any and all future travelers to San Miguel be prepared to depart the city the same day you arrive and visit a much more tourist friendly city some where else in Mexico. Do not waste your dollars or your time in San Miguel, cause you will regret it, unless you are into real estate sales and plan on selling super over priced homes in San Miguel that are 300% above their true value, to senile brain dead Americans, Canadians & Europeans .
      Also you should avoid the entire lake Chapala area, because it is a super over priced, very boring place to visit or live. If you like to be near a lake full of raw sewage and where there is little or NO Ecology, where no one can swim in the water, then lake Chapala might be the super over priced & very boring place just for you! Typical foreigners live the Chapala area about 3 years on average before they sell their homes at a loss for what ever they can get from any new senile American or Canadian foreign residents.

      • You need to stay in your borin place , where are you coming from. Remember your highly pass judgment about San Miguel Allende, for lest than one day is ridululos.

      • I have to assume you are writing this as satire, Harry, or an attempt to push everyone away so you can enjoy this pretty town by yourself. Either that or you really are the brain dead one.
        Having lived in San Miguel for years, I can attest that my ex-pat friends here are not brain dead. In fact, they are the most vibrant, intelligent, creative, generous and socially engaged group I have ever known, and I have lived in many places in the world. Plus I have many, many Mexican friends here too. And they are warm, affectionate, involved, and kind. They are entrepreneurs and artists and artisans.
        As for the idea that “all rentals are super over-priced,” I have never really felt my 2BR/2BA, open LR/DR with decent kitchen, huge sunny terrace and small art studio was “overpriced at $300US.
        But if this was NOT meant as satire (though I think and hope it was), then I’m glad you didn’t like it. You’re not the kind of person that could ever “get” the magic of San Miguel and would add nothing to the rich and vibrant community here.

      • Dear Mr. Adams,
        I am so happy to read your horrible review of San Miguel, perhaps it will deter other brain dead Americans and Canadians to retire there! We already have too many Gringos in San Miguel and if yours and Barbara’s posts keep others away, I am all for it! I love the house I paid too much for in San Miguel and I love the boring houses and boring restaurants and boring culture you rave on about! I highly recommend you go to Puerta Vallarta or Cabo, they may be more to your liking:)
        Yours truly,
        Another senile, brain dead American expat

      • What a stupid reply! LMAO that was so repetitive and childish, that I couldn’t finish reading it. “Brain dead” was writen like 5 times. Seems like the only brain dead depressed idiot is you.

      • So, I’m assuming you live in San Miguel, love it, and hope the rest of us stay away. I get it, I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s awful, everybody. Don’t even bother. Soooo boring. Even worse is Santa Cruz, where I’m afraid I might have to move.

    • Well, first of all, you were there in the hottest month. Secondly, it sure does sound like you had a pre-conceived notion that you wouldn’t like it. And thirdly, a “day tour”? I suspect I would have hated it, as well. I think it is unfair to be so negative about a wonderful city when you were there in such limited circumstances, for a very short time (hours), and were limited by the tour you purchased. At least you owned up to those. Given a chance, San Miguel is a fantastic, multi-faceted city. The residents, both Mexican and Ex-pats, are friendly and welcoming. There are world-class restaurants .. and this includes small family -run restaurants outside of Centro. Guanajuato is fantastic, as well. But if you’d have given San Miguel a day or so, I think you’d have seen why so many of us love it.

  7. Highly unprofessional to pass judgements about a whole village based on a two hour visit as a member of a \\\”detested tour\\\”. I used to like you blog. Now I see your statements with new eyes. What is your purpose when writing?
    As a Mexican I believe you oversimplify,

    • Hello Antonieta: My purpose it write about my experiences in places, good, bad or indifferent. I love Mexico, have been all over the country. In fact, I am here right now in Playa del Carmen. And although I was only in SMA for a day trip (which I clearly disclosed in my article), it just didn’t resonate with me.

  8. I am so impressed that you managed to squeeze so much into your few hours here.

    Surely you must have enjoyed the barrios outside the main plaza, right? The ones where gringos and Mexicans live side by side and in complete harmony? How about the bilingual church services? You attended those for sure, didn´t you? You didn´t enjoy making mattresses for the children of SMA with the other heartless gringos? Oh, and those boring fiestas..the blessing of the horses? taxis? día de los muertes? independence day? etc, etc, etc? This non energetic town has more fiestas than any other town in Mexico (and probably the world). Those fiestas aren´t made for the gringos. They have been going on for centuries and we ex-pats are welcome to take part in them.Certainly you took the time to socialize with the natives and found them to be the warmest people you have ever met,right? You know the ones I am speaking of…. the ones who greet you with ¨buenos días¨ and a huge smile as you walk your dog and welcome you into your home despite the fact that you don´t look like them? Oh, and you must have been here on a Tuesday and attended the 3 acre market just up the hill where Mexicans and gringos buy the local wares and eat carnitas at the same table. How fortunate of you.

    I could go on and on but I am sure you know it all already. (I havent even mentioned the music and art culture.)

    Yes, SMA probably has some warts and I am sure I will find them some day….if I decide to look for them like you did. I find it interesting that, although I am sure you fancy yourself a open minded color blind person, that upon getting off your garish, smog spewing tour bus you immediately started counting the amount of white faces. How un-racist of you.

    My guess is that you came to town after reading the glowing reviews of the people who live here and,for some reason,were determined not to like it. You continually write that it is simply your opinion based on a few hours here but then argue with the people who actually live here and have the audacity to have a different view than you. I find it amusing that your supporters on this blog are mostly the ones who have spent the same amount of time here as you.

    Part of me wants to scream at your arrogance. These “have nots” have a lot more as a result of the outsiders who have fallen in love with them. How many jobs would be lost if all of us decided to up and leave? Would they be better or worse off? Sorry, but I just haven´t seen any resentment from them. How many people have you discouraged from visiting here and therefore helping the ecomony (and the have-nots? ) The other part of me wants to thank you for helping keep away your ilk.

    Your blog leaves me with the feeling that I just read a book review from someone who hasn´t read the book. You use the internet as a megaphone for your ignorance. You know that old Russian saying right? The one that goes “ he who knows everything knows nothing”?

    I could go on but I think you get the point. Now please excuse me while I go to the plaza, lazily sit in front of our non cathedral (its called a paroquia and doesn´t pretend to be a cathedral (no bishop)), with my old mexican buddy and watch the shorts wearing tourists invade our peaceful community for a few hours and then thankfully leave.

    Oh, and your opinion of Prague is ridiculous, too. How many hours did you spend there? What didn´t you like there, pray tell? The architecture that survived the Nazis? The incredible history? The beautiful and warm people? (you may want to look at my last name to see why I am offended by that little demonstration of your blissful ignorance).

    I feel better now.

    • I totally agree with you. No professional journalist would ever write a travel review based on a couple of hours spent in a city. San Miguel Allende is a magical place! This was a poorly researched and written article.

      • It was not researched at all, Debbie. It simply stated how the city felt to me. And I was quite forthcoming about the fact that I was there for only a few hours.

          • Hi Lisa: Glad somebody else had the same experience I did, because I’ve taken a fair share of abuse for what I wrote. But I stand by my assessment, even though I was there only on a day trip, and I appreciate you adding your comment.

            • I’m a ten year resident of SMA and love it. Since vacationing here in the eighties and then retiring here, we have seen the changes and the growth. To me, our reputation as a tourist destination is overrated, but as a place to live it’s wonderful. I live in the country, preferring that life over one in bustling Centro, but my best friend would not trade her active inner-city life. I am president of one of those charities you brush off so easily. I, like many other expats, commit hours and days to helping to improve the lives of the people of our adopted city. Our particular charity provides educational scholarships to over 160 young women each year.

              I would prefer seeing less tourism in our fair city. My gardener says the locals now call San Miguel “the biggest bar in Mexico” and adds “but everybody has a job”. There is good and bad in every place. We are not utopia or a fairy tale city (as another travel writer with a very different opinion wrote recently). Like my friend, Donna Meyer, I am astounded that a travel blogger would write such a negative piece based on such little experience and knowledge. My dear lady, you are now claiming to be a victim when in actuality, the abuser is you.

        • Then don’t write about a place after a few hours. That is silly. There is no way you could have a true experience of the place for such a short time. I am in SMA as I write and I am in a airbnb 20 minutes (walk) outside town. We have now walked it 5 times and each time I am amazed by the beauty. You must get out of the tourist trap. Be careful what you write about.

    • Wow. I guess you’re entitled to your opinion. Why is the writer not entitled to hers? So defensive you are. I have spent time in San Miguel and tend to agree with her. Overrated and tiresome after a while. That’s it, that’s all. To each his own.

    • @ Tom Myslik

      I sympathize, but be grateful that opinionated morons write such things since, as you note, it keeps others of their ilk away.

    • Well said Tom…. she is really full of it… thank God she choose to dislike our little treasured town… imagine having people like that living full time arrogant intellectual being full of hot air….

    • I do too after reading what you wrote, and hoorah for Prague as well. There are people who go around looking at world that is half empty, rather than half full.

  9. Hello Barbara,

    Always is usuful to have a contrast with different opinons about the same topic. Although I’m from Mexico City, I’v just move to SMA a few months ago, and I had higher expectations about SMA. I’m still love this place, but you know? I think that something is missing. Maybe a new job and new friends, hahaha. But I wonder… What the expats are looking in SMA and didn’t find? Maybe could be easier to undersatand them and improve it.
    Good blog! Thanks!

  10. I am not a spammer. I put a lot of effort in my comment. Sorry I wasted the time. What in the world made you think I was a spammer. I did not promote anything.

    • Hi Craig: Based on your second comment, I searched my “spam” comment folder. I found your original comment and approved it. I do not personally mark anything spam; the software that runs the blog does. Occasionally, a particular IP address on a shared server will have been flagged as having spam problems – this is usually from some website other than yours, but because you are on the same shared server as the offending spammer, you get put on a blacklist as well. I don’t know why your second comment was approved and your first one was not, but now that I have market your comment as “not spam” you should be able to comment without a problem. Thanks for letting me know.

  11. I stayed in SMA for five days during May 2015. I really liked the town. In five days I could feel that one would need about three months in SMA to really start to get to know people and form friendships with both the locals and expats. I concluded one needs when first moving to SMA one needs to volunteer to serve for just about everything to get to know people and start to fit in. I was told the “Civil List” on the net and getting the newspaper “Atencion” where musts to find property to rent. In the “Atencion” paper I bought there was a one bedroom rental far outside of town for $200 dollars, also listed was a FURNISHED 2BDRM for $550 in town and another 2 bdrm was listed in town for $1000. I am curious if Ajijic is less expensive than SMA. It should be noted SMA is a small town up on a hill how ever another town people said nice things about Guanajuato I think, is about an hour away. To really make a decision on SMA I think would take at least a year to determine to stay or go. I would have liked it more if it had an ocean personally so I am more attracted to check out Manzatlan and PV.

  12. I have to add my two cents. We lived in San Miguel for two years and found it not to our liking – but that said, we met many nice people there, not all but overwhelmingly gringo. But it’s gringo city. There is very little of what could be called a Mexican middle class in San Miguel and over half the local people live below the Mexican poverty line. They are maids and gardeners. The wealthy Mexicans have weekend homes there and it’s a popular place to visit. I can see why, if you live in Quereterro or DF and want to get away for the weekend. But the town is the haves and have-nots and it’s all about the care and feeding (and occasional exploitation) of gringos. Which isn’t the Mexico we had hoped to find.

  13. I guess not all people share the same taste in what comes to art and culture. However what bothered me the most, was your comment were you said that Americans are the ones with the sales cash. My friend, I can assure you that´s not even close to be a fact. The ignorance Americans give to Mexicans and Latins in general is just so disappointing. I as an American, feel ashamed of being one when people starts thinking of us being superior to a country. Well, I´ve seen movies and news, and all they´ve portrayed is the poor side of Mexico. Oh and if you didnt know, the richest man in the world is Mexican so just putting that out there. I´m sorry you didnt like it, maybe you´re not used to be out of your luxurious bubble, so here´s an advice, visit Monterrey or Mexico city, which are more industrialized cities.

    • Hi Paola: I have lived and traveled in Latin countries extensively and speak fairly fluent Spanish, so I know that there are very well-to-do people in all Latin countries. I believe what I said was that the real estate market in SMA relies a great deal on American expats, which is what I was told by the local RE/MAX office. I’m sorry you read it as a slam against Mexicans, or that I believe Americans are superior to Mexicans. I live my life quite differently than that, believing all people are equal, regardless of their sex, religion, ethnicity, etc. I judge others by who they are, not by how much money they have or the color of their skin. And I certainly don’t have a luxurious existence. I have no home and travel the world with a 25″ suitcase and a backpack, by staying mostly in inexpensive hostels.

  14. Barbara’s comments illustrate what often happens: you get too hyped and then find your own experience does not connect to what you’ve been led to believe. I’ve lived in San Miguel for more than six years, and the place has its warts. I decided to take a closer look and wrote a book about it. We chose San Miguel de Allende six years ago for its combination of climate, culture and the basic warmth of its people. When I became interested in the process of becoming an expat, I wrote a book based on conversations with 32 Americans and Canadians who had also made the move. It’s mainly a way of getting inside their heads. It’s called San Miguel de Allende: A Place in the Heart. Here’s a link to an excerpt on my website:?

    • Hi John: Interesting you should leave this comment now. Several friends of mine are on the way to SMA to see if it might be a place to retire. One of them just sent me a schedule of all the arts and performance stuff going on there and I was pretty impressed. I may have to come back and spend more time to see if I might want to revise my opinion.

  15. i just returned from a week in san miguel, and i did not expect to like it— i was thinking disneyland, expat hell, really— but guess what? it is charming, the people are genuinely friendly, the food can be good, just choose carefully! guanajuato was more pleasing but they are so close, visit them both. i think when people complain about the modernization and globalization of SMA they forget that every other place they like has many of the same issues— we cant be “the first tourists they ever saw”– ANYWHERE– expats “invading the town?”— sounds like a NIMBY if i ever heard one, quick, close the gates, im the last one in.
    take it for what it is— a beautiful town full of history with about 10% of the population expats; thank them for the nice hotels, good restaurants, and martha’s combat cocktail shoes. (just google it)

    • I’m glad to hear you liked SMA, Margaret. It’s a funny thing, but different places resonate with different people. I just went to Prague, a city that most people love, but I didn’t much like it. It was the same for me with SMA. But it’s a good think that we don;t all think the same, or we’d all want to live/visit the same places.

      • San Miguel is rich in culture and the arts. But one has to create a life here with volunteer work, faithful friends, and an appreciation for the Mexican culture. There is so much beneath the superficial tourist layers that make this an amazing place to live if you take the time to create a meaningful life here….learn Spanish and do something worthwhile for the community. You can not blow into town and expect to see what keeps this community alive and well.
        If you are traveling to Playa Del Carmen or Cancun, you will see what the results of greed and a lack of culture can create. You are similar to the tourists who swill down all-inclusive drinks and never leave the resort.They state that they have been to Mexico when they have not seen the beauty and culture that this incredible country offers. You plan to write about Mexico…Do you even speak Spanish?

        • Yes Jayne, I speak fluent Spanish and have been traveling around Mexico on my own for more than 40 years, using local combis, busses, and even trains. I’ve rarely stayed in a resort, nor do I drink alcohol, so I’ve never “swilled down all-inclusive drinks and never left the resort,” as you accuse. I’ve explored the country from north to south, east to west, and have been to perhaps 20 Pueblo Magicos. You?

  16. I will be visiting San Miguel de Allende for a couple of weeks. Barbara Weibel’s photos seem to belie the major part of her comments. Have same apprehension about a lot of expats, tho glad to hear they are still a minority. Of course, I would be adding to that deterrent in enjoying Mexican culture, if I were to move there. I tend to fall in love at first sight, and everything else BW said about city makes me long to see it. I also did not get bowled over by Paris, and it actually appeared cold and uninteresting the first time I visited–for a 24-hr period. Liked it much better on second visit of two wks, though it’s not one of my favorite places, thanks to the renovations done by Baron H….except for Musee de Cluny, I missed medieval and older architecture. Such as found in Yucatan and Michoacan. I gather the Mexicans of SMA are just as amiable, funny, quirky and hospitable as in other parts of the country. And there are great musicians, artists, poets, dancers, cooks and architects that attract so many arty types from outside.

    • Itala TC Rutter: I do hope you love San Miguel de Allene – it was just not to my liking. But that’s what makes the world go round.

  17. We own a home in SMA, 1965 was the first time I came to the pueblo,
    Everything has changed so much since then now San Miguel fells more like Disneyland than a Mexican city as businesses cater to the all expats the have invaded the town. The hot sauce is not hot anymore and that’s a real bummer.

    • Hi Jaime: That’s precisely what I felt, that and a very sluggish energy in the town, butI’ve taken a whole lot of criticism for saying so. Thanks for sharing your view.

      • Of course it felt sluggish.
        May is the hottest month and everyone I know is hiding inside right now. (I’m an expat who has lived here full-time for 6 years.) – and I try to be gone every year for the whole month of May myself.

        The town feels entirely different at this time of year than at any other. There are far less events (aside from religious church events) than in any other month. The town is exhausted from the tourists right now, and everyone is inside recovering from months of tour busses and weekend crowds. SMA will change to a busy, vibrant town again in June when the rainy season starts. (It rains at a very predictable 4pm nearly every day through September. But please feel free to spread your opinion because we get way too many tourists anyway:-)

  18. I agree, if you don’t know San Miguel, and only come here on a day trip, you don’t get the meaning of “San Miguel.” As a fellow blogger and 10 year resident, I would suggest visiting websites like San Miguel Events (not mine, just a good site) before arriving.

    • Thanks for the website, Jennifer. I think what affected me most was the color of the buildings, which seemed pretty somber after Guanajuato.

      • Do some research before you write. The buildings are colonial colors which are consistent with a World Heritage Site. In Centro, colors are predefined and there can be no variations. Many other Pueblo Magico towns are restricted regarding colors in the central areas.

        • Regardless of whether or not the colors are controlled, it doesn’t change my opinion that the Centro is not nearly as visually interesting as any other Pueblo Magico I’ve visited.

  19. anyone who comes here on a 6 hour tour gets what they pay for,meaning,you put NO effort in,you got nothing time you should tell people the truth.

    • That was the truth, Steven. My truth. Not everyone likes the same things, and that’s OK. That’s what makes the world go ’round, as they say.

  20. Like most places in Mexico, SMdA has many layers. The place has aspects that most visitors will never see. Sure there are some explats living here, but they are a small minority ( a minority that only adds another layer on the town). Some people like their presence, some don’t. (They do run the prices up a bit, especially in the real estate.) But for Barbara to make a snap judgement on the basis of half a day is both stupid and arrogant. It’s like judging San Francisco because she doesn’t like cable cars or the fact there are tourists. The tourists are here for the obvious reason, the place has a lot of culture and charm. Something Barbara evidently missed in her extensive six hours of looking around. Glad I don’t know this person.

  21. Hi, I see this post was written about two years ago but I still want to comment. I’m Mexican and I have lived in the US and in several cities of Guanajuato throughout my life. I think it’s very interesting how you make these comments about San Miguel de Allende, saying that it wasn’t appealing to you but on the other hand you ARE saying some things implying that it’s not just your opinion, that it’s just not a good place.
    Well I respect that, but you have to be careful because many people read your blog and they might get the wrong idea from this place. From reading your entry I see that you like to see movement, and maybe more excentric places. People need to know that San Miguel is beautiful and fancy, it’s just like a cute little place but you won’t find weird excentric stuff. But it is a town full of tradition and folklore, but that’s just something that you cannot write about since you haven’t experienced it.

    Guanajuato City is where I live now, and I like it because there is a different kind of atmosphere, it’s a student town and the capital of the state. So of course there are people walking all over town all the time, young people mostly, it’s cheaper, it’s interesting because of the small alleys and colorful houses.. plus the cultural activities going on.. which can be a lot less than in San Miguel at times. Also Guanajuato is a far much dirtier city. It’s so much easier to be walking down the street one day and find a huge rat running in front of you, or vomit from the student parties or just gross stuff like that. But it doesn’t make it any worse.
    You just have to understand that every place is appealing to some people and you can’t say you don’t like something that you really haven’t tried, maybe it’s better to say that you are just not interested in trying it because you are into other kind of places.

    • Dear Student (would have been nice if you’d been good enough to at least write under a real name): I did not say San Miguel was not a good place. I said it wasn’t for me. Different places resonate with different people, as I also said in my post. I’m glad for you that you love SMA.

  22. Oh San Miguel … I lived there for about 7 months. Here are the things that a great about it: I had excellent pre-natal care (I was newly pregnant when I arrived) I actually wanted to take my Dra. home to Canada with me! I adopted two cats from their shelter – which is run by Americans & Mexicans – it’s fabulous & how ALL shelters should be run. The Botanical Garden is really really neat! Lots of huge cacti and such – makes for some great photos. The Mexican people are lovely (although they were lovely in Guanajuato too & Queretaro) Finally, the donkeys that travel in the back of pick-up trucks! he he he – too funny! I loved those burros though – so sweet.

    My hubby & I loved Guanajuato, but it was too far from his work. Queretaro was too big for me to simply be able to walk around and fetch what I needed, but it too is beautiful. (It was recently voted a top travel location, being one of the safest cities to visit.) So, IF you are ever going to go back to Mexico, and choose to swing into Guanajuato State again, try out Queretaro instead of San Miguel – unless you’re looking to adopt a kitty or a puppy! ;D

    Oh – That restaurant Mama Mia (behind your police officer) – has the coolest way to order pasta by the way, you order 4 sauces, they bring a huge pot of plain noodles – you mix your own at the table! They also make fabulous pizza – too bad you went to such a lousy restaurant. The nice one (can’t remember the name) that over looks the ‘Jardin’ is also wonderful. Amazing Tortilla Soup.

    Okay – enough!

    • Hi Ella: Appreciate your thoughts on San Miguel. I was there only for a day trip, so surely not enough tme to know much, but I had just come from Guanajuato and was in love with that place, so SMA paled in comparison. I also liked Queretaro a lot.

  23. You gave up your unsatisfying career to travel on a six month tour around the world and you have become an expert! I have been to SMA , returning and have lots of friends, both American & Mexican. It is charming, a fun place to live and to visit. Just look at the pictures. You have made such derogatory statements about a Hertiage site it is unbelieveable. An expert in 6 months on the road and two hours in the town. Why would anyone take you serious???

    • Hi Jackie: You don’t have to take me seriously. That’s your right. It is also my right to have an opinion. And BTW, I;ve been traveling for more than 50 years, not 6 months. The point is, everyone likes different things. SMA just was not for me.

  24. The
    Dialogue Project for World Peace is an iconostasis, or wall of icons, measuring
    3.35 meters by 10.5 meters (11 feet by 32 feet) and features portraits of
    master teachers including Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Moses and Lao-Tzu. It honors
    all people in history who have sought to know truth, beauty, peace and love.
    Mary Jane Miller, who spent two years creating this work, paints with egg yolk
    and million year old dirt. The repouse (hammered pewter) by Valentin Gomez, embellishes
    the work even more. These two lost art techniques date back to 500 AD.

    as a traveling exhibit, The Dialogue Project has recently been installed just
    outside Cieneguita, Kilometer 4, you pass this installation on your way to the
    pyramids and the route to the Indian chapels. Both these tours are already
    established in San Miguel and exalt humankind’s spiritual history. This
    extraordinary work of art encourages visitors to step thru the boundary
    separating humanity from the divine, to listen again, and for the first time,
    to eternal truths which hold the keys to peace on earth. San Miguel is renowned
    for its art and spirituality, the dialogue is another great addition.

    Please take a moment to consider The Dialogue
    Iconostasis for World Peace as a destination. The experience requires just a
    moment of your time.

    You can see the work by clicking on:
    I am hoping you will consider adding us to your tour itinerary and a link to
    your site so your visitors can explore with you.

    You may
    contact Mary Jane Miller by email, or by calling (52) 415-152-5762

  25. You’re completely right, Barbara. I’ve been here for a year and a half. What’s wrong with this town is too many gringoes. It’s become Disneyland. You’re right about the oppression that you witnessed…you’d be depressed too if your town was overrun by entitled Snowbirds from the States.


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