|I was looking forward to visit San Miguel de Allende, after all it's been named best touristic destination in the world for 2013. I knew it was a historical Spanish city and after my visits to Zacatecas and Guanajuato, I was anticipating much of that city. However, San Miguel didn't live up to my expectations. It's a nice place, but not as pretty as Zacatecas nor Guanajuato and certainly not as charming as Guanajuato. Part of the reasons why is the overwhelming presence of Americans in the town.|
The town was originally created by the
Spaniards as a fortified city to protect their commerce and silver
transit roads in the area, as I explained in my Fortified
city of San Miguel and Sanctuary article. It was named simply “San Miguel”, the town changed name
to add the “de Allende” part after the Mexican independence to
honour Ignacio Allende a hero of the independence who was born in San
Miguel. Locals say simply “San Miguel” and outsiders wanting to
identify the city simply use the initials “SMA”.
San Miguel de Allende became popular
after WWII when soldiers and artists (mostly painters then)
discovered the city and its great weather. Artists were attracted by
the architecture and the colours. Since, the American population in
SMA constantly grew up. Now, SMA simply couldn't survive without
these Americans living here on a permanent basis. Due to that
massive American population, the city became a renowned centre for
Spanish language schools for foreigners. Although it's not the ideal
place to learn Spanish as you probably read at the end of my
These days, you can barely walk a
street block in Centro without hearing some English or see some
bilingual (or even unilingual English) signs! The streets of the
Centro are wide... so there are many cars passing by all over, except
for a very few limited spots. But worst than cars, you have a large
amount of big-cylinders motorcycles (like speed Japanese bikes and
big Harleys) and sports quads roaming the streets. They're more
dangerous than cars and make more noise.
Everywhere, you see signs of the
impacts of the large American population living here... the signs,
the much bigger houses (way to expensive for Mexicans to buy), tons
of American plates on big SUVs, lots of expensive dinner restaurants
and others selling international cuisine you don't find in any other
Internationally, San Miguel has been
designated both as the best touristic city and best romantic city of
the world... by American magazines, in polls where Americans voted.
In my opinion, Guanajuato is far superior to San Miguel in both
categories. The capital has much more touristic services, much more
colours and is know within Mexico as being much more romantic than
SMA... just think about the Callejón del Beso.
So, culture-wise San Miguel isn't a
typical Mexican city with all the gringos in town, all year-long.
It's not either a wonderful city where your jaw will fall at every
corner. Most of the Centro is coloured in shades of yellow and
brown. You won't find any blue or green houses here. If you want
colours, Guanajuato is the city of choice.
Probably because of all the hype around
the town and the high expectations, but also for the lack of colours,
SMA disappointed me and didn't live up to its reputation to me, since it's becoming more and more an American city in the centre of Mexico.