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San Miguel de Allende
Posted by: HoboSylvain | 2013-11-22 19:52:16 | San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico
Keywords: city, tourists
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 interview Meet Margret.

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 Mexican city.

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.

Related posts:
Southern Guatemala
Historical Centre of Oaxaca and Monte Albán
Historic Monuments Zone of Querétaro
City of Guanajuato
City of Chihuahua


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