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Protective town of San Miguel de Allende and Sanctuary of Jesús Nazareno de Atotonilco*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

P San Miguel de Allende.jpg
Panoramic view of San Miguel de Allende
State Party  Mexico
Type Cultural
Criteria ii, iv
Reference 1274
Region** Latin America and the Caribbean
Coordinates 20°55′0″N 100°44′45″W / 20.916667°N 100.74583°W / 20.916667; -100.74583Coordinates: 20°55′0″N 100°44′45″W / 20.916667°N 100.74583°W / 20.916667; -100.74583
Inscription history
Inscription 2008  (32nd Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

San Miguel de Allende is the seat of the municipality of Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico, a historic town founded in 1542 that has become an attractive tourist destination for wealthy Mexico City residents and has a large American and Canadian expatriate community composed primarily of retirees.

Contents

Geography

San Miguel de Allende is located in the eastern part of Guanajuato in Mexico's mountainous bajío region. The bajío (low place) is a relatively flat region about 2,000 m (7,000 ft) above sea level surrounded by mountains; it is a part of the Mexican altiplano. San Miguel serves as the administrative seat for the surrounding municipality of Allende, Guanajuato.

The municipality rests at 1,870 m (6,140 ft)HP{ above sea level. The municipality extends over an area of 1,537.19 km2 (593.51 sq mi). To the north it is bordered by the municipalities of San Luis de la Paz and Dolores Hidalgo. To the west it is also bordered by Dolores Hidalgo. To the south the municipality is bordered by Juventino Rosas, and Comonfort and to the southeast by Apaseo el Grande. To the northeast it is bordered by San José Iturbide. Finally, to the east it is bordered by Querétaro municipality in the state of Querétaro. The municipal seat is located 274 km (170 mi) from Mexico City and 97 km (60 mi) from the state capital at Guanajuato, Gto.

San Miguel de Allende
Climate chart (explanation)
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average max. and min. temperatures in °C
precipitation totals in mm
source: MSN Weather UK (2009-01-07),INEGI, 2006 report

Population

According to the 2005 census, the municipality of Allende had a total of 139,297 inhabitants. Of these, 62,034 lived in the municipal seat of San Miguel de Allende (the ninth-largest community in the state), with the remainder living in smaller surrounding communities within the municipality, the largest of which are Los Rodríguez and Colonia San Luis Rey. The largest sector of employment among the 39,371 economically active inhabitants was manufacturing (18.1%), followed by construction (16.3%) and retail and wholesale commerce (13.6%).

As of 2006, the elected San Miguel city government officials were using these updated figures compiled from both the Mexican census bureau and from US consulate figures:

  • 80,000 residents within the urban area.
  • 60,000 residents within the 540 surrounding villages that are a part of San Miguel.
  • 11-12,000 foreign residents at any one time, 7,000 of these on residency visas while the remainder are on tourist visas of a maximum of six months staying in private homes and Bed and Breakfasts.

Of these foreign residents, 70% are from the United States, 20% are from Canada, and the remaining 10% are from 31 other countries. If the 12,000 foreign residents who live in SMA at any one time are considered as a percentage of the SMA urban population, foreigners make up 15% of the SMA population. If the 7,000 foreign residents who are on permanent residency visas, including FM3 and FM2 visas, are considered as a percentage of the total SMA population, foreigners make up 5% of the SMA population.

History

La Parroquia, Church of St. Michael the Archangel
The Temple of the Nuns

The town was founded in 1542 by the Franciscan monk Fray Juan de San Miguel. It was an important stopover on the Antiguo Camino Real, part of the silver route from Zacatecas, Zacatecas. The town featured prominently in the Mexican War of Independence. General Ignacio Allende, one of San Miguel's native sons, was a leading player in the war against Spain for independence. Allende, captured in battle and beheaded, is a national hero. San Miguel el Grande renamed itself "San Miguel de Allende" in 1826 in honor of his actions.

By 1900, San Miguel de Allende was in danger of becoming a ghost town. Declared a national historic monument in 1926 by the Mexican government, development in the historic district is restricted in order to preserve the town's colonial character. During the Cristero uprising in Mexico, when clergy and their families were persecuted, the grandchildren of Gen. Mariano Escobedo came to San Miguel de Allende, which was conveniently in a secluded condition while verging on being a ghost town.

The six children of the daughter of Mariano Escobedo, Donna Maria del Refugio, were Don Anastasio Lopez Escobedo, Don Ezequiel Lopez Escobedo, Dr Ignacio Lopez Escobedo, and the sisters, Balbina and Isabella Lopez Escobedo. The elder child was a Cura, a charismatic head priest, Don Jose Lopez Escobedo, for whom the family was persecuted. The Cura Jose Lopez is interred at the main altar under St. Peter in the main Parroquia church of San Miguel, with a beautiful dedication to his work restoring the church in the 20th century. Lopez Escobedo is interred in the Church by the world-famous and miraculous Christ of the Conquest. The family fled their native home hacienda, Hacienda de los Lopez, to San Miguel Allende, where the Escobedo had a home, on Calle de Mesones and where a plaque still identifies the house.

Few descendants from this family live in San Miguel, as only Don Ezequiel Lopez Escobedo had children. The eldest of his grandchildren is Marcela Andre Lopez, an international teacher and designer of jewel garlands now in residence in the historic district in one of Don Ezequiel Lopez Escobedo's homes. Sr. Ezequiel Lopez Basurto, son of Don Ezequiel Lopez Escobedo, has presided over many works by the Rotary Club.

In the early 20th century, the family fortune of the Lopez Escobedo brothers and sisters was largely donated to schools for girls, convents for nuns, or lost to older distant relatives and people helped by the family who falsified papers or discovered hidden treasure after Don Ezequiel's sudden stroke and death. The impoverished barkeeper's assistant who found Don Ezequiel's property deeds and gold kept the find from Don Ezequiel's widow and five children who suffered hardships as orphans. The barkeeper's assistant had leased the store at Calle Relox and San Francisco Street from Don Ezequiel's widow and in the abundant inventory found more than could have been imagined.

Stirling Dickinson

In 1938, Peruvian artist Felipe Cossio del Pomar established San Miguel’s first art school, the Escuela Universitaria de Bellas Artes. It was located in the former convent that houses the present Bellas Artes. He offered the position of Art Director to American artist and writer Stirling Dickinson. Dickinson taught Spanish, botany and landscape painting, as well as taking students on field trips as part of his "Aspects of Mexico" course.

Dickinson's impact on San Miguel was manifested in many ways.[1] He had arrived in San Miguel before daybreak on February 7, 1937. At the Jardín, Dickinson looked up at the spires of the Parroquia poking through the mist. “My God, what a sight!” he said to himself. “I’m going to stay here.” After five years in San Miguel, Dickinson was named a Favored Adopted Son, the only American to be so honored by the mayor’s office. Two years later, he was honored by the governor for his work with founding a baseball team for young Mexicans. The baseball field he helped build and finance was named Campo Stirling Dickinson.

Dickinson began what was probably the largest private orchid collection in Mexico, a lifelong interest that was highlighted by the discovery of Encyclia dickinsoniana and having a second named after him in recognition of his work, Cypripedium dickinsonianum.

When Dickinson first arrived in San Miguel in 1937 he and his writing partner had purchased an old tannery on Santo Domingo on the way to the Atascadero Hotel above town for the equivalent of 90 U.S. dollars. The present property is worth millions of dollars.

Despite his abundant gifts to charity, his tomb is a simple and unadorned, apparently unvisited as would normally be the case in Mexico. He is buried in the American section of the city graveyard of Sra. de Guadalupe.

A bronze bust of Mr. Dickinson is on a column at an intersection street of Ancha de San Antonio and Guadiana.

American veterans

La Parroquia, Church of St. Michael the Archangel

In the 1950s, San Miguel de Allende became a destination known for its beautiful colonial architecture and its thermal springs. After World War II San Miguel began to revive as a tourist attraction as many demobilized United States GIs discovered that their education grants stretched further in Mexico at the U.S.-accredited art schools, the privately-owned Instituto Allende, founded in 1950, and the Bellas Artes, a nationally chartered school.

American ex-servicemen first arrived in 1946 to study at the art school. By the end of 1947, Life magazine assigned a reporter and photographer to do an article on this post-war phenomenon. A three-page spread appeared in the January 5, 1948, edition under the headline “GI Paradise: Veterans go to Mexico to study art, live cheaply and have a good time.” This was possible when apartments rented for US$10 a month, servants cost US$8 a month, rum was 65 cents a quart and cigarettes cost 10 cents a pack.

As a result of the publicity, more than 6,000 American veterans immediately applied to study at the school. Stirling Dickinson thought that San Miguel, which then had a population of fewer than 10,000, could only handle another 100 veterans, bringing the student body to around 140.

Ex-GIs were more demanding than previous students.[1] Contemporary and friend of painter and muralist Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, another icon of the Mexican mural movement and a vocal member of the Communist Party, was hired as a guest lecturer. He agreed to work with the students on a mural of San Miguel’s most famous son, Ignacio Allende. When Siqueiros reviewed the budget, he and the art school’s owner, Alfredo Campanella, had a falling out and the artist threw him down a flight of stairs.

The faculty and the majority of the students then walked out in support of Siqueiros. When this forced the school to close in 1949, Dickinson opened one of his own. But it did not receive accreditation from the American Embassy, so most of the veterans either went home or transferred to other Mexican schools.

In the counterculture years of the 1960s, San Miguel began its career as a center for American expatriatism and was a popular destination for Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, as recorded in Tom Wolfe´s novel The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Beat writer Neal Cassady died beside the railroad tracks between San Miguel and Celaya after a party in town.

Attractions

During the final week of July, San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato, Guanajuato, are co-hosts to the Expresión en Corto International Film Festival, Mexico’s largest competitive film festival and the most prestigious of its kind in Latin America. The internationally renowned festival is free to the public and screens over 400 films from 10am until 4am each day in 16 venues, which include such unusual locations as San Miguel's Jardín Principal (or main square), the subterranean streets and tunnels of Guanajuato, the Guanajuato Mummy Museum and both city's municipal graveyards (Panteones).

San Miguel de Allende was also named a Pueblo Mágico in 2002. In 2008, San Miguel was designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

In 1941-42 at age 25 Eleanor Coen painted a Mural in fresco in at the Escuela Universitaria de Bellas Artes.[2] It was damaged but has been recently restored. Eleanor was the first woman employed by the TGP in Mexico City where she worked with the founders in 1941. At that time her work was influenced by Jose Clemente Orozco although her mural's subject matter, women washing at a river with children, shows a woman's point of view.

Recent demographic changes

Famous worldwide for its mild climate, thermal springs and colonial-era architecture, San Miguel de Allende has attracted a large community of foreign residents. Exact figures are difficult to obtain since Medicare, the U.S. public health system, cannot be claimed abroad, and many expatriates return regularly to the United States to receive treatment as well as to maintain their residence status in their home country. Both Democrats Abroad and Republicans Abroad have active chapters in San Miguel and retain their involvement with U.S. politics. Canadian residents often live six months in Mexico and six months in Canada to maintain their Canadian health coverage.

SMA city government leaders in 2006, as reported in Atención (the local bilingual newspaper), did realize that a population surge of foreigners was growing that year and its size could not be documented. There was a rash in home sales and construction of new housing developments, with rapid profitable turnover of new housing units. However, the slowing of the housing market in the United States in 2006 was also felt in San Miguel.

Many Mexican and foreign residents protested the number of new developments in San Miguel in late 2006 and early 2007. During this time, a major new supermarket, Mega/Comercial Mexicana, opened at one end of the urban area, and another major shopping mall with a Soriana supermarket, an eight-screen movie theater, an Office Depot and a McDonald's opened slightly farther away. A 700-space city parking lot was built on the edge of the historic Centro area to help reduce traffic within the city. Efforts to force citizens to pay to park by removing parking on public streets have been less than successful. Being a bit far from the action, the parking lot is rarely used and the traffic in the city is still heavy, resulting in unnecessary air pollution and congestion in the center of San Miguel.

In an attempt to alleviate the parking problem, local government plans to install parking meters on city streets. Citizens' groups have promoted a solution used in other historic areas: implementing a residents-only parking permit program, which would keep out-of-town vehicles out of the centro area.

Other actions have been taken on public arenas that have disfigured the town's Historic District, per a certain number of people who were fond of the crumbling stones aged in time. The problem was the vaults and turrets of many buildings would have collapsed due to water damage and dehidration of the old mortar mix used in the 1500´s to the 1700´s. There were ample City government hearings with aereal photos of serious structural damages and enormous cracks on many of the most important cupulas and turrets, mainly "La Parroquia," and "Las Monjas." All changes were made with the same materials and techniques that were used to build the structures. The Oviedo family of La Campana ranch community is an enormous extended family of master masons who headed many of the most difficult works. Don Refugio Oviedo and his son José Oviedo, "maistros," as they are called in Mexico, have been in charge of the most challeging restorations around central Mexico, they won first state prize from the Antiqsuities Department for restoring a church called "El Transito" in Zacatecas in 2007. The "Transito" church had the challenge of having been built over an active spring, and there is water one meter under the building and includes the foundations.

According to unknown sources, the old floor of the Jardín was uprooted without the general public had no say regarding this action, according to a former posting herein. Actually, native San Miguel residents were delighted to have the new granite squares which were laid in orderly patterns matching the colonial decor. This was discussed on the air on the talk radio station indispensable to the real San Miguel oldtimers, XESQ 1280 AM radio station. The previous hard black slate floor was slippery the moment it rained, the stones had worn down so much since the 1950´s when it was laid in the style that was popular then for all new homes.


Drains drilled under the floor and are visible on the bordering wall, similarly, there are old window vents in all old buildings originally built with savvy knowledge for need of ventilation and dehumidifying systems.

Similarly, several streets have been "repaved" and the iconic San Miguelito stones used to pave these areas have disappeared and been replaced with modern stones, per a former posting on this topic herein. To clarify this, Don Refugio (Don Cuco) Oviedo was interviewed and the reason for "repaving" is the increased foot traffic needed widening of the sidewalk, which resulted in a wonderful clear sidewalk free of parked cars on the south side of San Francisco Street.

Per the master mason Don Refugio Oviedo who did the sidewalk work on San Francisco Street, the reason why flagstones of the streets in the historic district do not match is because the quarries which supplied the original stones are no longer available or became exhausted. Furthermore, the old stones were like butter when rain fell because the years had made them very polished and most residents have had a fall on them. The new stones are called "San Luis" and are rough and sure footing which all older people know to walk on them rather than the slick San Miguelito stones when wet. The "San Luis" stones will wear with time and no doubt have to be replaced again some day.

Per Sra. Refugio López, the floor in the Jardín during her childhood in the 1930´s and 1940´s were commercial floor tiles in colors that were the vogue and were also used indoors in some houses. That floor was replaced with the black flagstones in the 1950´s.

Sister cities

References

  1. ^ a b Virtue, John, The Model American Abroad ISBN 978-1-59092-405-1
  2. ^ Mural in fresco

Further reading

  • Cohan, Tony, (2001) On Mexican Time: A New Life in San Miguel ISBN 978-0-7679-0319-6
  • Dean, Archie, (2009) The Insider's Guide to San Miguel ISBN 970-91505-0-2
  • Spiegel, Mamie (2005) San Miguel and the War of Independence
  • Morris, Mary (1988) Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Traveling Alone ISBN 0-395- 44673-6
 YouTube Topiltzin8 Cultural Historian of San Miguel

External links

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Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

North America : Mexico : Bajio : Guanajuato : San Miguel de Allende
Parish of San Miguel at night.
Parish of San Miguel at night.
San Miguel de Allende.
San Miguel de Allende.

San Miguel de Allende [1] is a small colonial town in the Bajio mountains of central Mexico, about 170 miles northwest of Mexico City. Founded as "San Miguel" in 1542 by a San Franciscan Monk named San Miguel El Grande, it became a centerpiece in the war for Mexican independence from Spain; it was renamed San Miguel de Allende after Ignacio Allende, a hero of the independence movement. In danger of becoming a ghost town in the early 20th century, the town was declared a national monument in 1926 and building became heavily restricted in the town's historic centro district, allowing the city to keep the colorful native facades that have become the backdrop of many famous works of art and even modern motion pictures.

A series of artist colonies were founded in San Miguel in the 1950s, including the famous Instituto Allende, and many G.I.s moved their families here following World War II either to attend one of these colonies or to escape the Polio scares raging through many U.S. cities. The result was a healthy American expatriate population that exists today mostly as elderly retirees and second-generation business owners. This population, combined with the Mexican wealthy (especially actors and politicians) that have rediscovered San Miguel as a Malibu-like retreat from Mexico City, has created an eclectic mix of Old World Mexican charm, American hospitality, and a party atmosphere that makes San Miguel a world-class destination for adventurous travelers.

Understand

San Miguel is, first and foremost, a city built for relaxing. A Spanish colonial town of perhaps 140,000 people, it's a heritage site protected by the Mexican government in order to maintain its character. In July of 2008 it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's a tourist destination, an art colony, and a retirement community for a few thousand foreigners, mostly Americans, Canadians, and Europeans. In spite of the increased number of foreigners over the past perhaps 20 years, it still is charming enough that many Mexicans visit for special holidays, and there are more than a few visitors who buy a house within a few days of their first arrival.

Weather is typical of central mountainous Mexico. It varies little, and even in the hottest months (May and June) when daytime temperatures can reach 100F (over 35C), the dry air makes it tolerable and cool mountain breezes tend to make evenings delightful. Winter evenings (from December to February) can get cold, even down to freezing overnight, but it warms up quickly in the morning. The rainy season extends from June to September when days are pleasant for sightseeing until heavy downpours (usually late in the afternoon and evening) cool and freshen the air. Ultimately, the climate has the lazy, quiet air and temperance of Palm Springs, encouraging long hours of swimming and pool-side tanning, reading or napping, or just lying in a hammock and forgetting the world exists.

The Spanish version of the history of San Miguel de Allende is correct, why is it not so in the English version? San Miguel de Allende was founded by Franciscan Monk Fray Juan de San Miguel Miguel. He baptized the city with the name San Miguel el Grande and yes, after the War of Independence from Spain in the year 1826 San Miguel was elevated to a city status and given the name San Miguel de Allende in honor of Ignacio Allende y Unzaga, the first Mexican soldier and a native of the city.

San Miguel's climate
Month: Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
High Temp C/F 22/71 23/74 25/78 27/81 28/83 27/80 25/78 25/78 24/76 24/76 23/74 22/71
Low Temp C/F 8/46 9/48 10/50 12/54 14/57 14/58 14/58 14/58 14/57 12/54 10/49 8/47
Rain (inches/mm) 0.5/12 0.1/2 0.2/4 0.8/20 1.3/32 5.0/125 4.7/120 4.6/117 4.7/120 1.7/43 0.6/15 0.4/10
This article or section does not match our manual of style or needs other editing. Please plunge forward, give it your attention and help it improve!

One of the most difficult aspects of visiting San Miguel de Allende is actually getting there. Its remoteness is definitely part of the charm of the city - your afternoon nap will never be disturbed by the sound of an overhead plane or a train pulling in - but reaching San Miguel, and eventually escaping, are tribulations in and of themselves.

If you're an experienced driver in Mexico, you'll have few problems reaching San Miguel. It's only a few hours from Léon and Queretaro, and maybe a half-day's drive from Mexico City. The only difficulty will come when you actually reach San Miguel - parking spaces are an absolute premium here, so you'll want to arrange to have a spot for your car waiting when you arrive. Additionally, these roads were never designed for modern traffic, so traveling in San Miguel with your car can be a nightmare.

If you've never driven through Mexico, driving to San Miguel is a more challenging option, but certainly not the worst option. While San Miguel is in the mountains, many of the roads leading to it are in excellent condition and safe to drive during the day. Combined with a native propensity to drive like bats-out-of-Hell, this can make a trip through the mountains unpleasant - and nothing is more frustrating than being unable to enjoy the scenery of the mountains (which is spectacular, of course) because someone is tailgating you at 90 miles an hour on a thin mountain path originally meant as a trail for goats.

Your best bet is a combination of a flight (if you live outside central Mexico) and a taxi or bus ride.

By plane

The closest airports to San Miguel are in Léon (BJX, about 70 miles away) and Queretaro (QRO, about 45 miles away). Traveling to either of these ports will make your final journey a relatively inexpensive (between US$30 and US$60) hour shuttle or cab ride or an even cheaper bus ride (around US$10 to US$15); the trip will take 2-2:30 hours because the bus is not direct to San Miguel and you have to take a taxi from the airport to the bus station.

Your flight will be much cheaper if you go through Mexico City (MEX), and it would probably mean one less connecting flight since most flights to Leon and Queretaro pass through Mexico City. However, you will then have a 4-5 hour bus or 3 hours taxi ride from Mexico City to San Miguel as follows.

  • By bus: From the Mexico City airport you can get a first-class bus ticket on the line called "Primera Plus" (see the section on "Buses") for about US$25 (in 2006). Buses leave every 45 minutes to 1 hour throughout the day and will take you non-stop to Queretaro in less than 3 hours. You can take a bus from there to the San Miguel bus depot for about US$8 (about 1 hour), or a taxi to your door in San Miguel for about US$35 (about 45 minutes).
  • By taxi: If you're well-heeled, you can take a taxi from Mexico City directly to San Miguel. This will cost more but you´ll be safer because the driver wait you at the airport and he takes you directly to your destination in San Miguel.

By taxi

If you fly into Mexico City and need to reach San Miguel, do not try to take a taxi from the airport. The taxi drivers in Mexico City are well trained to screw you out of your money by charging you three or four times the cost of a trip to San Miguel - it's simply not worth the hassle. If you're Hell-bent on flying into Mexico City and NOT taking a bus, call ahead to the hotel or B&B where you're staying and ask them to send a taxi from San Miguel. Yes, they may charge you for both the trip to and from the airport, but it will be infinitely less expensive than if you try to pick up a taxi from the street outside the Mexico City airport. For safety reasons, it is very important not to "pick up a taxi from the street outside the Mexico City airport." Take one of the official airport taxis to your hotel. These "Transporte Terrestre" taxis are the only ones allowed inside the airport. You will buy a zone-priced ticket ahead of time inside the airport by walking all the way down to the right (several hundred yards) after exiting the international arrivals area.

If you fly into a regional airport like Léon or Queretaro, taking a taxi the rest of your way is much safer - just make sure you use an approved taxi service (the green and white cars are official taxis). Even still, if you don't know San Miguel that well, you may want to consider calling ahead to your hotel or B&B and having them provide transport - regional taxis may know how to get you to San Miguel, but only a taxi or car sent by your lodging will know how to get you straight to them.

By far the most convenient airport to fly into is Leon (BJX). Arrange for a ride beforehand with one of the many shuttle services listed on San Miguel websites. Average price about $25-30 per person. This will almost alway be cheaper than taking a taxi from the airport--and the driver will know the town of San Miguel much better than a taxi driver from the airport. There is no easy way to get from the Leon airport to San Miguel by bus.

By bus

If you do want to take the bus but want to minimize the hassles associated with it, here are a few tips:

  • Plan your route well-ahead of time. Know not just what bus depot you plan to leave from, but what bus line you plan to take. Flecha Amarilla, Estrella Blanca, Omnibus de Mexico seem to be the most reliable.
  • Have a back-up plan. At the very least, have a few extra dollars for an overnight stay in the event that your bus leaves you behind. (The bus lines will fall all over themselves to help you if the bus forgets you, but they won't be able to help you if the ticket window is closed because it's 2 am.)
  • Try to avoid getting off the bus at stops unless EVERYONE is off the bus. Be especially wary if they also claim to need to remove your baggage from the compartment (saying the bus needs to be cleaned, for example) - they may be trying to avoid taking you all the way to your destination.
  • If you're coming from USA, when planning your route, avoid a bus that crosses the border. You'll be required to get out at the border to get a visa, and more than one person has been left behind here while that was happening. There are several Mexico-side border towns with bus depots - you may want to take a plane or bus to the border, cross the border by foot, and take a bus from the other side. In particular, Nuevo Laredo (across the border from Laredo, Texas) has a major bus depot and an overnight bus leaves Nuevo Laredo every evening for San Miguel. If you drive to Laredo, you can park your vehicle overnight at La Posada hotel (covered) for about $18.00 per night or at Rio Grande Plaza Hotel (uncovered) for $5.00 per night. Both are within walking distance of the international bridge. After you have crossed the bridge, stop in on the Mexican side to get your visa (about $25.00). Take a taxi to the bus station for about $5.00 US. Be sure you know which bus station, as there are several.

Get around

On foot

Maybe 90% of San Miguel's attractions are within walking distance. Just keep in mind that because San Miguel was built into the side of a mountain, it can turn out to be difficult to traverse, some inclines are 15 or 20 degrees. Furthermore, the streets are cobbled and narrow - some were nothing but goat tracks before they were paved - and many have fallen into disrepair. Curbs are often a high step away from the road. All in all, the town can be unforgiving to an inexperienced walker. For this reason, it is advisable to bring comfortable shoes.

  • Bici-Burro is a bike shop that has operated in San Miguel since 1963. They offer bike rentals and biking or hiking tours with guides that hold an intimate knowledge of the area around San Miguel. You have the choice of seven bike tours and 2 hiking trips which take you amongst natural landmarks and some of the historical ruins of the area. These are of varying degrees of difficulty and range from 5 to 8 hours. The bicycle tours include a 27 speed aluminium mountain bike with helmet, gloves and transportation if needed. (note - their web site, http://www.bici-burro.com, you can e-mail and they do answer the telephone.

By car

Driving in San Miguel is even more nightmarish. There was a time when the city was not so wealthy and only taxis could be found on these roads. Now that the real estate market has boomed, an influx of money has made cars more affordable and now the average resident is more likely to own one - good news for the economy, but bad news for the roads. Many two-way streets in San Miguel are too narrow to support two lanes of traffic, and it's not uncommon for a street to become so choked with cars that drivers have to get out and negotiate which one is going to back up to a wider street to let the other pass. Many streets are one-way so look for an arrow on the side of a building indicating which direction the traffic is going. A double arrow indicates a two-way street. Watch out for very steep streets. They can get even steeper than you realize and at least one in San Miguel is so narrow at the bottom that no more than a medium-sized car with its side mirrors pulled in can safely maneuver between the buildings. Scratches on the walls attest to drivers who have literally had to scrape between the buildings. Backing up the hill is not an option.

For this reason, and for the serious lack of parking spaces, it is strongly recommended avoiding driving a car within San Miguel. Taxis are extremely inexpensive and reliable, and they can take you anywhere in or outside San Miguel you'd want to go when you don't feel like walking. Additionally, San Miguel has its own pleasant and reliable bus system that serves the entire town, including out-of-the-way areas like Gigante and the bus depot. Leave your car in a parking lot in the outskirts of the City - it's entirely unnecessary here, and its suspension will thank you.

Another warning on driving a car into San Miguel: if you manage to find a parking place on the streets rather than in one of the (pay) parking lots in town, do NOT leave it parked for more than 24 hours, or the police will come by and remove your rear license plate. You can get it back by going to the police station on the main square, but it will cost you MN$ 99 in fees. There are no signs warning about this.

By taxi

Catch a taxi to any destination within San Miguel for a flat rate of only 25 pesos (30 pesos after dark). In-town taxis are abundant and a great option after an afternoon of shopping.

By Tourist Trolley

Two different companies provide Sighseeing rides using trolley-looking buses that cost $60 pesos. You can ask for tickets in the main tourist office just in the main square. The ride lasts 1.5 hours (if traffic allows) and reaches the top of a hill for a fantastic sight of the town.

Teatro Angela Peralta.
Teatro Angela Peralta.
Street behind the Parish.
Street behind the Parish.
  • Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel The marvelous pink granite parish, looking like an ornate candy sculpture at the zocalo (called "El Jardin" by the locals).
  • El Jardin The main square or also known as the Plaza Principal
  • Museo Casa Ignacio Allende Home of one of the independence heros. Entrance $34 pesos.
  • Casa Mayorazgo de La Canal Home of a very wealthy family.
  • Templo de la Concepcion A church, also called "Las Monjas.".
  • Centro Cultural El Nigromante, Bellas Artes
  • Teatro Angela Peralta
  • Oratorio de San Felipe Neri
  • Statue of Ignacio Allende at the Plaza Civica
  • Templo de Nuestra Señora de la Salud Church
  • Templo de San Francisco
  • Casa del Inquisidor Where the Holy Inquisition was located. Now a private home.
  • Benito Juarez park
  • Jardin Botanical The unique El Charco del Ingenio park above the town with its enormous collection of cacti.

Do

When you're ready to absorb the city itself, San Miguel has plenty to see. You can spend a day just exploring the buildings, walking randomly along its streets and exploring some of the facades and architecture that have made San Miguel famous. Painters and cameramen have captured sites like La Parroquia and El Mirador countless times, and whole books have captured the beauty of the doorways along the street. Even Hollywood has taken notice of San Miguel, filming movies like "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" and "And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself" almost entirely here.

  • You can also explore inside some of these historic buildings, including the Angela Peralta Theatre and the home of Ignacio Allende, now museums of art and culture dedicated to the town itself.
  • San Miguel's many art institutes are always open to travelers looking to discover (or become) the next Frida Kahlo. Painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, you name it and it's probably there.
  • Take in one of the numerous festivals. The place celebrates Semana Santa (Easter holy week) with impressive and touching parades, and Dia de las Locos in mid-June is also worthwhile. The days leading up to Independence Day (September 16) and New Year's in San Miguel are favorite times for Mexicanos.
  • There are also music festivals covering classical and jazz at different times of the year, and endless art galleries with works that range from wonderful to "what that'?".
  • The once famous Sanmiguelada, San Miguel's version of the "running of the bulls" is no more. After the crowds grew to an unmanageable size and violence broke out in 2007, the event was canceled. There has been some talk of reinstating it in a somewhat different form, but no decisions have yet been made.

Learn

Take Spanish lessons. There are schools that will offer classes and arrange a "home stay" with a host family for a very good price. The best and most friendly school is without a dought Centro Bilingue De San Miguel. Centro Bilingue provides a unique atmosphere where beginners, with no prior experience, are able to learn Spanish from scratch and those on intermediate or advanced levels can further develop and improve their skills. Small classes and a friendly atmosphere make Centro Bilingue a natural choice for many people from many countries.

  • Centro Bilingue [2] it's believed that language and culture are inseparable, and for this reason the programs provide a linguistic and cultural experience.The programs combine language and study with an exploration of Mexican culture, history, tradition, cooking, dance, as well as field trips and cultural excursions in or around San Miguel de Allende. (Ideal for toddlers to seniors.)
  • Language Point (Languages), 20 de enero SUR # 42 (S.W. from the Jardin), 1524115, [3]. 8AM to 2PM. Spanish by speaking. Learn in groups of 3 maximum. Spanish lessons are designed to teach you the tenses and vocabulary you really need. The small class size allows real conversation- even for beginners. $143.00/week.  edit

Buy

Any type of Mexican artwork that you can think of. In addition to its cultural staples, San Miguel de Allende is known for its amazing shopping. Being near the geographical center of the country, artisans from every part of Mexico have been known to send their artwork to San Miguel to be sold. Whenever possible buy directly from the artisan. Many amazingly, talented artists are not able to support their families due to the low prices they receive for their art. At times it is very necessary to barter and at other times inappropriate -- use your intuition and allow for mistakes. We can afford to be generous in this developing nation!

The best place to get great quality Mexican and international art is at Fabrica La Aurora[4]. This old textile factory has been converted into a unique art and design center that now houses over 30 artists, galleries, restaurants, antique shops, and specialty stores. It is about 10 minutes from the main square down Hidalgo Street on Calzada de la Aurora. Inside the Fabrica la Aurora you will see galleries such as Galeria Atelier. Artists are usually in-house and demonstrating on Thursdays. See galeria/atelier [5].

The streets around the Jardin are full of specialty shops selling common souvenirs, clothing, art, furniture, and Mexican tile. The open-air Mercado Ignacio Ramirez (Ignacio Ramirez market) a few blocks from the zocalo (locally called the "Jardin") is several blocks long where you'll find reasonably-priced jewelry from beads to silver, tile, mirrors, and other accessories for the home. It winds down the side of a hill, ending on yet another street of stores where you'll find (among other things) local pewter which can be very attractive and a real bargain.

Fair Trade Shopping includes the following:

Casa de Las Artesania de Michoacan, Calzada de la Aurora #23, a non-profit shop where the artist profits 60% of the retail price.

Save the Children shop on Hidalgo, this store offers crafts from various villages around Mexico. Artists receive a fair price for their arts and crafts, entire villages have become sustainable through Save The Children Mexico projects.

There is also a women’s co-op shop.

Ladies: don't forget to pick up a pair of San Miguel shoes as soon as you arrive. Your walk around town will be much more comfortable.

  • Mama Mia, directly to the south of the Jardin, half a block from the Parroquia. An open air patio restaurant with a stage and an exterior/second floor patio. The restaurant has traditional Mexican dishes, but specializes in pizzas and pastas. An always packed space, this is an amazing place to eat with a clean kitchen, and a lively bar.
  • El Pegaso, located just off the Jardin on the Corregidora street. This trendy cafe style restaurant offers a delightful blend of Mexican and international flavor. Its atmosphere is definitely one of the best in town.
  • El Correo, a small Mexican food spot located just a block away from the main square, offers simple yet interesting authentic Mexican food in a great location.
  • El Rincon Español, correo #26, a must for an international night, administered and owned by a Catalan immigrant the food is truly exceptional, you will not be disappointed.
  • Cafe San Antonio, Refugio Sur 24, regional, national and international cuisine, enjoy your breakfast, lunch or Dinner in a lucious and open courtyard in the heart of Colonia San Antonio, under the century old native mezquites pines and pirules, truly a unique experience.
  • Posada Carmina - This restaurant is based in the patio of a charming Inn located in a remarkably well preserved colonial house. Branded as "fusion", the food offered by this restaurant will make your visit to San Miguel even more memorable, it mixes the clasic elements of mexican cuisine with oriental flavors and dishes.
  • Planta Baja, located in front of "Las Monjas" church this modern Mexican restaurant is definitely one of the most avant-garde spots to eat in San Miguel. Great food.
  • Casa Payo,[6] Zacateros # 26, One of the most traditional restaurants offering argentine cuisine in a mediterranean ambient inside dining and exterior in a charming patio featuring live music
  • Tio Lucas, bar and grill, across from the Teatro Angelica Peralta.
  • San Augustin A well run restaurant with great food, Mexican and international. The restaurant/cafe in proud of their freshly made churros and a variety of hot and cold chocolate milks. Owned by Margarita Gralia.

Local restaurants to support include: ChaChaCha’s located on 28 de Abril owned and operated by Mexican couple, Rinconcito on Refugio is close by too, try the Mar y Tierra.

Fresh coffee at La Ventana on Urmaran or Café Etc. on Reloj, both practice Fair Trade.

If you are looking for healthy organic food in San Miguel, Naturalismo is located one block from the Jardin toward the end of Cuna de Allende. Many people find that organic food is not always easy to access in Mexico and this is one place that has organic home cooking.

  • Cafe Crayola, Calzada de la Aurora no. 48 (follow Hidalgo out of the jardin until it turns into Aurora.), (415)152-8900. 8:30 - noon. This is undoubtedly the most innovative and creative breakfast menus in town featuring design-your-own omelets & breakfast burritos, exquisite french toast, and home made fruit salsa. The vibe is very comfy and clients can choose from indoor or outdoor-garden seating. There's even free wireless. $5-7.  edit

Drink

Visit Mama Mia (see above) or the trendy black and red Mexicana, just off the main square for an amazing evening. Located across from the hotel Mansion Virreyes, For a great nightcap, Berlin is just up the street. It's a great chill bar. The German owners are very welcoming and the food is sublime.

If you can't find something to do in San Miguel at night, you're not looking hard enough. If you can't find something to do on a Saturday night, you're outright blind. This city is filled with clubs, bars, dance halls, and restaurants, and almost all of them have SOME plan for every night of the week. Following are just a few options, try these out, but also seeking your own favorite hang-out.

  • El Grito (15 Umaran, about a block from the jardin): This is arguably the most popular club in town, and easily the most expensive. It boasts a $15 cover charge, easily enough to dissuade the casual visitor from dropping in to take a look. Inside, the building is a panopoly of stone and glass sculptures, light displays, and music. How energetic the evening gets usually depends on the crowd, but it's hard for the evening to get much past midnight before the dancing starts. El Grito is only open Fridays and Saturdays, or on certain holidays, like New Year's Eve (when they jack the price up to $50).
  • Dos Casas Wine Bar (http://www.doscasas.com.mx/"), Quebrada 101, Large selection of international wines in a an intimate setting. 2 blocks from the town center. Bistro menu.
  • Mama Mia's (8 Umaran, a few doors from the jardin): Mama Mia's is actually four clubs in one. There's a restaurant and bar in the center with some amazing Italian food, a sports bar to the left (usually displaying a soccer or football game of some kind), a music bar to the right where local acts frequently play (especially Pilaseca, a very popular funk-blues band that tours most of Mexico and the States), and a hard-to-find rooftop lounge overlooking the city. This is a great default place to while away the hours when nothing else is appealing - the music is worth it, if nothing else.
  • El Ring (25 Hidalgo): Formerly on of the most popular places to be at night in San Miguel, this former cock-fighting ring turned into a Discotecque has fallen out of the hipper places to be, mostly lower clas. Open Thursdays through Saturdays. The music here is more popular with a slightly older set, but still energetic and vibrant.
  • Manolo's Sports Bar Zacateros # 26, Complete coverage of national and international sports if it is on TV they have it
  • Berlin
  • La Cava de la Princesa
  • Planeta Dorado

And there are many more.

This article or section does not match our manual of style or needs other editing. Please plunge forward, give it your attention and help it improve!
  • Antigua Capilla Bed and Breakfast (http://www.antiguacapillasanmiguel.com) Antigua Capilla Bed and Breakfast offers you world class hospitality, comfort and elegance. This conveniently located San Miguel B&B is an easy five minute walk to the popular local Mexican artisan’s market. A brief 10 to 15 minute downhill walk takes you to the central Jardín in the historic San Miguel town square.
  • Arcos del Atascadero Bed and Breakfast (http://www.bedandbreakfastinmexico.com) Arcos del Atascadero offers a place of peace and quiet. Yet, we are just a short 12 minute walk to the centro. Our gardens and back yard areas allow a respite from the bustle of San Miguel. The solar heated swimming pool makes for a pleasant escape from the heat of the day.
  • Dos Casas Hotel (http://www.doscasas.com.mx) Contempory design and personalized service are the trademarks of this luxury boutique hotel in San Miguel. Located 2 blocks from the center. Wine Bar and restaurant.
  • Casa Calderoni [7] Located in San Miguel’s historic center, just 3 blocks from the town square. Combines the intimacy of an elegant bed and breakfast with the luxuries of a small boutique hotel.
  • Casa Carmen [8] Lovely bed and breakfast close to El Jardin. Eleven guest rooms range from $70 per night +$25.00 per additional guest. Breakfast and lunch are served in a very comfortable dining room. The food is outstanding - including soup, entree and dessert at lunch time. Comfortable interior courtyard and rooftop garden. Owner made us a sandwiches to take on the overnight bus home - very warm and friendly.
  • Casa Don Pascual [9] a Colonial Style Boutique Bed and Breakfast with magnificient views."
  • Casa Mision de San Miguel [10] Bed and Breakfast. 3a. Cerrada de Pilaseca 17.
  • Casa Schuck [11] Calle Garita 3. They advertise themselves as "Luxury Boutique Bed and Breakfast"
  • Haciendas Las Trancas(10)(http://www.haciendalastrancas.com) How often do you have the chance to spend your vacation in your own private, centuries-old ex-hacienda? There are ten luxurious suites with beautiful views of the Sierra Madres, each with high-speed internet, sat. TV, propane fireplace, terrace, private bath. Additional beds and linens can sleep up to 30 people total. Wireless internet is available throughout the porches and gardens. The hacienda is HUGE (approximately 40 rooms). Includes all meals, use of horses, heated pool/jacuzzi, 17 piece Cybex Gym. Spa Services available.
  • Hotel El Atascadero [12] One of San Miguel's oldest, family owned hotels. Once home to a famous bull fighter, a silk plantation and has been for decades a retreat for artists such as Diego Rivera and even Pablo Neruda.
  • Magdalena's [13] Margarito Ledesma 12.
  • Meson San Antonio half a block away from the Angelica Peralta theater, and across the Tio Lucas restaurant. The rooms are spacious and quiet, and the personnel is very kind. If you warn them beforehand, someone will check you in or open the door for you any time during the night. Continental breakfast is included with your room, and you can order additional, simple food such as sandwiches and fruit. Around $70 USD a night.
  • Oasis San Miguel (http://www.oasissanmiguel.com) A stylish boutique hotel in San Miguel de Allende. Combines all the deluxe amenities of a luxury hotel with the warmth and charm of an exclusive bed and breakfast. Voted one of the top "Hot Hotels" in 2007 by Conde Nast.
  • Real de Minas [14] Calle Ancha San Antonio. Great location near downtown. Inside this colonial styled building you will find a water well people say Miguel Hidalgo, Mexico's independence hero, used to drink water while he was in San Miguel. $100 a night.
  • Sagrada Wellness[15] La Mesita 11, Rancho La Mesita. Sagrada Wellness is a retreat area just 15 minutes outside of town. San Miguel is not only a wonderful visit because of the town but also spectacular for its gorgeous countryside. Sagrada's quiet and tranquil location is high up in the country with views of the high desert. Cabanas and canvas bungalows are spacious and with modern amenities. Architecture is amazing - very modern and built with sustainable materials. Food, yoga, and other spa treatments are offered separately.
  • Villa Mirasol[16] Pila Seca 35, Centro. Villa Mirasol, Well known as "A unique intimate Inn" just 4 blocks from the main square. Converted colonial home with 12 rooms and suites, simplicity and good taste have been combined to make every room a special one to be remembered. $110 to $150 a night,including taxes and breakfast.
  • Portal 8 Hotel Concepto, [17]. *Casa De Suenos (http://www.casadesuenosmexico.com) A bed and breakfast located near El Jardin. Offers a self-service kitchen, rooftop garden, and four (4) artistically designed rooms. Within the property's premises is La Escuela, an art school. In the heart of San Miguel Allende, Portal 8 is a renovated colonial house, offers 10 guest rooms, SPA and Lounge Bar with panoramic views of the city. Here you can experience a fusion of Mexico’s culture and history with comfort and modern designs.  edit
  • Casa Crayola, Calzada de la Aurora 48, [18]. Seven charming casitas (small houses) surrounding a beautiful garden. Well located! Each casita has a kitchenette, coffee maker, TV, dvd player with a huge selection of films, wireless internet. On the grounds is one of the best breakfast cafes in the entire town! You just roll out of bed and have a terrific breakfast. (not included in room rate) One of the best buys in all of San Miguel. $75 plus tax.  edit
  • Casa Florida, Hernandes Macias 60 (2 block from the main Jardin), Us 813-480-0505 Mex 415-154-8195, [19]. (http://www.casafloridasma.com) 3 wonderfull designed rooms, full breakfast, roofgarden, great sunset and close to the main Jardin in for a great price. 99.00 us dlls.  edit
  • Casa de la Noche, Organos #19, Centro, [20]. Casa de la Noche is a former brothel (or "house of the night") that has been converted into a very charming guest house with rooms and suites. Located 5 minutes from the Jardin and Parrochia. The grounds are beautiful with Mexican handiwork evident everywhere. Rooms start at $40/night and Suites with kitchenette start at $100/night. Weekly and Monthly rates are available. http://www.casadelanoche.com 40-100/night.  edit
  • Iron House Hostel, Colegio Militar 17-D, Guadalupe, 52 415 154 6108, [21]. checkin: 12:00 noon; checkout: 11:00 am. Independent hostel located an 8 minute walk from the Parroquia in the main square of the town. Ricardo the owner of the hostel is a resident of San Miguel and is always happy to show you the real gems of the town - the best sights, clubs, restaurants, bars, hot springs, artisan markets. Weekly and Monthly rates are available. 25-30/night.  edit

Stay safe

San Miguel de Allende is (by Mexican standards) a safe place day and night; no wonder thousands of retired North Americans choose this city as their home. Use common sense, don't leave valuables out in plain sight.

Consulate of the U.S.A. Hernandez Marcias 72. Phone 152-2357

Contact

Post Office The central post office can be found in Correo street 16 on the corner with Corregidora street, a block away from the main square.

  • Atención San Miguel [22] is a weekly bilingual newspaper that is the main source of local news for English speaking residents and visitors. The calendar of the week's events is particularly useful. Atención is published on Thursday and is widely available at newsstands and businesses.
  • SMAmap.com [23] is an interactive street-level map of San Miguel. The map is searchable by street name, colonia (neighborhood), or business name to easily locate your destination.
  • Green Map San Miguel [24] uses the same interactive map as SMAmap, but has added layers of information on sustainable living in San Miguel. Look here for information on restaurants that serve organic and/or local food, recycling & composting, greentech businesses, green organizations and bus routes.
  • Thermal pools just outside of town for an afternoon of relaxation. Hail a taxi or grab a bus for just a few dollars to these pools, but be sure to arrange return transportation or know when the last bus arrives. The only hotel near the pools is said to be expensive and generally booked.
  • Atotonilco is a historic church approx. 10km outside of SMA. The sanctuary services as a piligramage desitination and the site where Ignacio Allende met up with Father Hidalgo to begin their fight for Mexican Independence.
  • Guanajuato, the Capital of the state. It is known for its network of tunnels under the city and for its "Museo de las Momias" (mummy museum), and you can also see Cristo Rey atop the Cerro de Cubilete.
  • Dolores Hidalgo is 40 km away and is worth a visit as it is the birthplace of Mexican independence - and a great place to sample odd ice cream flavors like pork rind and avocado.
This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!

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