Internationally for its beauty, culture and creative community, San Miguel de Allende has been attracting waves of expats from around the world for over seven decades.
An estimated 10,000 expats now call San Miguel their home today.
Declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2008, the city is well known for its thriving art scene and colonial Spanish architecture.
A very recognizable icon thrusting skyward from the city center is La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, the parish church of San Miguel. It was built with a mix of Spanish colonial and Gothic styles and houses a crypt beneath the altar. The indigenous stonemason Zeferino Gutiérrez designed its towers in the late 19th century. The rest of the church dates from the late 17th century.
Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramírez is in a two-story former cloister from the 18th century. The Centro holds classes in everything from painting and sculpture to dance and theater arts and houses both permanent and rotating exhibitions by Mexican and international artists. Classes are from a month to a semester long. You also can relax and have a drink and/or a meal in the central courtyard. The portico of the building is home to a mural by David Siqueiros, one of the country’s most famous muralists.
El Jardin is San Miguel’s central plaza and busy center of activity. The park has shade trees, sculpture and fountains. The streets on three sides around El Jardin are closed to traffic, making it a great place to relax. Facing the park on its south side is La Parroquia. A gazebo in the center of El Jardin is used for musical performances most evenings.
High atop a hill above the city, Jardin Botanico El Charco del Ingenio – a 220-acre wildlife and bird sanctuary – provides an opportunity for walks through beautiful wetlands. There is a waterfall running through a canyon and gardens of cacti, succulents and other native plants. Some of the best views of the city can be seen from this park.
Housed in Ignacio Allende’s beautiful old colonial home, Casa de Allende Museum is the city’s history museum. It has an extensive collection of information about the war for independence from the Spanish.
San Miguel’s artistic roots shine in the Fabrica La Aurora, an art and design center located in a former textile factory. Many local artists open their studios to visitors while they work. You also can purchase authentic Mexican art, jewelry and ceramics.
The city also hosts many music, fashion, film and religious festivals throughout the year. El Senor de La Conquista (The Lord of the Conquest) is one of the most popular festivals. Hundreds of colorful conchero, or Chichimeca, dancers dressed in pre-Hispanic style clothing arrive from the towns and villages that surround San Miguel. Each has a different style of dance and dress. This annual festival takes place on the first Thursday and Friday of March in honor of Christ of the Conquest, a highly revered statue made from corn stalks and orchid bulbs. The image was originally made in the 16th century to represent the acceptance of Christ by the indigenous peoples, according to legend.
Two days before Palm Sunday, San Miguel honors Nuestra Senora de los Dolores, Our Lady of Sorrows. Families and business owners build altars dedicated to sadness: the sorrow of the Virgin Mary for the loss of her son. Although it is relatively unknown in much of Mexico, this ritual, Night of the Altars is one of the highlights of Holy Week in San Miguel.
Music comes to San Miguel each year in the form of the Festival de Musica Barroco, a baroque music festival held for a week in March. Internationally renowned groups and soloists perform concerts in a variety of venues chosen for their beauty and the quality of their acoustics.
For foodies and lovers of good food, you can enjoy both modern and traditional Mexican cuisine in San Miguel. Traditional cuisines originate from indigenous and European flavors, but you can also enjoy international and gourmet dining at some of the best restaurants in Mexico. You should try enchiladas mineras, or miner’s enchiladas, which are fried enchiladas filled with chicken or cheese in a guajillo chile, topped with lettuce, fried carrots and potatoes. Another local favorite is pacholas, which are deep fried ground beef patties. Fiambre is another favorite. It is made with different meats such as beef, chicken and pork, with fruit and veggies served on top of lettuce and drizzled with vinaigrette.
If you are thirsty and adventurous you can try agua de betabel, a local beet-flavored water, or coucolonche, which is made with prickly pear cacti.
Expats have lots to do in San Miguel to keep busy, including yoga, golf, tennis, art classes, bridge groups, meditation centers and many other organized activities, both indoors and outdoors. There are also about 82 non-governmental organizations if you are inclined to donate your time to worthy causes.