Bad news rains on San Miguel

What to do when nasty rumors
suddenly come true? 

Recently I’ve received news of outbreaks of San Miguelophobia, particularly in the picturesque mountain town of Pátzcuaro, where the sun goes up and down every day, and in the heavily air-conditioned Pacific Coast resort of Barra de Navidad, where in August even iguanas wear sun protection. There might even be a case of it in Redmond, Calif., wherever that is.

Those afflicted keep knocking San Miguel for being a formerly beautiful colonial town now overrun with tchotchke stores catering to obnoxious American tourists. There is no basis for those stereotypes.

Alright, maybe some. Several years ago I attended San Miguel’s solemn Good Friday procession, with its long lines of veiled women dressed in black, clutching rosaries and crucifixes and whispering prayers.

Then I noticed that an amply proportioned, middle-aged woman, wearing hot pants, a too-skimpy Texas A&M sweatshirt and a cowboy hat—all in shades of pink—had climbed on a lamppost to get a better view of this most sacred spectacle.

I cringed and for a second wished that a bolt of lightning from an angry God would hit the lamppost the woman was perched on—or at least that I’d been wearing an “I’m Canadian” t-shirt.
And now the flood of American tourists, which had ebbed following the 2008 financial crash in the U.S. and reports of rising drug cartel violence in Mexico, may resume following a bizarre report in Travel and Leisure magazine that its readers had designated San Miguel de Allende as “Best City in the World.” In the whole, wide world. On the entire earth. En todo el mundo. 

“San Miguel is one of the most authentic, creative and cost-effective destinations we’ve visited,” says a T+L reader of the colonial city, a part of which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. “Over the years we’ve discovered more great restaurants and activities, but the town still maintains its Mexican heritage, culture and charm.”

Move over Florence, San Miguel is Number One. 

Who is this reader? Is (s)he afflicted with some cognitive disorder? Does (s)he ever get out of the house? Perhaps a mezcal overdose during the visit to San Miguel?

Yes, San Miguel is very nice but how does it come ahead of fourteen other destinations on the list, such as Florence, Barcelona, Rome, Cape Town or even Oaxaca? 

The article in T+L mentions that San Miguel is cost-effective, which I guess is true compared to Italy or Spain. Or that it has some nice restaurants and hotels, also true—but compared to Rome or even Oaxaca, famed for its cuisine? 

What I fear now is a double-whammy: Hordes of T&L readers coming to town in addition to the swarms of Mexico City chilangos, most of them hiding behind Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses and driving Porsche Cayennes, BMWs, Range Rovers and even an occasional Lamborghini, that already choke San Miguel on weekends  

The badmouthing by those San Miguelophobes might come true.

Dear reader, pray for us.


15 thoughts on “Bad news rains on San Miguel

  1. Look at the bright side, you will now be able to subdivide your ranch, install a guard shack and gate for that “gated community” outpost look, build a few model condo and designer “San Miguel” style homes cash in and move to a quiet colonia town where you don't have to put up with the new Migueller…


  2. San Miguel is o.k., but I prefer the warmer, more relaxed and less self conscious ambience of Oaxaca. The food is better in Oaxaca as well. Congratulations on living near the World's Best City! You are so lucky.Saludos, Don Cuevas


  3. I've lived in SMA since 2011 and in that short amount of time the city has changed dramatically. Some good; most not so good. I agree…best city in the world??? Hard to believe if you've ever traveled anywhere else in the world. But people continue to drink the “SMA koolaid” and continue to come, bring others, promote SMA, and ruin it for those of us who live here full time.


  4. Anonymous

    Well, I've certainly never bad-mouthed SMA. It's a lovely place to visit, but I don't think I'd want to live there. It'd be FAR too easy to get sucked into the monolingual Gringo expat circuit and then never have a meaningful relationship with any Mexican ever again. Also, by being a Gringo in SMA, I'd be immediately slotted into a stereotype that I don't particularly want to be part of. Sure, as a Gringo anywhere in Mexico, I'm slotted into some stereotypes. That's inevitable. But in CDMX there's not enough Gringos for people to have a very specific preconceived notion of what Gringos are supposed to be. I'm happy with that. But there's a lot to like about SMA: lovely city; beautiful buildings; nice climate; fantastic restaurants; and the availability of European/American pastries. Saludos,Kim GRedding, CAWhere we wonder if we've been confused with “Redmond?” wherever that might be. If it even exists.


  5. Got bad news for you, Kim. For the both of us actually. Gringos are stereotyped anywhere in Mexico, no matter where you live. I speak fluent Spanish, but as soon as Mexicans detect it's the “wrong” Spanish, there's a gap in the conversation. Also, at 6'3″, I'm way too tall for the chaparrito population.Given your interest is pursuing a relationship with a young Mexican, I can see why the demographics of SMA would work against you. But that's not a result of stereotyping by anyone. What European/American pastries are you talking about? Companio? Petit Four? The latter owned by a very attractive young Mexican that alas, is already accounted for. I'll let you go back to Redding for now.Cheers,Al


  6. I am with Kim on this one. I am quite fond of San Miguel de Allende as a lovely place to visit. Your town offers up some of the best serious music to be found in Mexico. I am not as impressed with the quality of the food in the restaurants, but I do like the variety. Most of all, though, I enjoy seeing people who are important in my life — like you, Stu, Fred, Ron, and Barbara. And that is the most important reason I like making regular appearances there.


  7. Anonymous

    Oh, I know I'm already stereotyped. But it's not quite as fixed a stereotype as it'd be in SMA. And the fact that I speak fluent Spanish also helps to break the stereotype too, though that might be even more astonishing in the context of SMA. As for young Mexicans, remember: it's they who are chasing me. I'd much prefer a mature guy. Saludos, and thanks for the witty reply. Kim GP.S. I don't remember the bakeries, only that I could find good, hard-crusted bread, croissants, and other non-Mexican baked goods.


  8. Companio is the place to visit for baguettes and breads of all sorts. Petit Four for chocolates and other pastries. I can appreciate your dilemma of being relentlessly chased by young Mexican even though you're looking for a more mature type. In another context, I believe Kipling called it “The White Man's Burden.” Sniff.


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