San Miguel de Allende (SMA) was not our first choice destination, but it certainly has some interesting spots. We came here mainly to spend time with Bonnie (my mom), Lucas (my bro) and Ashlee (Lucas’ girlfriend).
SMA has one of the highest populations of US expats in Mexico. It has been likened to a quaint and cliched theme park version of Mexico for retired Americans. Many come from Florida, Texas, New Mexico and California. These retired gringos are certainly a sight to be seen: multi-coloured cowboy boots, collagen injections (Lucas calls them duck lips) and often very little attempt to learn Spanish.
It’s easy to spot the expats hanging out at Starbucks in the centre of town. These cappuccino cowboys love showing off their designer western wear whilst playing on their laptops after a round of golf. They will spend hours eyeing up their fellow expats’ cowboy costumes whilst boasting loudly about their latest real estate ventures before heading back to their gated communities.
Many of them believe that they are enriching the local region by bringing more expat money to the area, but it’s clear that not all locals really benefit in the same magnitude. The cost of living in the centre of town is much higher, thus forcing many locals to the outskirts.
During the 1960s, SMA grew to be a kind of bohemian artisan community. That reputation seems to have led to an over-saturation of new-age woo-woo artist wannabes flocking in droves with their crystals and tarots cards.
To be fair, there are some very interesting local artist galleries and the various open markets are worth visiting, but the local expats and the shops which cater to them are definitely to be avoided. Stay away from the Centro. Visit the Tuesday Market on the hill. Say hello to the cats and dogs at the animal shelter. If you have time, take a trip to Sierra Gorda to see some amazing landscapes and wildlife.
Although Lucas and Ashlee have since gone back to Bellingham, WA State, we continue to loiter here with Bonnie. We had expected to be heading south on our bikes by now, but we’re not quite ready to leave for a number of reasons (waiting for packages to arrive, setting up our blog, etc). It’s turned out to be a very peaceful place for us to hangout and eat nice food with my mom.