50 years in San Miguel de Allende

The real reason for my trip across the Atlantic was to help my parents celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.  We all met in San Miguel de Allende, a city in Guanajuato that none of us except Elise had ever been to before.  San Miguel de Allende isn’t big but has an incredible art scene.  Its historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, attracting wealthy weekend visitors from Mexico City, and the city houses “one of the largest American communities in Mexico,” according to Wikipedia.  Indeed at the Friday Art Walk in Fábrica La Aurora it seemed that most of the artists were from the US.

AMICI-8662 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN8855 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN8916 by bryandkeith on flickr

That’s not just a new trend, however.  After World War 2, American artists starting coming to San Miguel de Allende to study at the Escuela de Bellas Artes with Siqueiros (among others).  They found their GI Bill dollars stretched further in Mexico.  In addition to favorable prices when compared to many parts of the US, the climate, Mexican food and lifestyle, and proximity to the US still pull US citizens to charming, hilly, colonial San Miguel.

DSCN8940 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN8824 by bryandkeith on flickr

Most of our time was spent wandering through the cobblestone streets, visiting art galleries and shops that could be considered art galleries (I’ve never seen so much art anywhere, except, perhaps, as my Dad pointed out, in Santa Fe), and taking photos of Kevin and Elise’s kids.

DSCN8943 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN8946 by bryandkeith on flickr

In a week we had three notable excursions: to Atotonilco, to Dolores Hidalgo, and to a bull fight.  In spite of all the time I’ve spent in Mexico, I had never been to a bull fight.  The bullring was just down the road from the house we rented.  On the chilly, slightly rainy Saturday afternoon of the spectacle, I could only convince my Dad to come out and see a few animals killed for the sake of audience enjoyment.  We didn’t have to brave PETA picket lines to get in (though I would have found that secretly enjoyable), but the audience was quite small.  A woman next to us explained that years ago the bullring would have been full for an event like this, but now everyone’s interested in football (soccer), she complained.  After having been to one bull fight, I must agree with the Mexican public on that point — a football match is more exciting.

DSCN8880 by bryandkeith on flickr

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When San Miguel de Allende was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list (and for that reason removed from SECTUR’s Pueblo Mágico list), Atotonilco was included as part of the World Heritage Site.  The paintings on the church domes in Atotonilco have been compared to those at Sistine Chapel.  Having seen neither I can’t comment on this.  That’s right, even having visited Atotonilco I still haven’t seen the most impressive of the paintings because that part of the church was closed for renovation.  Presumably they’re doing something to preserve this supposedly fabulous cultural treasure…

We saw a couple teasers in the side wings of the church:

DSCN9003 by bryandkeith on flickr

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I’ve heard for years about the town of Dolores Hidalgo, the birthplace of Mexico’s independence movement.  It was here where Hidalgo issued El Grito de la Independencía from the steps of the church on the main square.  Incidentally both Dolores Hidalgo (formerly Dolores) and San Miguel de Allende (formerly San Miguel) altered their names after independence to honour the hometown independence heroes.  There’s not really much to see in Dolores Hidalgo, but my Dad and I had a nice tour with Juan José who detailed the events leading up to El Grito on the morning of September 16, 1810.

Dad and Juan José, our guide for a bit of independence history by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN8992 by bryandkeith on flickr

On one of our last mornings in San Miguel, we spent a fun hour and a half with a professional photographer.  We can thank Elise and Megan for organizing the photo shoot as the 50th wedding anniversary present for my parents.

AMICI-8647 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN8869 by bryandkeith on flickr

AMICI-9021 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN8968 by bryandkeith on flickr

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2 Responses to 50 years in San Miguel de Allende

  1. I was in SMA just a few days ago, where I met your sister Megan 🙂

    I’m also a semi-retired IT guy touring the world now full-time to visting the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. I just started 5 months ago though.

    I was quite disappointed myself in SMA, found it with way too many Americans… robbing the soul of the city. In terms of sheer beauty, I much prefered Guanajuato Capital… or even Zacatecas.

    Expectations were high because it just had been named #1 Touristic destination in the world in 2013… but since that’s from an American magazine, and voters were mostly Americans… I can certainly understand the results.

    • Bryan Keith says:

      Well, I was certainly impressed with the art scene in San Miguel. There are few places with such a concentration of art per capita. I don’t know what San Miguel was like before there were lots of Americans. Of course there’s been a foreign population in the city for many years. I’d have to think twice about living there, but it was a fun place to visit.

      #1 Touristic destination? Haha, what’s that supposed to mean? 🙂

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