Well, without prolonged “suspense,” I’m beginning this story with my ending.
After six months of living in the “World’s Best City,” I found myself counting the days until I was back home, which is Texas. OK, I confess to being in the minority when I say that. San Miguel de Allende didn’t steal my heart, but I’ve seen her magic at work. The 16th century Spanish colonial city, steeped in Mexican history, has lured many — with promises of laid-back, comfortable living at prices unmatched in the U.S., and temperate year-’round weather.
A friend once told me that home is wherever you want it to be. I’m still contemplating her words. And another seemed to understand exactly what I couldn’t articulate. After spending, gosh, maybe 15 to 20 years as an expat in two European countries — thanks to her fast-tracking, oil executive husband, she kinda nailed it for me in a recently swapped email. Yeah, she enjoyed nesting abroad, the easy treks to neighboring countries, and a number of other bennies. Plus, her children certainly benefitted. But there was no emotional attachment. It was always as if something was missing, she says.
Maybe it was a swell of Texas pride that overcame me. I kinda jest. But, seriously, as I get older, I do feel more connected to my roots. Truthfully, I had other reasons for not staying longer, but even so, I certainly don’t foresee me returning as a permanente.
I’ve gone this far with the assumption that everyone might be on some type of social media outlet. Maybe you haven’t been inundated with the same Facebook news flashes. My FB feed offers me daily reminders that San Miguel de Allende is unequivocally the “Best City in the World.” Or so Travel & Leisure magazine offers, with some authority.
Truthfully, the magazine is a tad late with its proclaimation. Because, to some, it’s old news.
U.S. and Canadian expats have been flocking here for many years now. They have found something magical in this place — a recently named World Heritage Site, nestled 6,000-plus feet in the Mexican highlands.
I’ve heard reports that San Miguel’s population is close to 180,000 — with maybe 10-12 percent being comprised of expats. The latter percentage has almost doubled in recent years.
Rather typically — and I’ve heard this tale a few times . . . no sooner had future expats finished their first michelada than they had made a life-changing decision. To move here. To buy a house!
My long-time friends did it. They hatched a plan to head south of the border more than 15 years ago. The couple recently retired, and now they’re living their dream. Riding their coattails, perhaps, I also wanted to experience the lifestyle. But more on that when I talk about living in San Miguel.
Yes, spur-of-the-moment purchases are as common and predictable as fireworks here.
A woman in my Spanish class told me that as soon as she stepped off the plane, she knew it was “home.” Like she’s always belonged here. In fact, she returned to the D.C. area only long enough to quit her government job and plan her quick escape from “gringoland,” a term offered up by a cousin of mine, who happens to live in a neighboring community of San Miguel. The lady from Spanish class soon bought land in el campo, the countryside, and has plans to build. That all happened in the course of, roughly, six months.
My neighbor, a single woman — a retired lawyer, admits that her story is beginning to sound like a cliché. She came to visit a friend, stayed for six weeks, and then returned home long enough to pack up. It was the most affordable retirement option for her. She’s now been living here for several years.
One book author from Seattle made the leap during her first visit here and then surprised her unsuspecting husband back at home with the news. If you want to know how that turns out, get her book: “The View From Casa Cheptitos.” By Judith Gille.
Authors — and artists, too — are inspired by San Miguel. So, you can find ample writings at la bibliotheca here addressing all angles; food, witchcraft (yes, it exists; check out “The Known” by Margaret Tallis), excursions, culture, and, natch, personal experiences regarding moves here.
One of the best stories I’ve heard comes from a semi-retired architect who credits love for bringing him to San Miguel. He met an American woman on Match.com who happened to live here. He flew in to meet her, and the rest is history.
To them all, I say bravo for finding the place of your dreams. And don’t get me wrong, I’m a bit smitten as well. But, I can say that for much of Mexico. Still, I don’t want to move here. Basically, I don’t wanna start over. I enjoy making new friends. But I’ve missed my old friends and my family — as well as the familiar. Terribly so. And I missed grass. For me, I think that’s a major oversight here in centro San Miguel. There are no grassy parks, no inviting spots to spread a blanket and read a book, no walking barefoot in green coolness . . . it’s mostly all concrete, cobblestone and stucco.
I also missed the spontaneity of travel. Initially, since I enjoy walking — for both physical and mental exercise — I relished the idea of going without four wheels for a while. But, alas, there are some cool, nearby places that I would have liked to have just gotten up and gone off to explore — with mis perros. Yes, my pups would have enjoyed excursions to the country. It’s not quite the same when you have to line up a driver. Plus, there’s also the warning: don’t drive after dark. In Mexico. Anywhere.
My six months living here has taught me greater empathy and more — some of which I plan to share via posts. (Probably more than a few, since it’s all top of mind for me now.)
I will be back but just as a guest. I still have a few places around San Miguel that I’d like to visit. Like the pyramids (Cañada de la Virgen), for instance, which were just recently unearthed. And maybe the pueblo fantasma, too. Yes, I hear the ghost town of Mineral de Pozo is finding new life.
Before leaving my rental here, I felt a bit like Dorothy in the Wizard of OZ. You know the moment — when she clicks together her glittery red heels? And she recites quietly and assuredly, “There’s no place like home.”
I’m a Texas girl, proud of her roots. And also happy for the opportunity and time I’ve spent in this lovely out-of-country town.
So, here’s what I plan to share soon about San Miguel de Allende.
Favorite To Dos. Pictures. And, what it was like living here.