A few hours drive north of Mexico City lies the picturesque enclave of San Miguel de Allende. A favorite place among artists, tourists, American retirees, and European expats, San Miguel is best known for its historic center, filled with a plethora of preserved buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries, many of which have been converted to boutique shops, galleries, restaurants, bars and hotels.
While the town’s colonial history dates back to the early 16th century, it was during the recent past – the late 1930s and early 1940s – that San Miguel began to attract artists and writers from around the world. During this period, two prominent art and cultural schools were founded, both of which achieved much success after WW II thanks to the enrollment of many veteran soldiers. As more artists flocked to the city, hotels, shops and restaurants opened to cater to the mass influx of people.
The town's cultural, foreign and cosmopolitan nature continues to this day.
As you walk through the maze of cobble-stoned streets that weave up steep inclines, you’ll feel the charm of the city and be awed by the many well-preserved buildings. But at the same time, you may get the sense that San Miguel is rather un-Mexican since the most obvious culture relates to foreign residents and tourists as opposed to natives.
I happened to visit during the New Year's celebrations, at which time the historic center was cascaded in the light of multi-colored fireworks.