San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende is located in the far eastern part of the state of Guanajuato in central Mexico. It is 274 km from Mexico City and 97 km from the state capital of Guanajuato. Historically, the town is important as being the birthplace of Ignacio Allende, whose surname was added to the town’s name in 1826, as well as the first municipality declared independent of Spanish rule by the nascent insurgent army during the Mexican War of Independence.
The city has been known by various names since the Spanish founded the settlement. It was called Izcuinapan by the indigenous peoples. The Spanish originally called it San Miguel el Grande and sometimes San Miguel de los Chichimecas. "San Miguel refers to the founder of the city Fray Juan de San Miguel. The name of the town was changed in 1826 to San Miguel de Allende in order to honor Ignacio Allende, who was born here.
By the mid 16th century, silver had been discovered in Zacatecas and a major road between this area and Mexico City passed through San Miguel. Indigenous attacks on caravans continued and San Miguel became an important military and commercial site. To quell these attacks as well as rebellions against Spanish rule, the viceroy in Mexico City granted lands and cattle to a number of Spaniards to have them settle the area. He also gave indigenous groups limited self rule and excused them from taxation. The location of the town would make the town a melting pot as Spanish, indigenous peoples and later Criollos would exchange cultural influences.
In the late 1930s and early 1940s, the town began to attract artists and writers. One prominent artist and writer was Stirling Dickinson, an American, who came in 1938. In the 1940s, Dickinson established the Instituto Allende. Another art and cultural school established around the same time is the Escuela de Bellas Artes. Despite their rural location, both schools would find success after the Second World War. U.S. veterans studying under the G.I. Bill were permitted to study abroad, and these schools took advantage, attracting former soldiers as students. Enrollment at the schools rose and this began the town's cultural reputation. This attracted more artists and writers, including José Chávez Morado and David Alfaro Siqueiros, who taught painting at the Escuela de Bellas Artes. This, in turn, spurred the opening of hotels, shops and restaurants to cater to the new visitors and residents. Many of the American veterans who came to study in San Miguel would later come back to retire, thus beginning the town’s reputation as a American enclave in Mexico. These Americans have been credited with saving the town.
San Miguel de Allende has attracted a very large number of foreign retirees, artists, writers and tourists, which is shifting the area’s economy from agriculture and industry to commerce catering to outside visitors and residents. The main attraction of the town is its well-preserved historic center, filled with buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries. This and the nearby Sanctuary of Atotonilco have been declared World Heritage Sites.
Art and Culture: Much of the most obvious culture seen on the streets of the town relates to foreign residents and visitors. The town contains organic restaurants /cafes, boutiques, art galleries, upscale restaurants and hotels, and a wide variety of bars and nightclubs. Bars and nightclubs range from DJs or loud bands catering to young people, to jazz clubs, sports bars and even those that specialize in traditional Mexican music such as mariachi. Some are owned by foreigners and reflect that ownership. Shops around the Jardin Principal sell art, handcrafts, furniture and decorative items. The Fabrica La Aurora is an old textile mill that has been converted into galleries and shops selling art, furnishings and antiques; it has a lot of open space along with a café and restaurant. San Miguel has several schools for learning Spanish, most catering to foreign visitors. These include the Instituto Allende (with credits transferable to U.S. or Canadian colleges), Bellas Artes, Academia Hispanoamericana, Warren Hardy Spanish School among others.
San Miguel de Allende has long had a reputation as a haven for visual artists. Since the 1950s, when Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros worked there, it has attracted professional and amateur painters, sculptors and printmakers to the classes and workshops frequently held. In addition to two major art institutions (Instituto Allende and Bellas Artes), artists and art venues can be seen in various parts of the town.
Climate Conditions: At 1,910 meters (6,266 feet) above sea level, weather is typical of central mountainous Mexico. It varies little, and even in the hottest months (May and June) when daytime temperatures can reach 100F (over 35C), the dry air makes it tolerable and cool mountain breezes tend to make evenings delightful. Winter evenings (from December to February) can get cold, even down to freezing overnight, but it warms up quickly in the morning. The rainy season extends from June to September when days are pleasant for sightseeing until heavy downpours (usually late in the afternoon and evening) cool and freshen the air.
San Miguel’s average climates during the year:
Month/High Temperature (C-F) : Jan 22/71, Feb 23/74, Mar 25/78, Apr 28/81, May30/83, Jun 27/80, Jul 25/78, Aug 25/78, Sep 24/76, Oct 24/76, Nov 23/74, and Dec 22/71.
Month/Low Temperatures (C-F) : Jan 8/46, Feb 9/48, Mar 10/50, Apr 12/54, May 14/57, Jun 14/58, Jul 14/58, Aug 14/58, Sep 14/57, Oct 12/54, Nov , 10/49 and Dec 8/47
Getting here : By Air - There is no airport at San Miguel de Allende, but if you want to fly you have two options: Aeropuerto Internacional del Bajio near Leon and Aeropuerto Internacional de Queretaro. Check carriers that fly to each location. Many also fly into Mexico City's International airport. Ground transport to San Miguel from airports is by private taxi or Airport Transfers. By Bus - You can travel to San Miguel on a luxury bus from Mexico City - the trip takes around 4 hours and departs from Mexico City's northern bus terminal. If you don't want to travel across Mexico City from the airport to the bus terminal, you can board a bus from Mexico City's airport to Queretaro, where you can change and board a second bus to San Miguel. By Car - Driving to San Miguel is very fast and efficient with the roads and toll roads that connect the region. Car Rental - To explore Mexico's colonial towns and cities, consider renting a car for your visit. Having your own car will give you more flexibility than using public transport options and, in some cases, offer you access to places which are otherwise difficult to visit without the use of a car.
San Miguel de Allende is a safe place day and night. No wonder thousands of retired North Americans choose this city as their home.
San Miguel has a huge number of festivals and parties. There is a saying that Mexicans will find any excuse to have a party. This is no more true than in San Miguel de Allende which literally has a celebration -big or small- happening every week of the year.
San Miguel awaits you to enjoy the every day’s fiesta!