Finding Your Community in San Miguel de Allende
On a sunny afternoon, I met Nancy, Ann and Amber on the sprawling terrace of a gorgeous grey-stone home overlooking central San Miguel. This home happens to be one of their currently listings. They were preparing for a video shoot, doting over one another as they each had their hair and make-up styled. You could mistake them for three generations of one family- they even have similar subtle accents of the southern United States. While it’s both friendship and business that bonds these women (who have 70+ years living in San Miguel between them), Nancy tells me it’s their twenty-year age gap that proves San Miguel has a unique way of creating community across generational variants. If moving here is something that you’re considering, they will be the first to tell you that community and relationships is what makes this small city an extraordinary place to call home. While deciding to move to another country is something that unites all expats, the road to getting there can be complicated, which is why Nancy, Ann, and Amber have carved out some clear paths that will help guide you toward your community.
Start with the basics and learn some Spanish, so that you are able to communicate what it is that you would like to say even if it is rudimentary. Even if you’re planning to be in San Miguel only part-time, a surefire way to cross paths with new friends is in a Spanish class. Learning a new language together is the epitome of a bonding experience and it is exactly how Nancy met many of her friends that decades later she meets for coffee and dinner regularly. There are immersive and energetic group classes that will build your confidence and introduce you to an instant community of likeminded, soon-to-be bilinguals.
“We will always be visitors here, the absolute best way to have a good life in San Miguel de Allende is to be a good guest.”
Find that creative class you’ve been aching to take. It is not only an opportunity for you to enjoy doing something that you love, but it is another great way to meet people with your same interests. Living life to simply bask in the pleasures of whatever makes your heart sing is what San Miguel truly encourages. Whether it’s jewelry-making, oil painting, horseback riding or Qigong, there is a class in San Miguel where you can meet other adventurous souls. (Side note: I actually met Ann at a water-aerobics class. She jovially watched from the sidelines and took photos while her husband, son, and I painstakingly attempted to keep our heads above water).
Ann recalls that joining Club Malanquín was how she met many of her now, longtime friends and decades later she is still currently a member. Her husband, Jim is an avid horseback rider and is actively involved with the equestrian community with whom for the last fifteen years he has participated in an annual reenactment of a historical ride from Querétaro to the city of Dolores-Hidalgo over a four-day period. “I still amazed each and every time, the 200 plus riders enter San Miguel to give the "message" to the mayor and then unward to deliver it in Dolores to the Governor.
Ann will also be the first to tell you to take a break from cooking and go out to eat. “The restaurant scene just gets better every year and with family and work, it’s a blessing to have such incredible options within walking distance from Centro.” Amber vehemently agreed, adding that since she was born in San Miguel and returned after leaving for a time in her late teens, she recalls how exciting it was to see the restaurant scene burgeoning upon her return in the early 2000's. San Miguel is now a dining destination for visitors from around the globe. Among the best are Mi Bistro 300, Terraza 48, The Restaurant, Atrio, and if you enjoy live music and Flamenco performances, Paprika on Saturday nights is the place to be.
Take a walk around and visit with your neighbors. Yes, this seems obvious, but there is actually a cultural distinction here. Family is an essential part of the Latin culture; the neighborhoods are lively and full of multi-generational households. Introducing yourself to your vecina is not only a way to hear all the news about the neighborhood, it’s also how you will begin building deep relationships with multiple generations of local people. As Nancy summarized of her decades-long experience of living in San Miguel, “We will always be visitors here, the absolute best way to have a good life in San Miguel de Allende is to be a good guest.”
There is a quality that makes a person fall in love with this city. Just like love at first sight. It’s hard not to fall prey to the romantic cobblestone streets, bright purple Jacaranda trees, the gothic cathedral and blooming cacti in fall. We all understand why more people are flocking to this unique place. While certainly there is a difference in retiring here versus moving here and working remotely or operating a local business as Nancy, Ann and Amber do, the best part in finding your flow as you settle into a lifestyle here is that you can be certain there are hundreds of other people in San Miguel that have your experience in common. As a mother of two young kids, Amber rejoices in the ease in which she makes friends here. “I meet people just passing by on the street, especially if I’m with my kids and I see another family with kids around the same age, it’s typical to strike up a conversation about where they go to school.” Each year we’re seeing more young families move here to raise their children in a safe and beautiful place- and they’re looking for family-oriented community. “Just the other day, I met two moms at a coffee shop and now we have a group chat and are making plans for just us, and for the kids,” Amber continued, “the openness of this community is incredible”.
San Miguel encourages you, its guests, to live the dream that you’ve created in your mind (or at least come try it out). Other creatives, families, retirees, single entrepreneurs, and business owners will serve as a guiding light so that you may land in your niche. Be curious, brave, and absorb everything you see without too many preconceptions.
As the sun set and the air moved a gentle breeze, the stylists packed up their belongings and I did the same. Then Nancy added, in the last-minute fashion of sage advice, “Keep in mind, you don’t have to be perfect to live here,” she winked and simultaneously joked with the make-up artist about creating more of a tan for her camera-ready look. This is true and based on the lived experience of many. You do not have to be perfect to live here, San Miguel will accept you as you are. There is plenty of pressure to be the best, especially in the cutthroat economies that many of us know. But here, it was not long ago that shops closed from 2PM to 4PM for comida and possibly a siesta before reopening until 7pm. San Miguel encourages you, its guests, to live the dream that you’ve created in your mind (or at least come try it out). Other creatives, families, retirees, single entrepreneurs, and business owners will serve as a guiding light so that you may land in your niche. Be curious, brave, and absorb everything you see without too many preconceptions. Get to know the Mexican traditions and immerse yourself in the local scene, take a class, or ten classes. Allow for this to take its time and rejoice in the natural flow of this beloved city.