I thought, My God, what a sight! What a place! I said to myself at that moment, I’m going to stay here.
Important to Mexican history as the birthplace of Ignacio Allende, a leader of the Mexican war for independence from Spain, San Miguel was the first Mexican town to break free of Spanish rule. In 1926 the Mexican government showed great foresight and declared San Miguel de Allende a National Historic Monument. Development in el Centro, the downtown district, has been restricted to preserve the city’s colonial architecture.
Located in the highlands of the state of Guanajuato (Mexico) in the Bajio Mountains, the municipality of San Miguel de Allende has a population of about 160,000 according to the 2010 federal census. The population for the city proper was almost 69,000.
The number of foreign-born residents is open to dispute: the federal census listed 3,107 for the municipality, but in 2005 the city of San Miguel used 12,000 (7,000 resident visas and 5,000 tourist visas) for planning purposes. Most extranjeros (foreigners) are norteamericanos from the United States and Canada. It is unknown how many holding visas might identify as Mexican but were born in another country. The ex-pat community here is well-established and has a number of informal and formal institutions, some of which date to the 1950s and earlier, that furnish it with activities and culture.
In addition to the ex-pat population, San Miguel has become a day-trip and second-home destination for Mexicans, especially those from Mexico City. A number of McMansion-like San Miguel properties were purchased by Mexicans when norteamericanos, primarily Texans, found it necessary to sell during the economic downtown and real-estate meltdown of the 2000s.
San Miguel is in a region that was known for silver mining. It’s located at 1910 meters (6230 feet) so the sun is strong and the nights are cool. It’s about 275 km (170 miles) northwest of Mexico City.
Called Izcuinapan by the indigenous peoples, Father Juan de San Miguel founded the European settlement, which the Spanish called San Miguel el Grande and sometimes San Miguel de los Chichimecas. In 1826 the name of the town was changed to San Miguel de Allende to honor Ignacio Allende. The surrounding municipality is officially called Allende, Currently the city’s official name is the Protective town of San Miguel de Allende and the Sanctuary of Jesús Nazareno de Atotonilco.