Living, Working and Retirement in San Miguel de Allende
Updated: Jan 26, 2021
Ignacio Allende is one of the Mexico’s most famous historical figures who was a captain in the Spanish army and later sympathizer of the Independence Movement. Although he was captured and executed for treason, he is considered one of the founding fathers of Mexico and began the movement that led to Mexico becoming free of Spanish rule.
The city’s importance began to decline after the War of Independence and, by the turn of the 20th century, San Miguel de Allende was in real danger of becoming an abandoned ghost town. It was its Baroque-Neoclassical architecture which captured the attention of foreign artists who, in the mid 20th Century began to move here and set-up several cultural and artistic institutions in the town. Famous artists, including Siquieros, began to lend the town some notoriety, and so followed a steady stream of foreign students, artists and retirees who came to San Miguel. Today, tourism, art, culture, retail commerce, and agriculture are the mainstays of the local economy.
From its historical roots, San Miguel has been transformed from a quiet, quaint, cobble-lined town that really started to develop under the auspices of artists who adopted the town in the 1950s—to today’s explosion of popularity with so many foreign expatriates choosing to live (full-time or part-time) in Mexico that the town is one of the most densely populated expatriate areas in the entire country.
The overall feel of San Miguel remains colonial and bohemian, but the town is alive with activity and growth which continues to make this one of the most coveted places for living, working and retirement by foreign expatriates.
One of the most alluring features of San Miguel de Allende is that it has successfully managed to combine old-world charm with modern-day cosmopolitan lifestyle and amenities.
Most of the art and cultural activities which take place here are concerned with arts and learning, painting, weaving, photography and sculpture. San Miguel is also one of the most popular places for foreigners to come and learn Spanish, and so Spanish language schools have become an important part of the local economy.
The influx of expatriates and well-heeled Mexicans has not gone unnoticed by investors. The city is developing rapidly and the outskirts of the city are being developed with housing projects. Major retail brands, including Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Starbucks and others, have moved in, either to San Miguel proper or nearby Celaya. Franchises setting up in San Miguel are doing so to mixed reviews by local people, some of whom may be heard moaning about the inevitable commercialization these bring, but who probably also value the convenience they amenities offer, nonetheless. For local Mexicans, these investments bring much-needed infrastructure and jobs to what remains a semi-rural environment in the Mexican colonial heartland.
Continuing Popularity Among Visitors, Expatriates and Mexicans
San Miguel de Allende continues to be one of the country’s most important tourist centers. In part due to its location–it’s situated centrally the heartland of the colonial ‘silver’ cities– and also because the town’s charm is well supported by its excellent amenities (fine hotels, restaurants and shops) which cater well to modern visitor’s needs and desires.
Foreign expatriates continue to flock here, too. Some of the expats who arrived in the 1960’s and were left disappointed by the colossal transformation that took place have chosen to leave, but their spaces have been eagerly taken by others who hold no such nostalgia for the old and are quite content with the town in its present-day form.
Some of those moving-in are well-heeled Mexicans, who have established country homes here, often visiting at weekends, or renting out the homes to visitors when they themselves are not using the property.
San Miguel de Allende, like a number of other prominent and popular Mexican towns and cities has experienced a massive surge of inward investment since the mid 1990’s. These capital inflows have created a renaissance of San Miguel’s historic center and especially the outlying areas in the mountainside which surround this picturesque town.
As San Miguel became one of THE most sought-after places to live in Mexico between 2000 and 2008, dozens of new building projects ensued and, when the most desirable areas of the historic center has been bought and/or restored, developers moved to fill the unquenching demand for homes by developing housing projects in the hills and mountains surrounding the city. See ‘real estate’ in this guide for more information.