The world image of San Miguel de Allende

La Parroquia -The image of San Miguel

La Parroquia -The image of San Miguel

We have lived in San Miguel for over a month and I have waited until the last day to collect my thoughts, observations and feelings before posting. Time changes perception, dulls the edges of the quick judgment. Some people have commented that they would like to read a comparison of SMA (San Miguel de Allende) and Lake Chapala. So be it.


The common misperception of people in SMA is the average person living Lakeside is an 80 year old, military retiree who hangs around in the plaza all day smoking cigarettes and drinking beer at night waiting for his Social Security check to come in.


SMA is (rightly so) designated a world heritage site. Ajijic is quant but the little fishing village hardly compares to SMA in historical and architectural splendor.


SMA seems to attract people from the US who have lived in a large metropolitan city like Manhattan or Boston. The cultural events are good and plenty. In the past month there has been: an International children’s choral festival, a classical guitar festival, an international festival of short cinema, among other things like theater, lectures, art openings, concerts in the Jardin, etc. The “Atencion” has a weekly pull out section of about 8 pages listing the weekly events many of which are free.. In comparison Lakeside tries but is still a distant second in cultural and arts events. Lakeside does have the only English speaking improvisational comedy troupe, Spanglish Imposition, check local listings for times and performances. (I know, a cheap plug)


The women in SMA dress up more and are more fashionable than Lakeside women (Hate me gals) The men? When did any retired guy in Mexico become fashion minded?


A taxi ride here cost 25 peso anywhere in the Centro. Outside Centro the rates are 30 peso. Lakeside., taxi rides are overpriced at $6 to $7 around town. Wow are we ripped off at Lakeside on taxi rides. It’s hard to believe, but drivers in SMA including taxi drivers will actually – – – you won’t believe this people of Jalisco – – – they will stop for you at street corners to let you walk across. They also take turn with other cars at intersections. It is astounding how polite the drivers are here.


The variety and value of restaurants Lakeside seems greater and the prices are slightly less than those in San Miguel.


Spanish is spoken here by staff in restaurants and gift shops much more so than at Lakeside.  In that respect SMA is still very Mexican. You see many more “gringos” running around Lakeside than SMA. The ratio of Mexican’s to English speaker in SMA is about 14 to 1, quite different than Chapala.


There are real art galleries here, as opposed to Lakeside where shops are more arts and crafts and people buy modern art that doesn’t have to be Mexican themed.


Real Estate. Both retirement communities have inflated housing prices and. people still persist in thinking the good old days of 2005 housing bubble are alive and well and they can command any price.  There are several houses Lakeside in the 1 million dollar range; here there are several houses in the Centro of SMA priced over $3 million dollars. One house I saw was $10,000 dollars a square foot  – – – Some sellers are living in an alternate reality.


People? I have to say people Lakeside seem friendlier. But we have more Canadians, and they are a friendly lot. They might say “eh,” pronounce words with a long “o” sound and be falsely accused of being cheap, but they are a levelheaded and practical group of people and we Americans are better off with them around.


The future:  The golden goose is being slowly killed. SMA’s stated population of 140,000 is misleading There are considerably more people if you count the communities in the greater area. With growth left unchecked, SMA will soon become an urban runaway nightmare. On the road west out of town toward Dolores Hidalgo there are several very large (and empty) housing developments. There is also a thirsty golf course. It begs the question: Where are all these people and that golf course going to get water, waste disposal, roads and the other amenities? I am told Mexican government planners in SMA are not concerned.  Manana is great as a lifestyle, bad as urban planning. Understand that there is enough land around SMA to accommodate a population of millions. The recession has slowed down the influx of expats to SMA and Lakeside, but when the US economy recovers and the rest of the baby boomers move down here, well…inset your own overcrowding nightmare. What’s that joke: It’s so crowded people don’t go there anymore. Lakeside, house construction is restricted by the lake and the mountains to a narrow strip of land. But then again, we only have one road going around the lake. The other problems facing SMA is air pollution and in both places the automobile. Cars are smothering both places. Our sleepy fishing village of Ajijic is a parking lot by 10 in the morning any day of the week. Try finding a parking space. In SMA Centro they have restricted parking on many streets and parking lots are all around. Mostly people walk for take taxis. How long before that is the only solution Lakeside? Like it or not, Mexicans and “gringos” cannot ALL have cars one these narrow streets. Maybe the Mexican government should restrict foreigners on visa to just one car per couple? I can hear the whining now. Like Mexico City, expect to see driving restrictions in a few years. It seems the only solution for the cancerous spread of the four wheeled polluting monster. 


All that being said, SMA and Lakeside are still beautiful and a paradise to live in.


Enough said, on to Mexico City. Viva Mexico!


9 Responses to “The world image of San Miguel de Allende”

  1. char Says:

    Enjoyed your blog and looking forward to the next one from Distrito Federal! Enjoy and stay well.

  2. Gail Rooney Says:

    Thanks for the comparison of SMA and Lakeside. I loved visiting SMA, but I guess after reading your blog, I will just visit and won’t consider moving there. I am from Chicago, as you know, and have really missed the big city feeling. I am, however, getting used to Lakeside. I guess I’ll stay for awhile. Have fun on your trip. I can’t wait to hear about Mexico City, another place I wouldn’t mind living, I think!

  3. Alison Says:

    Beautiful photograph and loved your analysis. Very thought-provoking. I’m wondering if you and Anita were able to make any friends and also what Anita thought of the Jewish community?

  4. Linda Bothe Says:

    Thanks for sharing. Never visited SMA, but now, am looking forward to a trip. Love hearing about your adventure. Wishing you a fun and safe tour.

  5. Linda Samuels Says:

    I really enjoyed your comparisons of SMA and Lakeside. I’ve been there several times since I moved to Lakeside and was there twice in the 60’s, so I know how it’s changed.
    I was surprised that Lakeside compared favorably with SMA restaurants in variety and price. I thought when I was there the prices were higher than here and there was more variety in SMA-but Lakeside seems to be catching up.
    Another observation I’ve had when I’ve visited-it seems to me that the extranjeros and Mexicans don’t mix much there. You see more tourists there, many European and Asian, but I didn’t get the feeling that there is much, if any, socialization between the Mexicans and the foreigners.
    For me, SMA is a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there-kind of how I feel about going back to NYC/Manhattan now.
    Thanks, Anita and Michael. Keep enjoying and keep sharing with us. Linda S

  6. su Says:

    Nice to hear from youl. Did you do the painting of the cathedreal?? Very impressive if you did. Glad to hear you are both well and enjoying life. I have never been to D.F. but know that it is a world onto itself. you may be aware that a group of D.F. Jewish families do some guided tours on ‘jewish mexico” I don’t have the source but maybe you can contact a synogogue and find out.. have fun..!!!!

  7. Anita Fante Says:

    Good comparison of both sites. I was a bit disappointed in SMA but I was only there a few days. I thought it was sort of touristy. I saw Americans everywhere and not so many native people. The number of mariachis in the central park was a little sad. Hardly anyone was asking for music to be played while we were there. In fact, we were the only people requesting music. (I know, that’s a very touristy thing but I grew up with the music). Maybe SMA was a bit of a let down after seeing so many wonderful sites south of Mexico City. Thank you for your insights, Anita. Keep them coming.

  8. Diane Pretti Says:

    Anita and Michael,
    I enjoyed your blog and look forward to visiting SMA one day. Liked your comparisons between SMA and Lakeside.
    Look forward to your next blog.
    Stay well.

  9. Stacy Says:

    Enjoyed reading your blogs. You have a talent for giving lots of info, keeping it humorous and interesting to read. Keep it going!

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