San Miguel de Allende is a small town in the central Mexican highlands. It is a so-called pueblo Magico, these are particularly beautiful, well preserved colonial villages. I was told that especially many foreigners over 50 live here, who either spend the winter or have even moved here completely. If I hadn’t had that information before, I would’ve noticed sooner or later. Nowhere else have I met so many gray-haired happy people.
The Guadiana Park
In the district Guadiana I find an accommodation, directly at the park of the same name, where people meet at stone chess tables or find access to each other in conversations about their dogs. I quickly take this park into my heart although I am actually too young to spend hours on a park bench. But here I sit in the midst of blooming lavender, between cacti and under blue flowering Jacaranda trees and watch the passers-by. There is always a friendly smile and a joyful hello, sometimes a few sentences more.
One of the most common questions is: „do you live here or do you just spend your winter in San Miguel Allende“? No doubt: many foreigners do either one or the other. They are all united by grey hair and a well-groomed appearance and a big big smile. Rarely have I seen so many attractive old people as in San Miguel. Especially women are elegantly styled, many also in bohemian style, with feather decoration and flutter dresses. On the square, the „Walk of Famous“ speaks volumes: you can have sayings, thanks and memories engraved there, explains a small notice on the tree. Sender: Los Amigos del Parque Guadiana. They are foreigners who immortalize themselves here with dedications like this: „To my loving wife Patricia Thanks for making me a better man“ or „my dearest Robert, thanks for your kind words but it’s still a work in porgress“ or also „son, you’ll outgrow my lap but never my heart“.
The calm wind, lavender scent and birdsong, speak a very special language. This is a place where you feel comfortable. The climate is dry and temperate, pleasant 24 degrees Celsius. The sky is light blue, the sun bright, the days warm, the nights cool. What more could you want.
In fact, around 12,000 expats live in this city, i.e. foreigners who have settled here permanently. Most of them come from the USA and Canada. But among the total of 60 nationalities are also German emigrants. And what brings them here, I ask someone who needs to know: Guillermo Gonzales Engelbrecht has German ancestors, his great-grandfather, who came to San Miguel in the 1940s and fell in love with his Mexican great-grandmother. He was the first foreigner at that time and was to remain so for a long time. This only changed in the 1950s. An American from Chicago founded the Instituto Allende, an art school that is still very popular today. At that time he signed a contract with the American military, who sent their war-disabled to the Mexican art school to make them forget the horrors of war. They came and they stayed.
Art and culture for expats
Instituto Allende still offers art and language courses today. In the impressive historical walls lie the studios and in numerous patios and gardens mainly gray-haired students sit and learn Spanish. The hibernators and emigrants in San Miguel Allende want to do interesting things.
The library houses the largest collection of English books in Latin America, and its cafeteria is mainly home to Americans and Canadians, regulars who greet and know each other. They are interested in art and culture, in good food and drink. That is why both are flourishing here: galleries, exhibitions, cinema, theatre and concerts offer ample opportunities for entertainment and education. In hardly any other Mexican city have I found so many stylish restaurants for every taste. The cuisine is as international as the community. But what is special, says Gonzales Engelbrecht, is that the foreigners in San Miguel integrate so well. Many volunteer in NGO’s, they contribute to the community, they want to make themselves useful. And that seems to be good for living together.
San Miguel is booming
Of course, the brisk influx also has its downsides: property prices are exploding, rents are almost impossible for someone who has no foreign exchange to pay and the general price level is also rising. On the other hand, many jobs depend on the expat group: they need domestic staff, gardeners, cooks, taxes and many other services. The smart business ideas, such as vegan restaurants, eco shops, handmade soaps and cosmetics, cold-pressed olive oil from regional production, yoga and fitness studios, massage and beauty salons serve this foreign clientele and will be a great success.
There is nothing in San Miguel that is not found in other cool cities around the world. Including hipster culture and – unfortunately also- coffee to go. Why, I wonder, do pensioners have to have a coffee to go? Why the hell do we always have to send our mistakes and errors into the world? Why not have a coffee in one of these beautiful places in the shade of a tree? Especially at our age. If our generation does not know what problems plastics cause the world, especially in countries that have neither waste recycling nor waste prevention strategies. Oh, what am I worried about, better I go to Guadiana park and relax.