Always at the top of the list of places to visit in Mexico and the world, San Miguel is indeed a very special place. And the city’s historic center El Centro is the heart of San Miguel de Allende.
Recognized throughout the centuries as a very beautiful city in Mexico’s highlands, the federal government in 1930 decided to establish protections for the treasure trove of colonial structures in the historic city-center and elsewhere.
Until the 1970s, the historic center was the only game in town. For expats, you either lived in El Centro or you lived in the country, and overwhelmingly expats chose the center of the city. Leonard Brook’s biography describes Leonard and Riva arriving at the train station soon after the second world war and making the “2-mile journey” to San Miguel. Today, the train station is near the edge of town.
Those expat pioneers came for the city, came for the weather and came for the 16th and 17th century houses, which were more often than not in ruins. There were few restaurants at that time and they were certainly nothing anyone dared call “world class,” except perhaps an artist or two.
As the city grew locals began selling their historic homes in El Centro to expats and people who were moving from other places in Mexico. El Centro remains the first choice of most buyers. Land values are a bit higher in Guadiana because it’s near the center of the city and it’s quieter, but buyers overwhelming still prefer El Centro. Less than a year ago a lot in Sollano sold for US$850. At the same time more and more people sold their homes in El Centro and moved further out in the city or to the country. San Antonio, which was once a bit of a “no-go zone” is now thriving and very much like El Centro was when I first came in 1994.
Compared to 20 years ago, El Centro is much busier and packed with extraordinary restaurants and shopping, which makes it a tourist magnet. About 600 destination weddings take place each year, often with fireworks, parades and drones. Traditional feast days and festivals now have much greater attendance, especially The Day of The Dead observance. There are now a number of times a year when you are literally unable to remove your car from your garage in certain areas.
If your lifestyle includes eating at one of our amazing restaurants at least once a day, you are likely a candidate for the El Centro. Ditto if you power shop regularly. Many of El Centro’s happiest residents are not full-time. If you come for a season or for a week or two every month, you are likely to find the pluses bigger and the minuses more manageable. For many expats who want to escape the constant use of their car, El Centro is the greatest gift of all.
In our last downturn in prices, El Centro fell less and began to rise first and my guess is that will be the same this time, also. Not only do buyers prefer the location, but the short- term rental market many depend upon for income has traditionally been strong in helping to offset carrying costs.