Now that I live in the San Miguel de Allende of Bentleys and 10,000 sq. ft. houses, the San Miguel often called the most important culinary center in Mexico and reported to be one of the best places to live in the world (I have questions on both counts), I often forget the San Miguel of the past when hippies and lost souls came for a few years and then gave their houses to their maids and moved on to Goa or Nepal or jail.
The expat world of San Miguel of long ago was often known for sex parties fueled by endless quantities of tequila. Beat generation icon Neil Cassady was found dead by the railroad tracks after one bacchanal. So, when a client asked me if I would show her some properties in what she called the “Hippie Area,” I had no idea what she was talking about.
Then it occurred to me that she meant Guadalupe, one of my favorite colonias (neighborhoods). Guadalupe is a small colonia just outside the historic center and just outside Zona B, which is the protective border zone surrounding the historic center, Zona A.
Because of the unrestricted freedom to build in the area and Guadalupe’s terrific location – between the Center and Fabricia Aurora – it has sheltered numerous artists and would be artists. They have built with a verve and joy not allowed in the historic core and generally unseen in the U.S. and Canada. Recent new residents have continued the tradition with modern homes of all types and even a Gaudiesque (Antoni Gaudí, the great Spanish architect) building I think is a sex and/or drug club! Oh, my!
Despite bordering on busy streets and being right in the middle of the action, it is a quiet and tranquil area with little through-traffic and a larger Mexican vibe than many other areas. It also has excellent Mexican street foods, including the delicious tacos al pastor. Via Organica, San Miguel’s best organic food store, is in Guadalupe as is EXTREME GYM, the newest gym with a wonderful neighborhood feel and a terrific manager.
Visitors are generally shocked by how much prices fall as you leave the Centro and enter Guadalupe. For example, a two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath home with 1,356 sq. ft of living space can be purchased for just under US$300,000.
You will even find some small workshops in the neighborhood where artisans make things that are sold in the Centro. It is such a gift to walk through a quiet neighborhood in San Miguel, especially with all the hubbub that occurs when you are named the best small city in the world!
But everything changes and it was inevitable that San Miguel would change, too. The Internet and the rising numbers of expat retirees would see to that, and the now zooming numbers of Mexican weekenders have put the final nail in the old San Miguel. The new San Miguel is where people move to create organic farms or open world class restaurants or decide to base their bio-tech startup.
On a cool afternoon in February the echoes of Neil Cassady and Sterling Dickinson and the artists who dreamed of fomenting a communist revolution in Mexico can still be heard. At that time, San Miguel was like catnip to so many round pegs that couldn’t fit into the square holes of a puritan America.
Today, those same back streets of Guadalupe down by the river are still the choice of freethinkers who want to make San Miguel de Allende their home.