words by Danielle Robles; photos by Anjelica Jardiel
There was magic in the air the second we pulled up. It was palpable. After sitting squished for 4 hours in a minivan with 3 other travel-fatigued amigas, arriving in San Miguel de Allende felt like a welcomed (and much deserved) reward. We entered beneath the stoned archway, atop a bumpy dirt road, and inhaled a deep breath of serenity. Man, it was so necessary.
We arrived in San Miguel on somewhat of a whim (crashing a friend's itinerary and another friend's house), but I am certain the universe called for it. Because the more and more we learned about this mystic little town, the more convinced we became that it was exactly where we were supposed to be.
Founded in 1542, the settlement of San Miguel had become wealthy from nearby silver mines during centuries of Spanish rule, then fell on hard times as the ore was depleted. Then, between the War of Independence from Spain and the Mexican Revolution, the town was reduced to less than 7,000 people—the desolate buildings left in crumbling ruins. In 1937 a young American fella named Stirling Dickinson arrived in San Miguel and, according to legend, proceeded to lead a renaissance that would transform the tiny town into a major destination for artists and expatriates alike.
During World War II, Dickinson served with U.S. Naval Intelligence and after the war, he returned to San Miguel—recruiting hundreds of young American veterans to study at Bellas Artes (an art institute he had co-founded) under the G.I. Bill of Rights. The artist vibes of the town still pulsate at its core, and the "mestizaje" (cultural mixing) seems to add a rather unique twist.
Beyond the bohemian vibes, what makes San Miguel de Allende so incredible are the picturesque buildings—particularly those that make up the town square. And since San Miguel appears to be straight out of a fairly tale, weddings and street parties occur nearly every weekend. The restaurants also take the more artisan route—menus range from serious culinary treats to local organic cuisine to more authentic, flavorful fare.
Overall San Miguel de Allende had (and was) everything we could ever dream of—and so much more. Our days were filled with delectable brunches and shopping and strolling, while evenings were spent sipping wine on rooftops, predicting futures, and devouring Mexican hot cocoa and churros.
If there's one thing to say about San Miguel de Allende it's: go. Just go. Because no words or photos can accurately depict how truly magnetic this town is. Nothing can do it justice. It's a tranquil retreat, slathered in art and amazing cuisine, and the architecture (be still my heart) is simply not of this world.