A Quick Update

In 2010, we moved back to the small town in Colorado that I never stopped missing while we lived in Mexico. Now I sometimes miss Mexico, but I wouldn't travel as freely as we did when we were there, camping out in remote areas and so forth.

Mexico today is in a period of change, and in many ways it is more dangerous now. That said, I have plenty of American friends who still live there very happily, just taking a few more precautions than they did in the past.

Just to say!

Rosana

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Feb. 14, 2005 — We are in San Miguel de Allende to visit friends, and a couple of days ago I walked downtown from our campground. Signs of the large English-speaking population are everywhere: many ads are in both languages or in English alone, and a lot of the people I saw (though well less than 10% in most places I went) appeared to be Americans, Canadians, or Europeans.

San Miguel de Allende became popular with foreigners after World War II, when the Instituto Allende was formed for artists. Over the decades, more and more foreigners have come here, for the flourishing arts scene, to learn Spanish, or simply because it was a place with a large expat group. As a result, real estate prices have gone up and up. I heard them compared to San Francisco prices yesterday.

I wrote about San Miguel two years ago, examining its pros and cons and telling the story of our time there. In the only conversation I’d had with a Mexican about the effects of all these gringos, she had been very happy for the prosperity and work they brought.

This week, I heard a different side of things. I was looking for the market, which was not where the map in my Frommer’s Mexico said it was. I stopped in a little grocery store and asked directions. Then when I had been to the market, I remembered I wanted a jar of mayonesa (tastier than our mayonnaise with a bit of lime juice in it), so I stopped back in the same store. The woman who had given me directions was probably in her 50s, and spoke pretty clear Spanish. So as I paid her, I asked her what the Mexicans thought of the foreign presence.

She began diplomatically, saying everyone was welcome as a visitor. But, she said, it was wrong that the government allowed them to buy homes and land. The prices were now so high that most Mexicans couldn’t afford to buy in their own city. “Where are we going to go?” she asked with indignation. She assured me that I and my fellow foreigners were truly welcome, that the Mexicans were very glad to have us see their life and culture. But again she returned to the theme of being forced out by people whose wealth they couldn’t compete with.

So that’s another take. Two conversations hardly provide a total view, but it’s food for thought. I must admit that it wouldn’t stop me from buying a home in Mexico if Kelly and I decide at some point we want to do that. But if we do, I would feel the need to give back to the community in some way, by teaching English as a volunteer, or something.

2 Responses to “San Miguel de Allende: Conversation with a Mexican”

  • Liz P. says:

    4 years later! What a nice thing to say . Wonder if you did actually buy something. I’ll be going to SMA in Jan. and was looking for some observations like yours. I’m kind of worried about too much American influence.

  • Rosana says:

    We bought a house in the Lake Chapala area instead of SMA. We are in a more Mexican area and have enjoyed having both culltures here.

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