“Gringo Land,” the taxi driver said. He had spent much of his youth in San Miguel de Allende, but he wasn’t thrilled with the direction his town had taken. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I stepped from the local bus on Canal Street in San Miguel. The bus dropped me a couple of blocks from the main square, “The Jardin.” The towers of the La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, rose above the surrounding buildings. “Easy to find,” I thought. “No way to get lost in this town.
As I walked up toward the Jardin, I heard a voice, not a mariachi band or someone speaking in Spanish. “Breathe in through your mouth and out through your nose. Lift those hips.” Yoga? Yup, a fucking yoga class in front of the church, the leader chanted his instructions with a loudspeaker. And the students, I haven’t seen that much sagging white flesh and varicose veins since my last high school reunion.
In Guanajuato, gringos are the exception, in San Miguel, they’re the rule. You don’t see many locals in the center of town. They do venture there, but for special occasions. In my three hours in San Miguel, there was a baptism and a wedding ceremony in the church. It’s still the beating heart of the town, but it beats slower now.
San Miguel is a beautiful town. It’s easy to see why Americans are drawn here: great weather, comparatively cheap prices, an artistic haven. What’s not to love? I’m not a shop-til-you-drop guy, so maybe that’s why I didn’t like San Miguel as much as Guanajuato. That’s not to say I wouldn’t return here. They have a vibrant writing community, art schools, language schools, it’s easier to navigate than Guanajuato, but sometimes difficulty is part of the fun.
Mexican buses: Perhaps the biggest surprise of my trip was the Mexican bus system: cheap, clean and efficient. An hour and a half drive from Guanajuato to San Miguel cost $8.50. For that price you get a box lunch, a reserved seat, plenty of leg room, a television in the back of the seat, no surcharges for luggage and it left on time. Europe has their trains, Mexico has its buses, and we have . . . crappy airlines, customers treated like crap, $50 to check a bag, seats built for midgets and overworked airline employees. Rant over.