This colonial gem, home to about 5,000 American and Canadian expatriates, was declared a national monument in 1926 and is a completely charming city of well-preserved cobblestone streets and colonial-era mansions all perched on a hillside above the Laja River 60 km north of Queretaro. Because of its national monument status, new buildings that would change the character and appearance of San Miguel are strictly regulated. This ensures that San Miguel's unique character will endure for years to come and makes this city of about 70,000 a wonderful retirement spot or a "must-see" stop on anyone's colonial city itinerary.
Celebrated as an artists' community, the city has a vibrant cultural scene and is home to numerous religious festivals each year. Visitors will also find some of Mexico's best shopping here, and restaurants are plentiful and top-notch, encompassing a variety of international cuisines. It is, in fact, surprising that a city of San Miguel's size has such a wide assortment of fine dining. The world-famous Instituto Allende is here and draws some of the world's best artists and craftspeople. It is generally recommended that anyone considering retiring here have an interest in the arts as that is the primary focus of most events and activities in town.
Pan. Monjas y Parroquia.jpg (29957 bytes) Despite its influx of gringos, San Miguel is a very Mexican community and has not become too "Anglicized," although the foreign influence can be felt. The cost of living remains low, and we know of expatriate retirees who pay $650 a month in rent for a nice home not too far from downtown. San Miguel is a little more expensive than Lake Chapala, but a comfortable (although not elaborate) lifestyle can be had here for about $1,600 a month. Of course, it is possible to spend much more; it depends on the lifestyle you choose. For people considering retirement in Mexico we always highly recommend that they come to Mexico and spend at least six months getting accustomed to living in this third-world country.
While San Miguel is one of the most picturesque cities in Mexico and has a sizeable expatriate retiree population (as a result, English is spoken around town), a permanent move to anywhere in Mexico can cause intense culture shock for anyone who has not spent significant time here. A week vacationing in Cancun is not the same thing as living here. The best plan of action for those considering retirement here is to come down for a week, secure a place to rent for six months and then come back when the rental period begins.
Many rentals are furnished so you do not need to bring furniture down (and thus you can avoid the duty imposed). Spend your six months exploring the city and finding other expatriates with whom to socialize, at least at first, so as to avoid feeling isolated. Find out what it is like riding the buses, paying with pesos and living in the land of "manana" on a daily basis before coming to stay for good. Then when and if you decide you love Mexico, make the move permanent.