It was almost five o’clock on a Sunday, two weeks after arriving in Mexico, that I began to fully realize my presence there. I sat on our patio and watched the sun rays split the clouds surrounding. I could hear dogs and shouting; I surmised that the latter was from a football match close by. Small trees in potted plants swayed against the wind. My bare arms were pimpled; as usual, I had underestimated the chill outside of my door. We had just spent almost an entire year in winter and I craved the sun.
I rubbed my arms to create warmth and refused to go back inside. At moments I shivered, but I held fast to wait out those last few moments of daylight.
Not that I would characterize San Miguel as wonderfully exotic to begin with as the city is notoriously packed with expats from far reaches of North America. The appeal to gringos is apparent as it has many fantastic offerings: a thriving art scene, great choices for food, and one can’t deny the charming beauty of its colourful streets. For us, and those who attribute higher value to places that are perceived as more challenging, San Miguel can appear a bit tedious. But in our state of work overload, it was also pretty much exactly what we needed. We were comfortable and the living was easy, which allowed us to focus on our business for the month.
We were completely content. I can’t even begin to explain the immense relief felt upon arrival back in Mexico, despite what happened to Pete on the coast during our last visit. Even though that horrifying event was almost two years ago now, I had expected to encounter a bit of residual anxiety. But to my surprise, neither of us harboured any in the slightest. Mexico instead reminded us of its best qualities: that it is friendly, unpretentious, and downright soul-nourishing. We were once again quickly and completely hooked.
But we unfortunately have little to report on from a tourist’s point of view. Even though we were there over the holiday season and public events were frequent, we shied away from most. Instead we mostly huddled inside and chipped away at our task list. And thus our first month in Mexico whizzed by, and our reflection on San Miguel is made up of just a few defining moments…
The view from our patio was not a dissimilar one, I realized after the movie, as I moved from the couch to outside, again longing to take in some fresh air and the last of the sun’s warmth. And yes, I heard loud bangs constantly too. But those were from fire crackers, not guns. There was also a marching band several streets over. I heard kids laughing and squealing.
How poorly Mexico is portrayed, I thought, knowing that the movie scene is how most people see this country, as opposed to the peaceful view spread out before me. How broad the brush is that paints all of Mexico as dangerous and unworthy.
How sad for all of those who are missing out because of fear.
We don’t often find ourselves visiting places we’ve been to before, being far too addicted to “new”. But I will admit it felt good to be somewhere familiar and know our way around without stumbling. This should be something we consider more often.
THREE, FOUR, FIVE, SIX…
I’ll be honest: it was ultimately the food that brought us back to Mexico this winter. And it’s always memorable to eat a delicious plate of Al Pastor tacos, which is why we did it so often.
A group of partiers emerged from a house just across the street and proceeded to walk around the block and back inside, hooting and cheering as they went. A couple of people were curiously pulling suitcases behind them, which we learned later is a Mexican New Year tradition. Such a ritual, to walk a suitcase around the block just after midnight, is said to bring good travels in the new year. An alternative is to place a suitcase in the middle of the room and walk around it.
We were glad they had brought their party outside. Feliz año nuevo, we yelled and waved at them, and our greeting was enthusiastically returned.
And with that, our new year had begun.
So happy to see peace and beauty in Mexico. Thanks for these pictures and good words.
The majority of Mexico is peace and beauty!
SMA in one month! Can’t wait!
I love time to go back and decompress from a hectic travel schedule so I completely get what your talking about. Although I wish I could have really authentic Mexican cuisine here in Hawaii, Unlike San Miguel.
noel recently posted..Top food destinations around the world
Ohh…the food is just so amazing here. Mexican is top five for both of us (actually probably top three for me).
We’re pretty sure we’ll be spending part of next winter in Mexico, and this is just fuel to the fire! I’ve heard great things about Merida, Oaxaca, San Miguel, and Guanajuato for digital nomads on a budget. Where would you recommend we stay if we had next January and February, for example?
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Soon we will be able to report on Merida (going there next week), but any of your other choices are a good bet. Of those three, I think I might have to put both Oaxaca and Guanajuato ahead of San Miguel. Oaxaca is a bigger city (we’re here right now and staying in a smaller surrounding town which we LOVE), but Guanajuato is just so stunningly beautiful. It depends on what you are really looking for in a place!
Lovely to read about the peaceful side of Mexico. I must admit fear has kept us away lately so reading your first hand account is encouraging. We spent two weeks in Baja a couple of years ago kayaking down the coast and camping under the stars. It was one of my favourite trips. And you’re right the food in incredible. And the people are so warm and friendly. You have me thinking and planning. Thanks and hopefully the next month will be less work and more play for you guys 🙂
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We have spent so much time in Latin America and will firmly say that we feel safest in Mexico – even after what happened to Pete. The people are so friendly and warm, we honestly just can’t get enough. We feel so comfortable here! That trip to the Baja is one my dreams – we really have to make it happen!
It was amazing Dalene, a week kayaking down the coast. We saw blue whales, incredible. The best trips are the ones where we put our watches away and go by the sun. That was pre baby days but can’t wait to take our little man on a big adventure like this one day. 🙂
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Your kayaking trip down the Baja sounds wonderful. May I ask, did you go with a tour company or do this on your own? I’d love to have more details…
Thanks so much and happy travels,
Enjoyed the intro as well as the whole article. Thanks for the reading.
I just watched the movie Sicario last week and I am so relieved I am reading your post this week! Mexico is so beautiful, the food looks delicious too! Is chilaquiles vegetarian? or if not, do they have a veggie twist to it? The tradition of suitcase pulling really puts life into our desires along with some much needed camaraderie and cheer. Can’t wait to get there someday.
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Chilaquiles are vegetarian! 🙂
Well, they would be vegetarian if they didn’t use chicken broth as the base for the sauce, but that’s what makes them so tasty!
I never knew the buildings were so colorful! Mexican food is a passion of mine, I need to visit one of these days.
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Great read- it must be nice residing in such a tranquil and exotic place like San Miguel. I agree with you that Mexico can sometimes be portrayed as a nation overwhelmed with drug cartel violence, but there’s so much more to this wonderful country like the food and its culture. I hope to visit San Miguel when I go back to Mexico in the future!
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So wonderfully written, Dalene! My husband and I love Mexico! In fact we’re in Ecuador now and I still miss it, the food, the people, the culture! It saddens me how the media portrays Mexico. Like anywhere else, there are places that are not advisable to visit, but that is only such a small part of the country. We have been there several times and never had any issues.
Just found your blog for the first time and subscribed. Glad you had such a restful experience in San Miguel. It’s a beautiful town and definitely the place to spend a quiet few weeks (minus the firecrackers).
In our experience, Guanajuato is more fun since it’s a university town. I noticed in your blog that you’ve spent time there as well. I’d recommend going back for the Cervantes Festival if you haven’t already been at that time, it’s a huge event that includes music, theater, dance, and more, and takes place during the first three weeks of October.
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My family and I are planning on traveling to Guanajuato and San Miguel in July. Our plan is to consider it as a place to live starting in 2017. You mentioned a Facebook expat group. Would you be willing to share that?
Hi Robert – I’m afraid I don’t even know what the group is, a friend posted there for us. You should be able to find it with a search!