Among the picturesque streets of San Miguel de Allende, one has to dodge the hundreds of tourists who take selfies in front of the beautiful colonial corners of this municipality in central Mexico.
The cobbled avenues, its art galleries, charming restaurants, and colorful houses have made this place the paradise of anyInstagrammer.
Also thousands of foreigners, especially American retirees, who have turned this municipality into their second or even first home, attracted by a pleasant climate and prices much lower than those of their country.
Because the fame of San Miguel has transcended borders.Last year, itwas distinguished as the best city in the worldbyTravel + Leisuremagazine and the readers of the tourist mediumCondé Nast Traveler.
However, it is striking that not many kilometers away and in the same state of Guanajuato are some of the municipalities considered to be the most violent in Mexico.This is, in fact,the entity in the country where the most homicides were registered last year.
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How does this paradise for tourism manage to escape the wave of violence that is hitting some neighboring areas?
Foreigners and security
Sitting in a restaurant in the central square of San Miguel de Allende, the American Malcolm Halliday tastes something as Mexican as an Aztec soup.
In front of him, a group of tourists photographs the striking neo-Gothic cathedral that has become the symbol of the city.”It’s like the Disney castle,”says a gaping boy.
Halliday arrived in San Miguel almost five years ago attracted by the cultural life.“I love the city and the environment. In the US we also have violence in some cities, but the truth is that we don’t have much of a problem here,” he tells BBC Mundo in correct Spanish.
Louise Gilliam, also an American and a resident of San Miguel, agrees.“In all my time here,I have never experienced any violence.I lived in Chicago, in New York, in Los Angeles… And I was careful not to go to the dangerous areas. Wherever you go, you will find crime if you are not careful “, she assures in English.
They do acknowledge that their family and friends were concerned when they learned of their intention to settle in central Mexico.
“Many foreigners are surprised. They think that when it gets dark, they can’t go out here. It’s a paradigm that they bring, and then they see reality. It’s like giving them the confidence thatwearepart of Mexico, but not at the same time,”he told him.Tania Castillo,Director of Tourism of San Miguel de Allende,tells BBC Mundo .
But the municipality, which was once one of the key stages of the Mexican War of Independence and which hosted some of the conspiracy meetings in the fight against the Spanish, has not always been an attraction for tourists.
At the beginning of the 20th century, in fact, itwas on the verge of becoming a ghost towndue to the various armed conflicts that hit the region.It was in the 1930s and 1940s that artists and promoters began to arrive, founding art schools and galleries that gradually attracted American students and expatriates.
According to the person in charge of tourism in San Miguel, what makes it one of the best destinations in the world today is its architecture and multitude of temples, its gastronomic, artistic, vineyard and luxury hotel offerings, together with the lifestyle that “mixes the cosmopolitan with the life of small Mexican towns,” he says.
“An island” in Guanajuato
In a patrol carried out by the municipality together with the police to learn about the security situation, local agent Esteban López says that most of his actions are “minor reports” to deal with cases of people who argue or drink alcohol on the street.
“Let’s imagine that we are like an island.Then, everything bad happens around us,” he summarizes for BBC Mundo.
Indeed, just 50 km away from San Miguel, there is one of the 50 most violent municipalities in Mexico, where the government deployed a strategy to reduce the number of homicides, as is the case of Celaya or León,and whose figures of murders are up to 20 times higher.
But the main reason why San Miguel escapes the process of violence in Guanajuato is because it is not located in the hydrocarbon extraction corridor that crosses part of the state.
“The milking of these pipelines is what generates the violence for the control of this illegal market. San Miguel is close, but it does not go through there,” says security expertVíctor Sánchez.
This diagonal, also known as the “Bermuda Triangle”, is made up of fifteen municipalities through which the pipelines of Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) pass, transporting fuel throughout the country.
Although in the past they were mainly dominated by the Santa Rosa de Lima cartel, the arrest of their leader, “el Marro”, in 2020 caused him to lose strength in most of the municipalities that are now disputed with cells of the Sinaloa cartel, Jalisco New Generation (CJNG) or New Plaza.
Although, in addition to its geographical location, there are some peculiarities of San Miguel’s infrastructure that could make it less attractive to criminal groups.
“Its architectural characteristics prevent it from being a city with certain development plans. When a municipality does not have highways, it does not have a supply center and it is not a material collection center that has to be receiving trucks,it does not have the necessary infrastructure to distribution of prohibited things“, says its mayor, Mauricio Trejo.
“We are a bubble within the state,” he says proudly.
No disputes between cartels
According to Sánchez, another key factor to explain the absence of violence is that “there is no open dispute between various criminal organizations, as we see in other municipalities. The region from the center to the north (of Guanajuato), where San Miguel is,is an area completely controlled by the CJNG”.
And according to the expert, this leads to two hypotheses.The first: is that as in so many tourist corridors, criminal groups sell illegal products such as drugs on a small scale, taking advantage of the presence of tourists and foreign residents.
“The criminal organization is interested in not driving away those buyers with high purchasing power.If there starts to be violence in the area, the tourists will stop coming,” hestresses.
The second hypothesis, linked to the previous one, is that “since there is a significant monetary flow, businesses such as hotels or restaurants with cash operations can lend themselves to being money laundering points for the organization that controls the municipality and, therefore, they also want to keep it peaceful so as not to draw the attention of the authorities”.
The mayor, however, denies the presence of the CJNG or any other organization in San Miguel de Allende.
“We have not detected interference from any criminal group.We have not been pressured or threatened by any group,”he states emphatically.
“However, the issues of drug dealing that can occur in the municipality are attacked by the Municipal Police and drug addiction complaint and prevention programs,” he acknowledges.“But the profile of the tourists we have is different, they come here looking for culture.”
Some of those tourists, like Aarón González from Mexico City, believe that everything is due “to agreements between the authorities and the groups, because obviously, they can’t have all the control, and the government can’t control them either. Or maybe it can.”,but he is not interested because there are interestsand they prefer to have their arrangements,” he says sitting on a bench in the central park and enjoying the mariachi music with his wife when night falls.
Several neighbors who wanted to keep their names anonymous mentioned to BBC Mundo the existence of extortion practices, pressure, or “floor collection” towards merchants in the municipality.
“I had a friend with a small business, but it occurred to her to sell [drugs] there, and today she no longer has a business, nor is she. They told her that either she paid for her place or nothing. They give you money if you enter the business, but then you have to pay it back.He didn’t pay, and that’s what they did to him,”says Paula Colunga from her shaved ice stand [ice with flavored syrup] in front of the cathedral.
But the mayor assures that no merchant has informed him that they are currently suffering extortion.“It may be that they still feel that offense from when they were charged, although when we entered [the municipal government] we detected that most were not due to criminal groups but to corrupt authorities, who have already been fired [fired] or are under investigation”, he tells BBC Mundo.
For Mayor Trejo,it is his municipal security strategythat explains why San Miguel de Allende avoids the violence that permeates much of Guanajuato.
Among other factors, it highlights having an advanced C4 surveillance center, as well as the training and compensation of the local police, “the best paid in the state and one of the best paid in the entire country,” he says.
“We also help each other with nearby municipalities toprevent the ‘cockroach effect’ from arisingand that, every time there is an operation in a nearby city, criminals are allowed to come to San Miguel to take refuge,” he explains.
For security analyst Víctor Sánchez, however, “it would be difficult to attribute a case of success in San Miguel to the action of the authorities because if it depended on it,they would have sought to replicate it in neighboring citieswheresecurity is a failure .”important”.
Instead, it insists that the real motives lie in issues beyond the city council’s role, such as the absence of rival criminal groups in the municipality, its mere geographic location, or that, due to the high concentration of foreigners and tourists, “it works better if it’s pacified.”
But the presence offoreigners of more than 60 nationalities– around 10% of its 180,000 inhabitants – has also had another effect in San Miguel de Allende, as in so many cities that live this reality: the increase in rents and many services such as bars and restaurants.
“For many people, it is not an economic problem, but perhaps for those who originally lived here, it is challenging because the price of everything is rising. Let’s see…I cannot cure all the problems,I am taking advantage of living here,” he says, raising his eyes. shoulders the American Malcolm Halliday.
Although as usual, this arrival of people with more purchasing power also has advantages.As Paula, the ice cream vendor acknowledges, Mexicans who work for foreigners in the municipality usually receive better wages.“It’s wrong for me to say it, but it’s like that. We Mexicans, on the other hand,the less we pay people, the better.”
Another Saint Michael
The thousands of foreigners who live in San Miguel de Allende also leave another mark on the municipality.They are the founders of dozens of NGOsthat bring from education to dental health to neighbors with more economic needs.
Because, far from the beautiful architecture and luxury hotels frequented by tourists, San Miguel hides a very different reality as soon as one moves away a few minutes from the historic center toward more rural neighborhoods.
According to data from the Mexican Ministry of Welfare,more than 44% of San Miguel residents live in conditions of “moderate poverty.”Another 4% live in extreme poverty.Almost two out of every ten houses do not have drainage.
Jazmín Yanet Ramírez proudly shows BBC Mundo the house she opened earlier this year in the community of San Miguel Viejo, an area of unpaved streets where tourists have not missed a thing.
“The people who come to the center of San Miguel do not realize that we are in the surroundings, that, to be honest, we haven’t been to that area for a long time because there are many tourists… It’s a shamebecause not everyone can enjoy it the same “he laments.
She says that she and her husband no longer have to sleep in the same room with their three children as before.That they no longer get wet when it rains nor are they afraid that the roof will blow away in the wind.In the absence of drainage, her new home has a small septic tank and a rainwater collection system.
His house was built by Casita Linda, an NGO financed by American residents of San Miguel that in the last two decades has helped 130 families in the town.
“It is a cliché to say that you want to give something back to the municipality that welcomes you, but it is a very honest way of saying it.It is a way of helping people,”Louise Gilliam, president of the organization with almost 20 years, tells BBC Mundo. of life in San Miguel.
“Life here is good. The weather is perfect, it’s less expensive to live here… I tell my children who are in Texas to sell their house and come here,” he replies when asked about how insecurity influences his life.
“I will never return to the United States,”she concludes with conviction.
Is it safe to travel to San Miguel de Allende right now? ›
Compared with other cities in Mexico, San Miguel de Allende is safe to walk around during both the day and night. San Miguel de Allende is often noted as one of the safest Mexican cities for tourists which is usually backed up by its low crime rate score.Are there drug cartels in San Miguel de Allende? ›
Are the cartels in San Miguel de Allende? It is said that the CJNG (Jalisco New Generation Cartel) which have a stronghold on Guanajuato city, amongst others in the region, are one the major cartels that are running the area.Who attacked Allende? ›
|Date||11 September 1973|
|Action||Armed forces put the country under military control. Little and unorganised civil resistance.|
|Result||Popular Unity government overthrown Death of Salvador Allende Military Junta Government led by General Augusto Pinochet assumed power|
There are no other restrictions on travel for U.S. government employees in Guanajuato state, which includes tourist areas in: San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato City, and surrounding areas. Do not travel due to crime. Crime and violence are widespread.Why do Americans retire in San Miguel de Allende? ›
Foreigners flock to San Miguel de Allende not only because of the low cost of living and crime rate. The almost year-round sunny weather also convinces people to retire in the city. Temperatures in the city can reach up to 85°F throughout most of the year.What cartel owns Guanajuato? ›
Cartel Jalisco Nuevo Generacion (CJNG), based out of Jalisco state, is the emergent power in Mexico, and it controls or fights for territory in Guanajuato, Michoacan, Baja California, Mexico, Jalisco, Chihuahua, and Guerrero, among other locations across the country.What is the most active cartel in Mexico? ›
As of 2023, the Sinaloa Cartel remains Mexico's most dominant drug cartel. After the arrest of Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán and his son Ovidio Guzmán López, the cartel is now headed by old-school leader Ismael Zambada García (aka El Mayo) and Guzmán's other sons, Jesús Alfredo Guzmán and Ivan Archivaldo Guzmán Salazar.Is it safe to go to Guanajuato Mexico? ›
Is Guanajuato safe for travelers? According to experts, you are statistically quite safe while visiting Guanajuato if you stick to the popular places like San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato City, and the Guanajuato pueblos magicos (magic towns) of Dolores Hidalgo and Mineral de Pozos.How much money do you need to live in San Miguel de Allende? ›
However, keep in mind that many people living here also live comfortably on less than $1500 USD a month. It's all about the rentals you find and the lifestyle you live. These rent costs are based on mid-range rentals in San Miguel: 2 bedroom apartment in the city center – $20,000 MXN or about $1,000 USD.Can I drink tap water in San Miguel de Allende? ›
Go ahead, drink the water. Drink lots of it, if you want. You don't even have to ask for bottled water, although you can. But note, when you're done drinking, and eating, you'll need to ask for the bill.
Why is San Miguel de Allende so famous? ›
Known for its cobblestone streets, Spanish colonial style architecture, and creative cruisine, the Mexican city of San Miguel de Allende has long attracted visitors from across the country and all over the world.Why did the US not like Allende? ›
The US government believed that Allende would become closer to socialist countries, such as Cuba and the Soviet Union. They feared that Allende would push Chile into socialism, and therefore lose all of the US investments made in Chile.Who shot Salvador Allende? ›
Allende's Death Was a Suicide, an Autopsy Concludes
President Salvador Allende of Chile took his own life, an analysis determined, dispelling doubts about whether troops murdered him in 1973.
Ten years ago, the Mexican municipality of Allende was the site of one of the worst human rights atrocities ever seen in the country: a three-day rampage that punctuated a larger wave of violence in which the Los Zetas criminal group kidnapped, murdered, and later burned the bodies of as many as 300 victims, many of ...Is San Miguel de Allende worth it? ›
San Miguel de Allende is easily one of the best places to visit in Mexico for first-time visitors. San Miguel de Allende is one of the safest places to visit in Mexico, is filled with excellent cultural things to do, and can be reached pretty easily from the United States and Europe.Can Americans buy property San Miguel de Allende? ›
- Foreigners are in need of getting a special permit by the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Relations called SRE, which is a government issued permit that will allow you to buy property in Mexico. The cost of this permit is approximately $400 USD per person to appear in the Title Deed as "The Buyer".What is the best time of year to go to San Miguel de Allende? ›
San Miguel de Allende is packed with activities year-round, and you'll find things to do no matter when you visit. For the best weather, we recommend visiting between November and April when highs hover in the 70s and 80s, though tourists will be out in full force during the Christmas and Easter holidays.What airport do you fly to for San Miguel de Allende? ›
The closest major airports are Del Bajío International Airport in Guanajato, and Querétaro Intercontinental Airport in Querétaro — between an hour and 15 minutes and an hour and a half away from San Miguel de Allende.Is English widely spoken in San Miguel de Allende? ›
Almost twenty percent of people living in San Miguel de Allende are expatriates. One estimate suggests that the estimated 10,000 ex-pats represent 63 different nationalities. English is widely spoken, so it's easy to get by with just a rudimentary knowledge of Spanish.Are there mosquitoes in San Miguel de Allende? ›
The risk for mosquito activity is extremely high. Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when spending time outdoors to prevent bites. The risk for mosquito activity is high. Consider an EPA-registered repellent to deter mosquito bites.
Does the cartel run Mexican resorts? ›
"Most of the large resorts are owned by overseas corporations." Or the cartels, which makes things much easier. I would have no doubt that one way or another, they are paying their dues. I think few escape that, not even the beach vendors and taco stands.Which cartels are fighting in Mexico? ›
- Sinaloa Cartel.
- Beltrán-Leyva Cartel.
- Juárez Cartel.
Los Zetas (pronounced [los ˈsetas], Spanish for "The Zs") is a Mexican criminal syndicate, formerly as one of the most dangerous of Mexico's drug cartels. They are known for engaging in brutally violent "shock and awe" tactics such as beheadings, torture, and indiscriminate murder.Who is the most powerful drug lord in the world? ›
Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria (December 1, 1949 – December 2, 1993) was a Colombian drug overlord. Often referred to as the "World's Greatest Outlaw", Escobar was perhaps the most elusive cocaine trafficker to have ever existed. He is considered the 'King of Cocaine' and is known as the lord of all drug lords.What area of Mexico is cartel? ›
Recent News. Sinaloa cartel, international crime organization that is among the most-powerful drug-trafficking syndicates in the world. It is based in Culiacán, Sinaloa state, Mexico. Its origins can be traced to the Guadalajara cartel, which was one of Mexico's largest crime organizations in the early 1980s.What areas to avoid in Guanajuato? ›
Areas to avoid in Guanajuato
However, the US government recommends not traveling to the area south of and including Federal Highway 45D, Celaya, Salamanca, and Irapuato.
According to the US State Department, the safest states are Campeche and Yucatán. The most dangerous states, where there is a risk of crime, cartel activity, and kidnapping, include: What is this? The State Department recommends against all travel to those states for any reason.How many Americans live in San Miguel Allende? ›
The expat population of 10-12,000 Americans, Canadians and Europeans that make up 9-11% of the local population, depending on the season, create a community where it's easy to find your tribe. Making friends is almost. It also guarantees amenities and services seldom found in other Mexican towns of a similar size.Where do most Americans retire in Mexico? ›
"Most Americans who choose to retire in Mexico opt for San Miguel Allende," said John Hubbard, the founder and CEO of Urban Dare. "That's because it offers a temperate climate all year round. Low-cost and high-quality healthcare is also available.
How much do you need to retire to Mexico? ›
A retired couple can expect to retire comfortably in Mexico with an average income of about $2,500 a month, or $30,000 a year, according to InternationalLiving.com. These figures include the cost of a house, a maid service, utilities, groceries, entertainment, health insurance and more.Can you brush your teeth in Mexico? ›
Although there will be some bacteria in the water from the tap it is fine to brush your teeth with, even if you are at a place where you can't drink the tap water.Can you drink the coffee in Mexico? ›
Yes generally coffee is safe to drink throughout Mexico with many excellent coffee shops.Can you shower in Mexico water? ›
Water delivered to homes in Mexico is suitable for showering and washing-up the dishes, but most people don't use unfiltered tap water for personal consumption.How much is the shuttle from Mexico City to San Miguel de Allende? ›
Bus from Mexico City Airport to San Miguel de Allende
There are two buses that will take you from Mexico City Airport directly to San Miguel de Allende. What is this? ETN Provides this service at 1.30 pm and 4.00 pm. It takes 4hrs 30 minutes and it costs 625.5 MXN at the time I am writing this post.
San Miguel de Allende is a beautiful city with many tourist attractions and a renowned culinary scene, so it's best to allocate at least two days to visit it.Is Isabel Allende a US citizen? ›
Allende has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1987, and became a U.S. citizen in 1993.Did the USSR support Allende? ›
The Soviet Union responded strongly by offering aid to persecuted members and supporters of Allende's previous administration and by denouncing the Chilean government as fascist.What did Salvador Allende say at the end of his life? ›
Workers of my country, I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other men will overcome this dark and bitter moment when treason seeks to prevail. Go forward knowing that, sooner rather than later, the great avenues will open again and free men will walk through them to construct a better society. Long live Chile!What happened to President Salvador Allende? ›
His government, however, was overthrown on September 11, 1973, by a military coup led by Augusto Pinochet. During a concerted attack on the presidential palace, Allende died, and the manner of his death became a subject of controversy.
What cartel runs San Miguel de Allende? ›
Are the cartels in San Miguel de Allende? It is said that the CJNG (Jalisco New Generation Cartel) which have a stronghold on Guanajuato city, amongst others in the region, are one the major cartels that are running the area.Why do people retire in San Miguel de Allende? ›
Foreigners flock to San Miguel de Allende not only because of the low cost of living and crime rate. The almost year-round sunny weather also convinces people to retire in the city. Temperatures in the city can reach up to 85°F throughout most of the year.Who is the head of the Zetas cartel? ›
Although Lazcano was identified as the leader of the organization, Miguel Angel Trevino-Morales, a.k.a. “Z-40”, was seen as his equal and controlled the vast majority of the cartel soldiers.Is driving from Mexico City to San Miguel de Allende safe? ›
Once you get out of the city traffic, the road is very easy and safe. This is the best option if you intend to explore the surrounding of San Miguel de Allende as there are so many small towns to visit, hot springs, archeological sites, vineyards and many other interesting attractions.Is San Miguel de Allende closed? ›
San Miguel de Allende, located in the State of Guanajuato and known as the “Heart of Mexico,” will start reopening to tourists today, with hotels working with a maximum 40% capacity and everyone must adhere to social distancing and mask protection.Is it safe to travel from Queretaro to San Miguel de Allende? ›
San Miguel, where over 8,000 Canadian, British, and Americans live, is a great distance from the cartel wars and highway robberies. It is safe to travel from the airports (Leon, Queretaro, Mexico City) to San Miguel either by car, shuttle, or bus. It is safe to take day trips throughout the state of Guanajuato.What is so special about San Miguel de Allende? ›
San Miguel De Allende is known for its well-preserved historic center with homes and buildings from the 1600-1700s. The city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its colonial architecture and important role in the Mexican War of Independence.Are there bull fights in San Miguel de Allende? ›
There are usually bullfights on December 31st and in September around the celebrations of Independence and the San Miguel festival. Bullfights are part of the Mexican culture and should be experienced at least once!!How many American expats live in San Miguel de Allende? ›
Overview. Located in the colonial highland region of the interior of Mexico is an absolute gem of a town, San Miguel de Allende, usually referred to as just San Miguel. This colonial-era town is home to about 70,000 residents of whom approximately 7,000 are expats.What is the coldest month in San Miguel de Allende? ›
The cool season lasts for 2.2 months, from November 28 to February 6, with an average daily high temperature below 74°F. The coldest month of the year in San Miguel de Allende is January, with an average low of 42°F and high of 72°F.
How much is a private car from Mexico City to San Miguel de Allende? ›
Mexico City to San Miguel de Allende from $53 | Private Car Transfer in 4 Hours | Daytrip.Can you buy property San Miguel de Allende? ›
There are a variety of condos and houses in San Miguel de Allende that you can purchased here, depending on your budget and needs. Some are quite rustic, made of materials such as wood with brick ceilings, while others are elaborate hacienda-style houses which are built around a central courtyard.Is it safe to travel to Mexico right now 2022? ›
Covid-19 Safety in Mexico
As of fall 2022, visitors do not need to present a negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination when they travel to Mexico. While COVID-19 restrictions have loosened, the Mexican government still encourages everyone to practice social distancing and wash their hands.
Querétaro. Queretaro, located two hours from Mexico City, is considered one of Mexico's three safest places to visit. In addition, it is recognized in the country for its world-class tourist services and the enormous amount of activities it offers to its visitors, both domestic and foreign.