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North America Tour Guide: A Weekend in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

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San Miguel, four hours north of Mexico City, is 75 percent Mexican but its air is that which is breathed in every arts colony in every part of the world.

With its breezy blue skies and baroque architecture, San Miguel de Allende has been a tropical haven for expatriates and retirees since the 1930s. The recent housing boom drew an even larger flock of snowbirds (mostly American) to this city in central Mexico, and with it came a new perch for post-hippie boutiques, vegan organic cafes and uneven art galleries. Old-timers started grousing about its Disneyfication. Luckily, the colonial town — which dates back to the 16th century and still bears traces of Spanish, Creole and Native American cultures — was designated a Unesco World Heritage site in 2008. While San Miguel doesn’t need any more attention, the designation helps ensure that the town’s candy-colored haciendas, romantic cobblestone lanes and rose-tinted turrets are around to survive another housing bubble.


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Get a sense of San Miguel’s understated colonial grandeur with a stroll along the palm-lined paths of Parque Juárez, a sun-dappled garden with pocked stone pillars and archways and fountains tarnished with mildew or overrun with moss. Hushed streets and lush trees occupy this part of town — as well as artists and writers, like Michael Cristofer, the playwright and filmmaker, who owns a Spanish colonial home insulated by beautiful gardens. If you return to the park after dark, there’s a good chance you’ll catch an impromptu concert of one-man banjo bands and mariachi singers.

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