Getting away to San Miguel is so fun! Although it is not that far (just in our backyard), it gives you the impression of being very far away, due to its old Spanish colonial charm. This is a UNESCO heritage jewel from the 15th century. In the past few years, it has been rated by Conde Nast Traveler as one of the top five cities in the world to visit. Prior to COVID-19, I have made about 40 visits there. I am so eager to return in 2022!! This is a city you can visit year-round, but there are times that I prefer to be there based on different festivals and of course the weather.
One of my favorite times is around Palm Sunday. On the Friday prior to Palm Sunday, they have the festival of Sad Virgen altars. On that Friday, you can watch people creating altars in many different venues, combining elements from both the ancient Aztec civilization and Christianity (seeds, new wheat shoots, oranges, flowers, etc.). They create these altars as a tribute to Mary, the mother of Jesus, who sadly contemplates the upcoming death of her son on the cross. As evening approaches, the altars pop up all around the city, in private homes, fountains, windows, churches, public buildings and plazas. People wander the streets in search of these altars discussing among themselves which ones they like the best, some accompanied with music and usually with free handouts of ice cream. The town has a festive atmosphere around the Jardin (main public square in front of the iconic Gothic Parroquia church). So much work and effort go into making the altars and then before you realize it, it is Saturday morning and they all disappear, ready for the next events of this religious season.
Palm Sunday is equally interesting. Here, you wake to many palm weavers in front of the main church, selling beautiful decorations from palms, from simple to elaborate. And there are also two main processions celebrating the arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem, one where they carry a statue of Jesus on the donkey and another where a real person rides the little burro. Both end up at different churches.
In between the holy day activities, you can entertain yourself in over 100 bars and restaurants. There are so many to pick from for lunch and dinner. And there are many happy hours, one of the best is in Harry’s, a popular Louisiana type restaurant which is always packed with visitors, enjoying calamari, fried oysters, jumbo and other delicacies. San Miguel seems to have great sunsets and it is fun to watch them from various rooftop restaurants. For early mornings, you can head to any number of bakeries for fresh pastries and coffee.
For history buffs, this town was a key player in initiating the war of Independence against Spain in 1810, after 300-years of domination. You can visit Allende’s birth house, see the house of the “conspirators”, go out to Delores Hidalgo, stop in Atotonilco (another historical stop along the way) and end up in Guanajuato, where the main conspirators (Allende and Hidalgo) were finally beheaded. Importantly all of the towns are not far outside of San Miguel, and each has very special things to see and do. For shoppers, San Miguel is a paradise. For photographers, the city is a magnet, with cobblestone streets, sunlight bouncing off earth-tone walls, gardens and flowers and old haciendas.
I love San Miguel! Why don’t you join me in April 2022?
Linda Stack is owner of Travelinda, LLC and can be reached at LLStack9597@gmail.com.