Vacation Rentals Listed by Owner in San Miguel de Allende

The History of San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel was founded in 1542 by the Franciscan monk Fray Juan de San Miguel as a presidio to protect the Antiguo Camino Real, the silver route from Zacatecas to Guanajuato to Mexico City.  Then known as San Miguel El Grande, the town thrived for almost three hundred years under the repressive but orderly rule of Spain and the Catholic Church.

After Napoleon I invaded Spain in 1807 and put his brother on the Spanish throne, it became evident that Spain was severely handicapped under the occupation. This gave opportunity for Mexico to free itself from Spanish rule.

On September 15th, 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Catholic priest of Spanish descent and progressive ideas, declared Mexico's independence from Spain in the nearby town of Dolores (now known as Dolores Hidalgo).  It was in San Miguel that General Ignacio Allende joined the army as Padre Miguel Hidalgo's chief lieutenant and led the army to several victories. However, Allende was not able to enjoy an independent Mexico as he was captured in battle and beheaded.  San Miguel el Grande renamed itself "San Miguel de Allende" in 1826 in honor of his actions and today he is celebrated as a national hero. The war continued until 1821 with Spainish official recognition and the creation of the first Mexican Empire.

By 1900, due to the decline in silver mining, San Miguel de Allende was in danger of becoming a ghost town. However, showing great forethought, the Mexican Government declared San Miguel a National Historic Monument in 1926. Development in the historic district has been restricted in order to preserve the town's colonial character. This act was pivotal to the growth of the beautiful city we know today.

In 1938, Peruvian artist Felipe Cossio del Pomar established San Miguel’s first art school, the Escuela Universitaria de Bellas Artes in a beautiful colonial building and former convent. He offered the position of Art Director to American artist and writer Stirling Dickinson. Dickinson taught Spanish, botany and landscape painting, as well as taking students on field trips as part of his "Aspects of Mexico" course.  He had arrived in San Miguel before daybreak on February 7, 1937. At the Jardín, Dickinson looked up at the spires of the Parroquia poking through the mist and fell in love with the town.  He then purchased for his home an old tannery on Santo Domingo on the way to the Atascadero Hotel above town. Here, Dickinson began what was probably the largest private orchid collection in Mexico, a lifelong interest that was highlighted by the discovery of Encyclia dickinsoniana and having a second named after him in recognition of his work, Cypripedium dickinsonianum.

After five years in San Miguel, Dickinson was named a Favored Adopted Son, the only American to be so honored by the mayor’s office. Two years later, he was honored by the governor for his work with founding a baseball team for young Mexicans. The baseball field he helped build and finance was named Campo Stirling Dickinson.

He is buried in the American section of the city graveyard of Sra. de Guadalupe. A bronze bust of Mr. Dickinson is on a column at an intersection street of Ancha de San Antonio and Guadiana.

After World War II San Miguel began to revive as a tourist attraction as many demobilized United States GIs discovered that their education grants stretched further in Mexico at the U.S.-accredited art schools, the privately-owned Instituto Allende, founded in 1950, and the Bellas Artes, a nationally chartered school.

American ex-servicemen first arrived in 1946 to study at the art school. By the end of 1947, Life magazine assigned a reporter and photographer to do an article on this post-war phenomenon. A three-page spread appeared in the January 5, 1948, edition under the headline “GI Paradise: Veterans go to Mexico to study art, live cheaply and have a good time.” This was possible when apartments rented for $10 dollars a month, rum was 65 cents a quart and cigarettes cost 10 cents a pack. As a result of the publicity, more than 6,000 American veterans immediately applied to study at the school. Stirling Dickinson thought that San Miguel, which then had a population of fewer than 10,000, could only handle another 100 veterans, bringing the student body to around 140.

The world famous Mexican comedian, Cantinflas frequented San Miguel de Allende in the 50's and 60's, bringing with him an entourage of film stars, singers and hangers-on. San Miguel de Allende became a destination known for its beautiful colonial architecture and its thermal springs.

In the counterculture years of the 1960s, San Miguel began its career as a center for American expatriatism and was a popular destination for Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, as recorded in Tom Wolfe´s novel The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Beat writer Neal Cassady died beside the railroad tracks between San Miguel and Celaya after a party in town. (Wikipedia)

Today, San Miguel de Allende has preserved its reputation as a splendid Colonial city in Mexico's central highland, the Bajio. In acknowledgement of the town's importance for all Mexicans, San Miguel was declared by the Mexican government in 1926 a National Historic Monument, in 2002 a Pueblo Magico and in 2008, San Miguel and the nearby sacred town of Atotonilco achieved Unesco World Heritage status.

2010 is a very important year for Mexico for two reasons: the 200th anniversary of Mexico's fight for independence from Spain and the 100th anniversary of its revolution. In May, a military ceremony removed the remains of twelve independence leaders from crypts near Angel of Independence monument and carried in glass caskets to Chapultepec Castle where the President gave a speech.

Here's a rundown of some of the bigger projects that are in the works for Mexico's 2010 bicentennial celebration:

Arco del Bicentenario - Bicentennial Arch:A monument to commemorate the bicentennial will be constructed in Mexico City along the Paseo de la Reforma, the city's main avenue, beside the Torre Mayor. To be inaugurated on September 15, 2010.

Ruta 2010 - Route 2010: Will mark several routes along highways throughout Mexico that were traveled either during Mexico's War of Independence or the Mexican Revolution. The routes will be marked with special signs and there will be historical information as well as historical information available along the way. Six routes have been chosen, three from the independence movement and three from the Revolution. The road between San Miguel de Allende and Delores Hidalgo is one of those routes.

Expo Parque Bicentenario - Bicentennial Expo Park: Over 245 acres have been set aside for a Bicentennial Expo Park in the state of Guanajuato, where a type of world fair will take place from July through November, 2010. The Expo park will contain exhibitions and photographs that will teach visitors about Mexico's past and allow them to reflect on the future. Various pavilions will house cultural, historical, artistic, musical and ecological exhibits as well as featuring artistic, and folkloric events, gourmet tastings, and events highlighting Mexico’s heritage.