Miles away from the crowded tourist zones of Playa del Carmen, Puerto Vallarta, and Cancun, San Miguel de Allende offers visitors a glimpse into another side of life in the country. Many travel stories from Mexico are about its beautiful beaches with blue waters from inside the rich confines of an all-inclusive property. Here, four hours outside of the capital Mexico City, life looks different. The city welcomes tourists but does not rely on them or bend to overly accommodate their needs. Outsiders, both domestic and international, come and learn to move alongside the locals to experience its real magic. Prominent chain hotel properties are replaced by intimate local-operated establishments, with many patrons opting for smaller boutiques than American or European brands. Artisans occupy street corners to sell their creations to the wandering eye or take a stroll through its local markets for everything from sizzling corns on the grill to jewelry and keepsakes for you to remember your trip.
For visitors coming to San Miguel de Allende, the attraction is in the detailed architecture that speaks to its colonial past. You will notice the colorful walls along its streets. The trimming around the grand doors and windows are lined with vivid floral arrangements contrasted against its naturally vibrant color scheme. The faint scent of lavender fills the air, and you will notice the plants throughout the city. It’s a place known for its picturesque murals, handcrafted by artists who journeyed here to find inspiration for their creative medium.
Art is an essential part of every day in San Miguel de Allende, and it’s woven into the local culture. You can see it all around you as you move through the streets. In the town’s historic Colonia Guadalupe neighborhood, locals can be seen guiding small groups to see its street murals that bring a beautiful vibrancy that is hard to find elsewhere. Walking tours are one of the must-do activities when coming to visit the artist retreat as most of its wonder lies in its street and vivid scenery.
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The city attracts art lovers from all walks of life with a small ex-pat community that lives alongside the locals to showcase their beautiful works. The murals are the star attractions for visitors, each unique and wondrous in its own right. Street art is a part of the local landscape. Emerging and globally recognized artists come to the city to recreate their pieces on its streets. You will find yourself walking through the numerous streets either with a guide or by yourself on a sunny afternoon during any trip to the city.
Famous works like the Hola Houston mural by Houston-based street multidisciplinary artist Mario E. Figueora Jr., who also goes by the name Gonzo47, have drawn art enthusiasts from far and wide. It’s easy to become lost in the streets for hours, discovering the numerous murals, finding inspiration all around you. The city is known to invite artists from around Mexico and internationally to collaborate on special projects. Many murals relate to local Mexican traditions and cultures reflected in the people you come across in San Miguel de Allende.
The ex-pat art community moves alongside local artists looking to master their craft. Inside the places like the Fabrica La Aurora, you can find everything from paintings, exquisite sculptures, precious antiques to mixed-media installations. Works from acclaimed names (like Salvador Dalí and Frida Kahlo) and emerging talents who hope to learn from the greats that came before them can be seen all around you. The halls are decorated with art from the various collections. In other stores, you can see inside their creative studios to sometimes catch the artists in motion.
The Instituto Allende captures the history of art within the local culture through its mosaic and painted murals around the building. The internationally recognized art school was founded by exiled Peruvian artist Felipe Cossío del Pomar, who had originally found his inspiration for his art in the city back in 1927 and later came back in 1950 to open the university. Notable artists and creatives such as African American sculptor Joyce J. Scott to Mexican painter Gorky González Quiñones.
Inside the halls and grounds, you can see the artwork from past and present students. The walls and ceilings were covered in elaborate mosaics and paintings that reflected the story of the building and San Miguel de Allende. The art university reflects the city’s timeline from its renaissance to its depression and back to its resurgence.
The grounds flourish from the creations from visiting artists, students, and faculty surrounded by brilliant flowers with the famous Parroquia de Archangel Church looming in the background. The legacy of artistry and inspiration of San Miguel de Allende will always make it a destination for creatives looking to find that spark that motivates them to tell stories about their art. It is a reminder to travelers of the diversity of Mexican culture and will always preserve its traditions of giving artists their inspiration to create.
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