By Ann Kuffner | International Living
Saturday morning is my favorite day of the week in San Miguel de Allende. I get up early, grab a quick bite, then head to my favorite local park. Parque Juarez is an oasis of trees and trails, smack dab in the middle of this charming Spanish Colonial town. On the weekends it becomes a focal point for art fairs, concerts, and exhibits. That’s when local artisans set up displays, ready to offer their art, pottery, jewelry, and food for sale.
On Saturday mornings, Cesar—the best ever Zumba instructor—cranks up lively Latin tunes, then guides us through a high energy routine. One by one, an unexpected mix of locals and expats join the fray, ready to kick up their heels. The class includes a mix of people aged 10 to 80 years old. Some are seasoned dancers. Others simply come to have fun and get some exercise. The guys in their 70s seldom master the complex moves. But they clearly have a good time. The exuberance and energy of the group class is infectious, with plenty of hooting and howling as Cesar pushes us to pick up the pace. This level of Joie de Vivre is not at all unusual in Mexico, especially in San Miguel. Mexicans are experts at living in the moment.
After working up a sweat, I head to a local coffee house with a few friends. Then we stroll to the Mercado Sano, a popular organic market, for the weekly Tianguis market.
On Saturday mornings the parking lot behind the Mercado Sano center transforms into a bustling open-air organic market. Farmers from the campo bring their fresh, gorgeous organic produce to town. Think leafy green lettuces, ruby red beets, multi-colored carrots, creamy avocadoes, sweet cherry tomatoes, apples, blackberries, and figs. For about $10, I walk away with a bag bursting with healthy, colorful produce. You can grab breakfast, or lunch, from one of the six or so pop up cafés. Some offer eggs, tacos, and other Mexican dishes. Most dishes go for under $3. If you show up after noon, you can indulge in freshly made paella, or sushi. After grabbing a bite, it’s time to peruse the local art, richly patterned Oaxacan rugs, and clothing being sold.
Each week a different band performs at the market, adding to the festive air. It’s a popular spot to hang out. So, we expect to bump into a mix of friends and acquaintances. Last Saturday, in just the first hour we ran into four different groups of friends. Each meeting lead to a pleasant social interchange. Although San Miguel is a mid-sized town, we often run into friends while running errands.
It’s so easy to meet people in this town… I can’t imagine ever being lonely here! After moving to San Miguel, my husband, Mike, and I quickly signed up for Spanish, dance, and yoga classes, and started attending Sunday services at the Unitarian church. At each activity we met lovely people who’ve since become friends.
There are a few primary reasons we moved to San Miguel. First of all, I love Spanish Colonia towns. San Miguel is the most spectacular of those I’ve visited to date. That’s why it keeps winning travel popularity awards. The spectacular architecture, amazing history that surrounds us, and the art and cultural scene quickly sold me on this town.
For us, the cost of living was another major factor. It’s surprisingly affordable here. We are living comfortably on our Social Security income. To date, my best estimate is that we spend under $3,000 per month. We own our home, so save on rent. But we take full advantage of the culture and activities the town has to offer, and we eat out often.
At this point in our lives we were determined to live where affordable hospitals and healthcare are within reach. Two private hospitals and the local Red Cross are located within a five-minute drive of our home. The cost of healthcare is reasonable, and private healthcare insurance is available. We currently have Seguro Popular, the public healthcare plan, which is very affordable. But we are considering adding private healthcare insurance this year.
Last of all, I yearned to live in a town that’s bursting with culture. San Miguel reminds me of the San Francisco Bay Area, in that regard, where I lived for over 30 years. There are many cultural activities to attend here: concerts, dances, arts and craft exhibits, festivals, lectures, and movies. Each week it’s difficult to decide which we’ll pick. The cost for cultural events is a pittance here, compared to the Bay rea. A classical concert, with world-class musicians and singers, in a private venue, runs $10 to $15. We often take in an international art flick at a pocket theater. The $6 per person charge covers the film; a margarita, glass of wine, beer, or soft drink; and a bag of popcorn. The theater is cozy and intimate, with only 25 seats. It takes me back to my college days, when I frequented the funky movie theaters of the Berkeley, California, campus
And my husband and I are dancing again. While living in the Bay Area, we mastered the West Coast Swing. Since the move to San Miguel we’ve fully embraced the salsa, cumbia, cha cha, and bachata, attending Latin dance parties on Friday nights. I guess you could say that we’re dancing our way into a delightful new lifestyle.