San Miguel de Allende is a small colonial town in the Bajio mountains of central Mexico, about 170 miles northwest of Mexico City. Founded as “San Miguel” in 1542 by a San Franciscan Monk named San Miguel El Grande, it became a centerpiece in the war for Mexican independence from Spain; it was renamed San Miguel de Allende after Ignacio Allende, a hero of the independence movement. In danger of becoming a ghost town in the early 20th century, the town was declared a national monument in 1926 and building became heavily restricted in the town’s historic centro district, allowing the city to keep the colorful native facades that have become the backdrop of many famous works of art and even modern motion pictures.
A series of artist colonies were founded in San Miguel in the 1950s, including the famous Instituto Allende, and many G.I.s moved their families here following World War II either to attend one of these colonies or to escape the Polio scares raging through many U.S. cities. The result was a healthy American expatriate population that exists today mostly as elderly retirees and second-generation business owners. This population, combined with the Mexican wealthy (especially actors and politicians) that have rediscovered San Miguel as a Malibu-like retreat from Mexico City, has created an eclectic mix of Old World Mexican charm, American hospitality, and a party atmosphere that makes San Miguel a world-class destination for adventurous travelers.