Magic Towns are great IF — and only if — the historic, colonial towns can accommodate the influx of tourism.
San Miguel de Allende can’t, and the powers-that-be don’t seem to care. Just focusing on more tourism with money to spend.
Historic El Centro still hasn’t changed. The streets are still as narrow as they were created centuries ago to accommodate burros, horses and occasional wagons. The sidewalks came later. They’re hardly wide enough to handle a single person rather than two walking together because they cut into the width of the narrow street. And somebody has to give way to someone heading your way. And then utility poles were planted on the sidewalks, for electric, telephone and cable services, to make them even more difficult to navigate. But we knew that and accepted it as part of life here as it was when we settled here.
San Miguel has one of the smallest Plaza Principals in Mexico. Restaurants could easily serve the folks who live here with established roots.
With Magic Town international advertising and promotion, San Miguel is being promoted visually as the town as it was when I moved here over 15 years ago.
As a consequence — pre-pandemic — the residential historic area streets have been filled with bumper-to-bumper SUVs and full-size cars in gridlock, because the streets aren’t wide enough to successfully make a turn without several back-and-forth maneuvering. But they can’t back up. So everything stalls until someone jumps a curb with a wheel on the sidewal.
The sidewalks are clogged with tourists pushing baby strollers. Or stalled in groups looking at tourist maps trying to figure out where to head next. Or long lines forming outside restaurants on the narrow sidewalks of hungry tourists waiting for a table.
The historic Plaza Principal is now jammed packed with tourists. All the public benches are filled. When there was maybe one vendor selling balloons and kid toys and another selling hats, there are now six.
People who were born here or have become residents just don’t bother to go. And decide it’s not worth the hassle to even try to go to a favorite restaurant.
The response from the town planners seems to be to just focus on building more and more hotels outside of town, more big box stores, putting in traffic signals out there where there was no need before. . . . All to accommodate more and more tourists to spend their money.
And the people who live in town be damned.
Be nice if they found a Colonial Williamsburg (Va.) approach and closed-off the residential historic area to only pedestrian traffic, with deliveries made at night. Or like the historic town of Hallstatt in the Austrian Alps. Hallstatt is actually a “gated” Magic City. If you have a car as a resident or as a tourist registered with a B&B for a night or three, you’ll have a card key to open the barrier and a reserved slot for your car. Then you walk.
Other tourists must park outside of town and take a shuttle in — and walk once inside.
That doesn’t seem to be the focus in San Miguel. Just build more hotels for attract more tourists. All courtesy of international Magic City advertising and promotion.
I always feel enlivened when I visit a magic town, the crafts and food make them a great draw also the care and beauty of each town makes me happy to be a visitor
Most are great weekend getaways, which is why they were promoted originally. Some do let things slide after selection as one commenter noted, and of course, more than a little politics is involved. But if you like to "pueblear" the Magical Towns are a great place to start.
As for them looking the same like one commenter said. I thought that after visiting a number of small towns in central Mexico in my first years here. Superficially, that is true. But it got me to start reading, in Spanish, about them... much of their differences are subtle and in their histories which are often fascination. It started me writing....
We have been to 20+ pueblos mágicos over the last 3 years, and are less enthusiastic about them as time has gone by. It seems many have worked hard to make the list and then let things slide, although that could be covid-related tough economics. It is also clear that in some states they graded on a curve and gave the designation to the best the state had, kind of like a trophy for best effort...
Guanajuato is definitely top of our list so far.
Okay, I've had enuff of this tequila. (burp)
All Magical Tows looks the same. All.
Visit one. You had enough.
Izamal is one of the most beautiful towns we have ever visited in over 20 visits to Mexico!