San Miguel de Allende is a lot like other colonial cities in Latin America: its cobble stone streets, towering Gothic churches, and abundance of Baroque architecture contributed to UNESCO naming its historic center a World Heritage Site. But San Miguel — one of two cities hosting the Guanajuato International Film Festival (GIFF) this week — might be the only formerly Spanish-ruled town where English is heard just as often as Castellano. Take a walk down the street and you’ll see gringos and Mexicans commingling, a gordita stand next to the Starbucks, a bar filled with blonde college kids getting White Girl Wasted, and a taco joint with a Copa de Oro game blaring out of an old TV.
San Miguel’s USA-born residents make up around 10% of its total population, making it one of the largest communities of Americans living in Mexico. And the red, white, and blue influence is undeniable. While we were in town covering GIFF and wandering the city, going from screening to screening, we started to wonder: how do the locals feel about the influx of Norteamericanos? So, we hit the streets to ask them.
It turns out the expanding expat community is not a new phenomenon. Lefty artists and bohemians — including Kerouac and Ginsberg — have been settling in San Miguel since the 1940s. Like Samuel Rico, a native Miguelense, told us: “Desde que me acuerdo hay gringos aqui.” In our chats with the everyday people of San Miguel, the topic of conversation often turned to current events — mostly about El Chapo’s escape from prison. While you click through our portraits of the colorful residents that make up this charming town, you’ll see what they had to say about the famed narco and where he might be hiding. Our gallery (above) is kind of like Humans of New York, except with a lot more Mexicans and Baroque churches.