Plazas: The Pulse of San Miguel de Allende


Want to bring a sparkle to someone’s eyes? Just mention the word “weekend.” It works in any language. Saturday is for errands and shopping, and Sunday is for church, family, friends, and relaxation.

While parked on a comfortable bench in San Miguel’s main plaza today, we watched a wonderful weekend unfold.


San Miguel’s plazas are bustling places with daily life on display in full plumage. They’re the focal point that draws not only the Miguelinos, but tourists and expats alike. On Sunday, the show reaches a fever-pace, and is truly a pleasure to behold.



Carefully trimmed laurel trees provide a delightful, shady respite as well as soften the feel of the surrounding stone and stucco buildings. These beautiful, mature trees must have taken decades to perfect. And prime benches are a coveted commodity.


No one is excluded from the Sunday stroll. Families are out in force; parents are relaxed, and of course, children are romping in all directions. The ballon vendors are a beehive of activity.


Temptations for the tourists aren’t absent either. Smiling local artisans, with their tourist radar cranked to max, sell colorful folkart of all types.


And this beautiful little girl captured my eye as well as my heart. The church service had just finished, and she was waiting while her parents said their goodbyes. She was the model of patience, but the kiddy chaos around her was almost impossible to resist.


As travelers, it’s easy to get caught up in only taking time to see the famous sights, museums, and other attractions that a city has to offer. But to really know a place, we believe that you have to see the people as well. On Sunday in the Jardin of San Miguel de Allende, we had the good fortune and pleasure to do just that.

Happy Trails,



We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

45 thoughts

  1. I am always amazed by how many hats a hat vendor can fit on his head, James. As for sitting and watching, it is one of my favorite travel activities. I bet you didn’t budge from your prime bench until necessity drove you from it. 🙂 Curt

    1. Show me a bench-sitter and a people watcher, and I’ll show you a serious traveler. Terri and I just love to people-watch when we travel. It’s a great way to get insights into the local culture. And in a place like SMA, it’s as much fun to watch the gringos as the locals. And truth be told, it gives us a chance to rest up for the next hill climb. ~James

      1. You really need at least a week somewhere to soak up the ambience of a new area. On a similar note, I love to go to fairs, find a place to sit and watch the crowds flow by. –Curt

    1. Sue, this hat guy was selling both men’s and women’s hats, so he worked us over pretty good. He had some nice hats, and if it had been later in the trip, I might have caved in. ~ James

    1. Thanks Alison. SMA really is a special place. And I’m glad to see that the city has absorbed all the expats and kept its character. The little girl was a true beauty. Honestly, she looks like a doll. ~ James

  2. I’m a great people watcher too.
    Nothing beats mingling with the locals and participating in their festivities (or rest days).

    Love the pics, James.

    1. Thanks Vicki. I’m always amazed at how much you can pick up about the local culture by just watching them for a bit. (And a bench on Sunday is the perfect place.) For instance, people here are very family oriented, and it only takes a couple of minutes to see how loving the parents are. ~ James

    1. Thanks Andrew. Yes, we had the perfect day. We didn’t have any tourist pursuits, and we just relaxed in the plaza. We also sat on a bench in another park and watched a girl’s basketball game, and two kids learning (not very successfully) how to skate. ~ James

  3. Love it. Tickets booked, apartment rented, can’t wait to get there now after seeing your posts, and the pain of leaving Paris is certainly lessened.


    1. You guys sound serious Steve. There’s no turning back now. You’ll love it here, and it will be a change from Paris for sure. The weather is perfect, and the cool desert nights are glorious. ~ James

  4. D’you know I must have psychic powers, James! I was just thinking that I hadn’t seen one of your posts for a while, and here you are- down Mexico way 🙂 Life looks fun in the sun, and isn’t that a magnificent church in the last shot? And the little senorita-awwh!

    1. Thanks Jo. These Spanish Colonial churches really are different, and I love the colors. The weather is perfect, but I won’t rub it in and give you the details. And that nina linda was beyond cute. ~ James

    1. It’s funny Bronwyn. When we travel we never say, “Hey, lets go people-watch!” It always seems to happen spontaneously, but it always happens. And a zoom lens is a must to get good, natural photos. ~ James

    1. Darlene I love it that you get book ideas from people watching. That’s very cool. When traveling, I find it a wonderful place to watch for cultural cues. Do you make notes at the time or later at your hotel? ~ James

  5. I love the colors of Mexico. The people paint their homes, their buildings are colorful, and they wear lots of color. The brightness of the colors seems to come across in the smiles people readily share in Mexico. We loved our time there, although we never made it to San Miguel de Allende, mostly because we heard it was an expat town. (And now here we are in Torrevieja, one of Spain’s biggest expat towns teeming with Brits.) Thanks for a cheerful story and the colorful photos. – Mike

    1. Thanks Mike. SMA does have a number of expats, but the city seems to have absorbed them pretty well. You see lots of gringos around (with their yoga mats and on the way to the spa), but they really aren’t a problem. The city still feels very authentic, and even with all the expats, there are still lots of encounters that require a bit of Spanish. If you get down this way, I think that you would enjoy it. ~ James

      1. I am sure we would enjoy San Miguel. We had a great time in Mexico. Florence and I think people who believe there is too much violence or crime in Mexico have been duped by the media. The people are wonderful, and it is a beautiful country. – Mike

      2. I agree Mike. If you use traveler’s common sense, and stay away from problem areas, there shouldn’t be a problem. The last thing the drug mobsters are worried about are a bunch of boomer tourists. ~ James

      1. So many of the colonial cities in Mexico have lovely plazas, as is probably true of many places you have traveled in the world.

    1. We loved this plaza Rusha. It’s always fun to see the local residents happy and relaxing. The kids were particularly fun to watch, and it was gratifying to see such loving parents. ~ James

  6. After eight days in SMA, I knew about one fourth of the people in the town square. It is a magical place. Thanks for bringing back that memory…

  7. Your photos transported me there. I love all the colors and chaos that can be Mexico. I’m a sucker for locals selling folk art. Loved the pictures of the people, especially the hat seller.

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