Gangs of San Miguel

When I came to San Miguel in March 2007,  I thought I was going to visit a quaint, parochial Mexican town in the mountains. But after sitting for a few minutes in the Jardin and I was surrounded by middle aged Americans and Canadians demanding my attention. For the longest time I couldn’t figured out what happened to people who come to San Miguel.  I heard talk of  ‘reinventing’ yourself.  I heard talk of the  ‘magic’ of San Miguel.  I heard about people who bought houses after a few days in town.  So I picked up my camera and started to take picture but the picture was not enough.  I had to process what I was seeing.  It seemed all so unreal.  I thought about it and in February 2008 came up with the concept of Gangs to describe what I was seeing and an explanation of why the Gangs were there.

The key piece is that San Miguel is an Artist’s Colony.  An Artist’s Colony  has soul and because it does, it attracts those with money who wish to buy a little bit of soul.  But alas, you can’t buy soul.  It is an internal thing and no amount of art or architecture is going to make a heart any fuller.  Eccentricity is not able to be created.  It comes from inside and with a point of view that is easily articulated.  The Gang concept is really Group Eccentricity.  The essence of the Gang is externalized and easily replicated and easily revealed by the camera and can’t be articulated.

San Miguel is full of the Eccentric and the Group Eccentric and the blog is a joke is at the expense of the Group Eccentric who I have relegated to a Gang.

Failure to be authentic results in all the behaviours described in the blog from Hunting the Artisan to Collecting Mexican Friends to Hardly Speaking Spanish to Becoming Fully Arted and lastly Reinventing Yourself.

As I turned my pictures into posts I found more than I was expecting.

There were gangs about Doing Good Works who set up tables to recruit you. They want you to go on walks and house tours and attend concerts and adopt dogs. They put on concerts and art shows. They corner you on park benches and at happy hours. They send their dogs after you. They have places called Bienes Raices where stretched women and pretty men entice you to see “gated communities” where some gang members live.   I took Spanish lessons at Warren Hardy.  I kept coming back and back hoping some day I might run out of fodder for a blog.   But I have not run out yet.

The Gangs of San Miguel are about Rugs not Drugs.


In his book Art and San Miguel Gang Psychology, Donald Watson says

“When women first pick up a paint brush, or silver wire or glass cutters, or a pen to write in San Miguel, an inner voice that has been stilled for so many years starts to speak. It tells them they are CREATIVE. They rush home and begin to see their home in a different way. They see it as a source for CREATIVITY and a source to help them EXPRESS themselves. So the rugs, drapes, table coverings, bedspreads, curtains, towels, dishrags, table runners around the house soon disappear from the house and appeared as CREATIVE clothing.”

When Donald looked around San Miguel he found that the Instituto Allende, the Bellas Artes and the Biblioteca were the three most important places for awakening that CREATIVE inner voice.

The first household item wearers in San Miguel were brave pioneers who suffered mightly from snickers in the Jardin. But as their numbers grew and the gangs formed the snickers turned to whispers. Now women can walk freely and proudly in the Jardin wearing whatever they found that morning on the floor or on the wall or in linen closet. They welcome your stares and pictures because they believe you are honoring their CREATIVITY.

But not all gangs sprang from unleashing the CREATIVE inner voice. The Classic Gang sprang from their husband, ex-husband or late husband’s open wallet. ART to this group was not something you did but something your bought. They came to San Miguel to buy. They started with FABULOUS houses. Then one day in 1994 Missy Craigthorne noticed that some of the shabbily dressed people in San Miguel were carrying canvasses. She followed them to the Instituto Allende and had her mystical moment. They were ARTISTS. Out came her husband’s wallet and she bought her first piece of ART. Word spread throughout town that the shabby people had nice stuff to sell. Within a week there was no art left in town.

But the Gamay family recognized an open wallet when they saw one and in 2001 opened

Finally women of substance had a place to go and spend their days and their money.

Gangs for the Less Creative and Less Wealthy

“If you paint it they will come”, that wonderful line from the movie Hills of Dreams was so true in San Miguel. They did come in droves but not all were wealthy nor artists nor creative. For a long time they were the lost ones in San Miguel. They sat in the Jardin looking for purpose until Henry Bolton created the now famous Doing Good Works Gang. Now there was something for those with less artistic ability and wealth.The Blog is basically divided sections that are listed on the right side.  Click on a category and you will be taken for the post for that topic.

There is a post that explains  How Gangs were Formed.


The most important Gang in San Miguel is the Classic Gang


This is the Gang that buys ART.

The rest of the Gangs such as the Shaman Gang, Where’s Waldo Gang, Picnic Tablecloth Gang, Facelift Gang, Doing Good Works Gang or Warren Hardy Gang take their inspiration from things other than money.

9 thoughts on “Gangs of San Miguel”

  1. Thanks for the anonymous comment.

  2. You nagging old fart. Just don’t visit there. You sound like a bitter old soul who only perceives things with the same miserable attitude, heart and soul you harbour! Don’t visit there… it is that simple! How would you like it if I visited your house and exposed only the hideous things in it? Where do you evil jerks come from?

  3. Hi Ann
    Might be a good idea try the Honda’s mechaninc. I have an Italic ATV, (nothing to do with Honda) but they always give me good service and keep my old 4wheeler running. Don’t have phone #, but is the one on Salida a Celaya, next to the Santander Bank. Hope they can help you.

  4. I am in desperate need of someone to check out my scooter. We have tried for 6 months to find any one that knows about a motorized chair. A Jiffy from the Scooter Store in Texas. I am very dependent on this little thing. A person here in San Miguel said he could fix it, kept it 6 months before we could get it back still not working. I think that it just needs connection in the right places but I can’t do it being I am 82 yrs. old. Thanks Ann Johnsom

  5. … and, Ricardo, I love your blog. But do you have a good dentist there? After reading this one I seem to be having toothache.

  6. Ricardo – I am the lovely lady who was your neighbour last spring in San Rafael.
    I am desperately seeking reasonably priced digs in SMAGtoe for next Feb. and March.
    Any leads?
    And … how are you? Have you found a real French beret yet?

  7. All of this yakiri yak is wonderful. And the way you put it is so humorous, but so true.
    I think that to say “Dickinson (not Dickenson) founded San Miguel in 1937” is too much. San Miguel has a long history that goes back much before him. San Miguel has his own history, this is why is part of the Bicentennial celebrations. Stirling Dickinson came here not to found San Miguel. He came here to work because was a beautiful place and very affordable for an artist.. Then he did all that amazing work in favor of San Miguel, but certainly not thinking in founding the San Miguel we have now.

  8. Dear Richard,

    You are a huge asset to San Miguel…keeping us all laughing at ourselves. You are a true humorist in the tradition of Mark Twain, Will Rogers, and Sarah Palin.

    Just wondering: what happened to the Spiritual Gang? We (LifePath) were featured there, and we loved it.

    Do carry on. Joseph Dispenza

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