San Miguel de Allende is literally littered with second (third or fourth) home communities most geared at the uber-wealthy from Mexico City. With the quarantine these homes are more in use now than ever before as like Lisa Douglas stated “Goodbye city life!” which reads now as virus-free green acres.
Initially, many of the very rich thought they could simply take refuge on their yachts, says Adolfo Nieto, commercial director of Aerolíneas Ejecutivos, which sells luxury boats. But “that dream didn’t last long” as the authorities soon closed lakes and seas to recreational craft.
After retreating instead to their holiday homes, many seem to be enjoying it. The staff is grateful to be among the few with work while residents can enjoy the toys placed there but rarely used.
Things went south quickly for the uber-wealthy when Jaime Ruiz Sacristán, Mexico’s stock exchange president and the highest profile fatality to date, died of the virus showing that money was no protection. He was one of the three who returned from skiing in Vail via private plane with the virus and the purported ground zero for infected wealthy.
While the one per cent may be in isolation, they are not idle. Carlos Slim, the phone magnate and Mexico’s richest man, whose cousin contracted Covid-19 in Vail, sealed a contract to build part of the Maya Train that the President says will develop the country’s poor Yucatan peninsula. Mr. Slim also gave the equivalent of 42 million US dollars to buy ventilators and medical equipment.
Mexico lost more than half a million jobs in April alone and Mexico’s rich have also felt the pain personally. The fortunes of Mexico’s top one per cent of earners account for an estimated one quarter of total incomes. According to Forbes, no one in Mexico has been hit more than Mr. Slim. Once the world’s richest man, he now ranks 17th with a net worth more than all of Mexico’s other billionaires put together. Still, Mr. Slim’s losses this year are more than the fortune of Mexico’s next richest, Ricardo Salinas.
Many top Mexican businesses have turned their attention to re-purposing factories to produce hand sanitizer, as Corona brewer, Grupo Modelo, did. Others like Germán Larrea, head of a mining and rail conglomerate, donated a hospital.
But not all have let the crisis change their plans. Mr. Salinas, a media, banking and retail magnate, has argued vocally, along with many scientists, for business as usual. Namely because the informal sector is half of Mexico’s economy and does not have the luxury of a safety net in locking down. He appealed in vain for the country not to grind to a halt. He kept open his Elektra shops, which sell appliances, stating “We’re not going to die of coronavirus, but of hunger.”
But as the new post-plague normal takes hold, many of the wealthy are thinking of staying in their second homes for good. Rick Brunson, the director of a youth art program in town, lives in an area normally empty as the other residents are multiple home owners only here for the big events. Not these days! Nearly every house is occupied enjoying a bit of space between neighbors and breezes from the presa.
I’ve a numbers-focused pal that when the virus started chose a mid-sized city in a lackluster state with low infection numbers to hole up in for several months. Eventually, though, her lease ran up and she decided to return to San Miguel to lay low. I certainly get the appeal of being here!
When the year 2000 was rolling around and the end of the world was predicted as all computers were feared to crash, I was grateful to live on a small island in the Atlantic Ocean. Inviting employees out to pass the time playing board games with my three children under 8 we had a blast as the catastrophe never happened.
The catastrophe is happening this time, and with more dire consequences. I simply lucked out being here to pass the time, once again, with board games and great people including Mrs. White in the kitchen with the knife!
- TripAdvisor’s top tour guide in San Miguel de Allende with History and Culture Walking Tours and Joseph Toone Tours.
- Amazon’s best selling author of the San Miguel de Allende’s Secrets book series on making your adventures around town unique.
- Creator of the Maria Dolls coloring book helping indigenous doll makers.