Newly arriving expats frequently view the Spanish conquest of Mexico as one-sided and total, to the detriment of indigenous cultures. Such a notion could not be farther from the truth as most everything we do, see, eat and experience in San Miguel de Allende is a fertile combination of indigenous and Spanish civilizations.
Yes, Spain was the conqueror but simple math indicates there were way more indigenous, even after the ravages of war and imported diseases, than conquistadors. Spain, and their partner in world domination, the Church, had to accept what the indigenous already believed. Together they tossed in some tweaks, resulting in a culture based in Catholicism that is more ritualistic, feminine and tactile than found up North or across the pond.
Today’s marketing professionals aided by the internet, computers and related technology can only gasp and marvel at the juggernaut that was the Church. The Church keenly focused on bringing the new faith to the area, even advertising Mexico as the New Eden.
Throughout the vast geography of Mexico there is hardly a city, town or village that cannot claim a miracle-working religious image. Most of the cults surrounding these images developed during colonial times helping to legitimate the Catholic conversion. Popular piety did the rest, and local populations sustained the cults through donations, festivals and church art. Local cults are testaments for not only successful conversion but of local pride and regional identity.
Even the name, San Miguel, is unique as we were the first settlement in Mexico not build by the Spanish upon a pre-existing indigenous settlement. Hence, we’ve the first Spanish town name, San Miguel, while neighbors are identified by their indigenous name like Guanajuato, Atotonilco and Querétaro.
Domination – political, religious, and aesthetic was possible only through compromise and integration. Since the Inquisition arrived with the Spaniards, San Miguel de Allende has been a complex amalgam of cultural identities and differences that became one over the years as we eat tamales, stroll by architecture, view Maria dolls for sale and hear fireworks and bells.
Enjoy San Miguel de Allende more by understanding our extraordinary mixture of an ancestral pagan past and the Catholic faith! Come along on a walking tour. If out of town, enjoy any of the best-selling books in the San Miguel de Allende Secrets series or invite me to come speak on San Miguel’s Power of the Feminine in your home town.
Foreigners that have lived here for decades write how they learned more new stuff from me in the first five minutes we were together than they ever imagined. Imagine how much more fun living here is when you poke around the history and culture to learn integration is the way to go!
by Joseph Toone
- TripAdvisor’s top tour guide with History and Culture Walking Tours and Joseph Toone Tours.
- Amazon’s best selling author of the San Miguel de Allende Secrets books.
- Creator of the National Geographic-sponsored Maria Dolls coloring book helping indigenous doll makers.
- Producer of San Miguel de Allende Secrets YouTube channel with over 100 videos and 1,500 views monthly.
- International speaker on the Power of the Feminine in San Miguel de Allende.