|Subject: Re: oaxaca vs. san miguel|
Hello Barry and Denise,
Given a choice I'd select Oaxaca. My reasons are that I prefer the stronger indigenous cultural presence as represented by the Mixtec, Zapotec, and other tribes present in Oaxaca. The topography and demographics of the Oaxaca valley (the city surrounded by the various villages) is also more appealing to me.
San Miguel is not without its charms. Its setting, built up along a steep hillside and into canyons, offers more picturesque views of this much smaller town. And if one has time to venture further afield in the Bajío one can visit Guanajuato and Querétaro. As a lifelong visitor to Mexico I had avoided San Miguel due to its large population of expatriate Americans. My thinking was why would I want to spend time amongst my fellow countrymen while I was outside the country? On the other hand there must be something about the town that made it so appealing. So, last November we took a quick week long trip through Mexico City, Querétaro, and San Miguel de Allende. We were pleasantly surprised with the charms of the historical center of Querétaro. And we had a good time in San Miguel de Allende. Although the presence of expatriate Americans is obvious I found it to be less distracting than the large groups of tourists one encounters in the zócalo of Oaxaca. We found good restaurants, stayed in a nice B & B, encountered some wonderful shopping; in general our three days there was quite enjoyable.
Are you confused? You have to understand that I enjoy all parts of Mexico and have visited virtually every state. So, one of the appealing aspects of the country is how different each region is; culturally and geographically. I continue to visit new areas which are brought to my awareness; I hope to visit the Sierra Gorda of Querétaro and the river canyons of San Luis Potosi soon. So, you asked me to pick between the two, having visited both I'd go back to Oaxaca (and I've actually been there several times). To the first time visitor who had not been to either I would recommend Oaxaca first. But, in your case, seeing as you've already been to Oaxaca I suggest you try San Miguel de Allende, especially for such a short trip. The Bajío (the name of that region of Mexico) is especially appealing to aficionados of Mexican history.
Hopefully this makes some sense to you.
John in San Diego