Struggling to free itself from a century of economic decline and
stagnation, the town of San Miguel de Allende, nestled in the hills
of central Mexico, discovered that its "timeless" quality could
provide a way forward. While other Mexican towns pursued policies
of industrialization, San Miguel—on the economic, political, and
cultural margins of revolutionary Mexico—worked to demonstrate that
it preserved an authentic quality, earning designation as a
"typical Mexican town" by the Guanajuato state legislature in 1939.
With the town's historic status guaranteed, a coalition
of local elites and transnational figures turned to an
international solution—tourism—to revive San Miguel's economy and
to reinforce its Mexican identity.
Lisa Pinley Covert examines how this once small, quiet town became
a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to one of Mexico's largest
foreign-born populations. By exploring the intersections of
economic development and national identity formation in San Miguel,
she reveals how towns and cities in Mexico grappled with
change over the course of the twentieth century. Covert similarly
identifies the historical context shaping the promise and perils of
a shift from an agricultural to a service-based economy. In the
process, she demonstrates how San Miguel could be
both typically Mexican and palpably foreign and how the
histories behind each process were inextricably intertwined.