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San Miguel in the Fabulous Fifties
San Miguel in the Fabulous Fifties
A Sentimental Business Journey

Eva Luz Villalón Turrubiates

An old Tourist Guide written by Miguel J. Malo and F. León de Vivero and published by the Instituto Allende in the year 1952 takes us back to the past, to the first modern hotels, restaurants and businesses of the city. Through it we can imagine how San Miguel was in the Fabulous Fifties, a time of change, prosperity and a new way to see life after the years of war.

In this guide, we find an ad for the restaurant El Patio, which was located at Correo Street No. 12, founded in 1945 by Don Pancho Arredondo. Another restaurant that also opened that year was the Buganvillia, owned by the Arteaga family, originally situated in the Portal Allende. This restaurant is still open nowadays on Mesones Street.

In the fifties there was a big hotel boom in the city. Proof of it is the number of hotels advertised in the tourist guide. For instance, the Hotel Colonial, one of the oldest in town, located on Canal Street, that offered rooms with bath, hot water at all hours and a true colonial atmosphere. Hotel María Cristina attracted its guests with rooms with private bathrooms and by offering Mexican and foreign food.

One of the most famous hotels in San Miguel at the time was the Rancho Hotel El Atascadero, a typical old Mexican hacienda with 250 acres of pleasantly landscaped grounds, outdoor activities and excellent meals. The Posada de las Monjas on Canal Street was founded by the Macías family. Back in those days, housing art students, it was one of the biggest hotels in town. Both El Atascadero and Posada de las Monjas are hotels with a rich history and both are still open for service. The Vista Hermosa hotel on Cuna de Allende Street offered to its guests a privileged location just besides the Parroquia, and rooms with bathrooms and delicious meals.

The Hotel Central, another of the oldest in town, owned by Vidal D. Flores, had steam baths, home cooking and special attention for travelers. Casa Sautto, near the Centro Cultural El Nigromante (Bellas Artes) was advertised as “a home away from home” and offered apartments for families and low prices. Hotel San Miguel on Hidalgo Street had the advantage of having its own parking lot for cars and trailers. The hotel owned by the Instituto Allende, one of Mexico’s finest at the time, advertised its magnificent views, the beautiful gardens, comfortable rooms and an excellent international restaurant.

Hotels in San Miguel have always had high quality standards. In 1950 the Hotel Posada San Francisco, owed by Ramón Zavala, won the prize in the National Hotel Contest for its ambiance, architecture and good service. The award was designed by Diego Rivera.

With the arrival of the students of the schools of art and the growing expat community, the people of San Miguel started to offer all kind of products and services to satisfy the needs of the population and the visitors.

For example, Casa Daniel, located in the Portal Guadalupe, now an Italian restaurant, was the first store in town to sell souvenirs and trinkets for the tourists. They also had a fine stock of hand-made clothes, fabrics, sandals and huaraches.

For the artists, there was the store El Iris (est. 1921) that sold stationery, sewing supplies and gifts on Main Street No. 18, the small street in front of the Jardín that goes from Relox to Hidalgo. This shop, one of the oldest and most traditional in town, is still in business at San Francisco Street, not that far from its original location. On Portal Allende No. 2, just across the street from the house of our local hero, there was El Colibrí, the House of the Artist. This shop, owned by Carmelita Barajas, offered all kind of supplies for painters, writers and the local artists. El Colibrí survived, in different locations, until the first years of the 21st. Century.

Modern times asked for new products and services, like the André Beauty Parlor, located on San Francisco Street No. 5. This place had phone service so its clients could easily schedule their appointments. The demand for food products grew in those years and business needed to be modernized. For example, butcher’s shops started to have refrigerators and meat cuts American style. The meat market La Blanca was a bilingual shop that also offered home delivery.

Casa Sánchez Gonzáles, located at the corner of Main Street and Relox, was the first supermarket in San Miguel. In this place customers could find the best national and foreigner groceries and liquors, assorted cold meats, candies, cheese, tobacco, with the lowest prices in town. Then there was the Negociación Fabril La Aurora, that didn’t even have to advertise its products or its address of phone number. It was a household name and the quality of its products spoke for itself.

To peek into the past through those old, vintage ads is to take a sentimental journey back in time to, like curious travelers, get a glimpse of how life was in San Miguel in those bygone days of the Fabulous Fifties.


Eva Luz Villalón Turrubiates:
Born in Celaya but Sanmiguelense by heart, she is the author of two books of oral history, traditions, folk tales and legends of the city of Salamanca. She's a professor in the university, a historical researcher and a volunteer in the Biblioteca Publica of San Miguel. She has written for several newspapers and magazines and also has been awarded with the literary prize "El Timón de Oro" by the Naval Academy. Currently she's working on a historical fiction novel set in San Miguel in the post-World War II era.

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