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Rhonda’s San Miguel map lauded by cartographers

By Jade Arroyo

Cartographer Rhonfa Lerner

Rhonda Lerner is a cartographer and has been a San Miguel resident for eight years. She launched a unique map of San Miguel in July 2013 to great success, and a reproduction of it is published weekly in the supplement Que Pasa. Lerner recently received an honorable mention from the Cartography and Geographic Information Society (CaGIS) in the category of recreational/travel maps in the international 2013 Cartography/GIS map competition. Atención spoke with her about the map and getting this award.

The CaGIS award

CaGis, an international network of educators, developers and researchers, has given out awards for 41 years. Lerner submitted her map for consideration in the professional recreational and travel map category, which includes maps that help travelers find their way around more easily. “I was notified on April 4, and I’ll be getting my certificate by mail, so now I will be able to call my map an ‘award-winning’ map,” said Lerner. There are only two awards in each category: Best of Category and Honorable Mention (first and second place). Other contenders in the map competition were part of the National Cartography Society or associated with cartography publications, so most of the other winners work for the publications of those institutions, whereas Lerner is independent. “Cartography is a male-dominated field; there are hardly any women. In the winners list there is just me and one other woman, who works for National Geographic magazine,” she said.

Creating the map

Creating the map took Lerner 800 hours of work over 10 months, which included creating the concept, designing and drawing the map, walking up and down the main streets of town getting business cards and brochures to have the right information to include on the map, and creating the guide.

“My husband and I met here, and six months after we got married we went to Asia and I bought a lot of maps. One of them, from Thailand, was really helpful and had icons instead of numbers and was well designed. That map was my inspiration to make our own San Miguel map.” The map is color-coded, one color for each category of the guide. You can glance at the map and see quickly where you need to go. “I created the different icons and then I consulted Pantone’s 2012 summer fashion color report to find harmonious colors that were unique. The yellow background is easy on the eyes. The guide is divided into 19 categories, including one for emergencies.  Dining spots are listed according to price range, and there’s a street food section listing the safe places,” she said.

The cover picture was taken by Bob Barros, who has been a professional photographer for 30 years. When the map was ready she asked Wesley and Jim from Agave Sotheby’s International Realty for their opinions, and a couple weeks later they gave their input and became sponsors by buying an ad at the back. At first Lerner did not want to have advertising, but she decided that Agave’s sponsorship would be a good endorsement of quality. Any of the businesses listed have paid to be on the map. “The program I made the map with is named Ortilias, and on their website they feature different products. They are featuring my map for the month of April as an example of a good map made with their program,” noted Lerner.

About Rhonda

“I got a degree in cartography from California State University and graduated in 1999 with honors. I was an intern in the GIS Department and I found I had this artistic side combined with meticulous attention to detail that came together to create accurate, artistic maps. I didn’t use that part of my degree until 15 years later, when I started this project,” said Lerner.

Collaboration with Atención San Miguel

Lerner said she worked as a proofreader for Atención eight years ago and met people there who became her friends. “When I launched my map, the editor, Jesús Ibarra, asked me if they could use my map. I said ‘sure.’ So I redesigned it to the scale of the paper and now it is helping travelers who pick up Que Pasa.”

Rhonda’s ​Centro  Historico Guide & Street Map of San Miguel de Allende is available several places in town, among them La Tienda at La Biblioteca, La Conexión, Vía Orgánica, Darla, BajioGo and El Petit Four. The map is also available on her website,, and from the app stores Google Play, Apple iTunes and the Avenza Map Store.

The map has been translated into Spanish and Lerner is looking for a permanent sponsor.


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