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New Year’s Eve Celebration Makes Everyone Part of the Magic

Guillermo González

Katia Soto, legislator

Pirotecnia para recibir 2018

Subhead: Local officials promise a safe celebration

By Jesús Aguado

Every New Year’s Eve, the meeting point for all Sanmiguelenses is the Jardín Principal, where locals gather from the rural communities and the neighborhoods in Centro and beyond. Mexicans and expats alike come together for the countdown to the new year, surrounded by live music, fireworks, champagne toasts, and the traditional 12 grapes eaten at midnight, which symbolize hopeful wishes for each month of the new year. In this manner, Sanmiguelenses ring in a new year and the promise of 365 more days to make things right.

A fiesta for everybody

This year, the event in the Jardín will begin at 11pm on December 31. The celebrations, including a countdown at 11:59pm, will feature a collage of lights and images projected on the architecture around the Jardín. It will be a magical spectacle and a family event, worth the visit for both locals and visitors. It will also be a safe event, promises Guillermo González, manager of the Tourism Council.

“This year, we want to recover the original traditions [of New Year’s Eve], that of a family dinner at home and then coming to the Jardín around 11:00 or 11:30pm to wait to greet the New Year. After the spectacle, the event will feature live music. Those who wish to stay and celebrate at our main plaza can have a great time, or if someone wants to continue the celebration at a bar or a restaurant, they can do that too.”

González reminded us that the celebration at the Jardín is relatively new; it only began in 1999, as an event meant to welcome the millennium. At the time, says González, Rubén Pérez, then president of the Hotels Association, had the bold idea to organize a simple party in the Jardín to ring in the year 2000. For 19 years, that party has continued, has been improved upon, and is now an annual expectation.

Prior to 2000, nothing was open in San Miguel de Allende on New Year’s Eve night. Families celebrated at home, and there was no one magic spot where one could gather to say goodbye to the old year and welcome in the new one. “I remember, as a child, there was nothing open on December 31, not even a restaurant. Everything was closed.”

González remembers that in 1999, there was a re-enactment of the Alborada (music and fireworks to honor St Michael the Archangel). Bands played wind instruments at every corner of the Jardín, and the main event was crowned by the Celaya band Sonora Mazatlán.

Safety Overview

In this and past years, isolated violent events have sometimes occurred on the streets surrounding the Jardín, but González promises that his office is working with the local and state police forces to maintain a safe environment.

On December 12, two men were shot on calle Umarán, at the entrance to the Limerick Pub, the second attack reported there this year. Two years ago, a device exploded at the corner of Umarán and Zacateros.

“We have hardworking people on the Tourism Council,” says González, “Laura Torres, for example, now has a seat on the State Safety Council. We also have private transportation providers worried about robberies [that have occurred recently] on the roads. We are working with the city and state to protect San Miguel so that we can enjoy the fiesta with no bad news. Some incidents have been recorded in very specific places and for very specific reasons, but we are expecting it to be controlled. We are concerned, but we are also working to fulfill our objectives in terms of tourism. I can tell you that, in general, San Miguel is safe.”

Taxes, and more taxes

Although he could not state a specific amount, González said that tourist establishments in San Miguel saw more revenue in 2018 than in previous years. As anecdotal evidence, he told us that the city’s two percent hotel/hosting tax is expected in 2018 to generate two million more pesos than last year’s figure of 11.5 million, an increase of 17 percent. This hosting tax has mainly been collected from hotels and bed-and-breakfast establishments by the state of Guanajuato, but that is about to change. In 2019, the state will begin to collect taxes from digital short-term rentals advertised on sites like Airbnb, most likely directly from the digital platforms themselves, who will then collect the money from renters and pass it directly to the Guanajuato Secretariat of Finance. This sort of collection process is already happening in the state of Quintana Roo, where the hosting tax is three percent.

Visitors have increased in town, González said, as has the number of houses informally rented on websites. It is estimated that there are 2,700 houses available for rent in San Miguel through these sorts of digital platforms, and virtually none of the owners of these rental properties are currently paying the hosting tax.

On December 19, the state legislature certified a new San Miguel municipal regulation that will require in 2019 that owners of “digital rentals” obtain a new land-use permit for each property they own, at a cost of 10,000 pesos per permit. Secretary of the City Council Gonzalo González says that the city already has a list of 2,000 such properties in town that they know of. In the first part of the new year, they will invite the owners of these properties to apply for the land-use permits, and eventually pursue owners who don’t. The city will take steps to end digital rentals by owners who are not in compliance, he said.

The money generated from these land-use permits, which González expects to be around 10 million pesos, will be used toward administering and enforcing the land-use permit program and also toward security measures in the city, he said.

“We have more tourists, but also more informal active rentals, and we have to work to regulate that because it affects employment, social security, and safety for everybody,” said González. “We will keep working so that [owners] pay a local tax.”

 

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