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Patronato Pro Niños Tours Highlight a Town of “Outstanding Universal Value”

By Cheryl Young

Many of our guests ask us what it means that San Miguel de Allende has been granted the status of a UNESCO Heritage site. To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must be of “outstanding universal value” and meet at least one out of 10 selection criteria. See for the criteria details. What is special about San Miguel from an architectural perspective that warrants this status?

Nearby colonial cities such as Querétaro and Guanajuato also have beautiful buildings from the Baroque era. In addition, Querétaro supported its bid for status by pointing out that from its inception it was laid out retaining the geometric, rectilinear street plan of the Spanish conquerors side by side with the twisting alleys of the Indian quarters, unusual for a Spanish colonial town. So, according to the 2013 UNESCO document, the Otomi, the Tarasco, the Chichimeca, and the Spanish lived together peacefully in the town.

In its 1988 submission, the state capital of Guanajuato also lays claim to a key difference from other colonial towns in New Spain. It was not laid out on the standard grid pattern but grew by “scattered areas of spontaneous urbanization on suitable sites.” In an updated vernacular, we would likely describe that as “organic growth.” It also boasts churches that are masterpieces of Mexican Churrigueresque architecture: La Compania (1745–1765), and the spectacular La Valenciana (1765–1788).

So, what of San Miguel? In our UNESCO document, our city is described as “a fortified town, first established in the sixteenth century to protect the Royal Route inland, reaching its apogee in the eighteenth century, when many of its outstanding religious and civic buildings were built in the style of the Mexican Baroque. Some of these buildings are masterpieces of the style that evolved in the transition from Baroque to neoclassical.”

So it easily meets and surpasses the outstanding architectural mélange Criteria IV, being an “exceptional example of the integration of different architectural trends and styles on the basis of a sixteenth-century urban layout.”

Another unique feature of San Miguel is that because it has had periods of extreme wealth followed by periods of disuse and disrepair, many of our architectural gems escaped the wrecking ball. We exhibit “the evolution of different styles, well-integrated into a homogeneous urban landscape.” Our “urban mansions are exceptionally large and rich for a medium-size Latin American town.” This quote immediately brings to mind the Canal House and the Allende Mansion.

We invite you to take the Architectural Walk from Patronato Pro Niños on Thursday, August 15. All donations and tips go to support the important work of PPN. For 49 years, this nonprofit organization has been providing medical and dental services to children in San Miguel whose families cannot afford to provide it for them. In 2018, PPN served 7,636 children. That is more than 600 per month!

All walks are conducted in English. Private tours can be arranged. Contact Christina at 415 152 7796 or at



The Patronato Pro Niños Architectural Walk

Thu, Aug 15, 10am

Meet in the Jardin, across from the Parroquia

Please arrive 9:45am

350 peso per person donation



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