Settling Down South of the Border

The family initially planned to stay for a year; they've loved it so much that they've been in San Miguel for three. But as the boys approach high school, they are thinking of returning to the U.S., so they've put their house up for sale.

Retired high school teacher Gay Raferty and software engineer Ira Crowe came to San Miguel for a month to escape the winter cold back in Gloucester, Mass. They're thinking it is a town they could live in and a home they could be happy in. They didn't come looking to buy.

"That was not in our mind at all," said Raferty. "It seems, everybody we've spoken to, has just fallen in love with this beautiful city."

They're looking at buying Ralston and Kendrick's three-bedroom house, including guest cottage, outdoor dining area and large gardens. It is listed for sale for $645,000. That's not necessarily cheap, but even in today's real estate market, the same spread in a prime location in Florida could cost upwards of $1,000,000.

Threatened by Rise in Popularity?

As more and more Americans and Canadians are drawn to San Miguel, you can see the growth.

On the edge of town, condos are for sale for $250,000. Outside, Florida-style golf resorts are springing up, and homes start at less than $200,000. And there are dozens of restaurants and cafes, even a Starbucks. There are also the familiar big box retailers Home Depot and Wal-Mart, just a short drive away. The once-remote area in Central Mexico appears on the cusp of a population explosion.

"I'm concerned about the influx of lots of people" said Jack Watson, President Jimmy Carter's former chief of staff, and current San Miguel resident. "Because one of the special things about this place is the nature of [it], so that if it is overwhelmed by people coming from the United States or from wherever else, you've got lots of problems."

But for now, the town is thriving, which is why Ralston and Kendrick are having a tough time deciding whether to move back to the U.S. They're not sure they want to sell their house in San Miguel.

"We're looking at moving back, and in the past nine months, we've driven probably 7,000 miles, we looked at 10 different cities, everything from Asheville, Ore., to Nashville and we haven't seen a place," said Kendrick.

"I think San Miguel has almost ruined us for other cities," said Ralston. "We've been all across the U.S. now looking for the next place we're going to move and, you know, San Miguel has so much, it has everything in one place.

You've heard of Mexicans clamoring to live in the U.S., but here, it's the opposite: Americans migrating south of the border.

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