Gringolandia: San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

by Norm on July 27, 2011

in Mexico, San Miguel de Allende

Because I live and teach Yoga here in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, I decided to post this review of a documentary film produced by Dennis Lanson, one of my yoga students. My son Zachary Popovsky worked on this film as a translator/editor/photographer for Dennis.

I did this review for the newspaper Atencion San Miguel,  and have included it here for those of you who are interested in San Miguel de Allende.

For those of you in San Miguel now, Gringolandia showing 1:30 PM, Monday, Jan 16, and Tuesday, Jan 17, 2012, Santa Ana Room, Biblioteca Publico, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

If you want to see this, I advise you to arrive early to get a seat. The showings last year sold out and many were turned away.

Gringolandia: a Dennis Lanson Film

Film Review by Norman Popovsky

Dennis Lanson is an award winning movie Director and Professor of Film at Endicott College. He has built a home in San Miguel de Allende and plans to retire here soon. In Gringolandia we see San Miguel through his eyes and hear something of his desires as he narrates the film.

As someone who has lived here more than 30 years, I find it refreshing to experience through Lanson some of the hopes and joys I once had moving to San Miguel. However, I was even more impressed by his ability to bring out the rich observations of the many and diverse inhabitants of San Miguel through the changes that the town has taken.

Even though I am friends with many of those interviewed, I found myself enlightened and sometimes moved by their comments.

Paulina, Director of Academia Hispano Americana tells of her parents settling here when the town had 5000 inhabitants. About the earliest Gringos, she says

And the people that came before for some 40 years, they were people that had left the US for whatever reason who had the desire to live in a little town in the middle of Mexico, a very small town not easy to get to Who didn’t speak the language but tried to learn it. Some with more success than others…but who tried to integrate themselves without pretending to pass as Mexicans. The enormous effort they made to speak Spanish, to learn…to be accepted, not to be taken for intruders…to not be seen as meddling with the culture…very respectful…And they traveled all over Mexico. They studied anthropology. They were interested in the Maya. I learned a whole lot about Mexico from them.

Some of the greatest criticisms are about the changes to SMA which began with the arrival of real estate developers, who are often blamed for the higher cost of living. These are partially offset by the approval of those Mexicans employed in the construction of houses. Some say they feel they are better off since foreigners are involved in the economics of the town.

We hear from both Mexicans and Gringos about the bad behavior of “Ugly Americans”, but this is wonderfully balanced by the Gringo volunteer work with Casa Linda. Americans, as well as some other foreigners, donate their time to build houses for very poor Mexicans. One Mexican recipient said he found it hard to believe that Gringos would build a house for him. He says, “Who ever gives something for nothing?”

Casa Linda employs some Mexicans and in working together on projects, both Mexicans and Gringos say they feel more involved in the other’s culture.

We meet Gringos who left the highly competitive, materialistic American culture to enjoy the slowed pace of San Miguel. Many feel that they have become better to themselves and to others as a result.

Warren Hardy,  of Warren Hardy Spanish, talks about his life in corporate America scheduled in “15 minute time frames, and when people said they were going to do something, I absolutely expected it.”

Here in San Miguel his wise advice is, “Push things with a feather to get things done. If you try to force someone to do something, it will never get done.”

He says, “Having lived here for 16 years, I have learned to set aside those agendas and those demands, I have become more kind, more patient, and more understanding. And so I have become a much gentler person.”

How’s that for an endorsement?

Gringolandia showing 1:30 PM, Monday, January 16, and Tuesday, January 17, 2012, Santa Ana Room, Biblioteca Publico, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico 

Get to the Library early if you want to be assured of a seat.

Dennis Lanson will have Gringolandia DVDs for sale at the showing.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

John Scherber February 9, 2014 at 4:47 pm

Norm is truly one often area’s premier yoga teachers, and a long time resident. We chose San Miguel de Allende six years ago for its combination of climate, culture and the basic warmth of its people. I became interested in the process of becoming an expat and wrote a book based on conversations with 32 Americans and Canadians who had also made the move. It’s mainly a way of getting inside their heads. It’s called San Miguel de Allende: A Place in the Heart. Here’s a link to an excerpt on my website:

Norm February 9, 2014 at 8:38 pm

John, Good luck with your book sales.

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