Stirling Dickinson, as you may know, is often credited with introducing and developing the recognition of San Miguel de Allende as a destination for art. Dickinson’s grandfather was a millionaire by way of the futures markets in Chicago and his father owned an advertising agency. Born in 1909 Dickinson received a formal education in art but realized that his talent would not place him in the top rank of artists. In 1934 Dickinson and his friend Heath Bowman, whom he had met at Princeton, began a series of trips to Central and South America finally settling in San Miguel de Allende where they wrote a novel “Death is Incidental.” Bowman eventually left San Miguel but Dickinson remained there for the rest of his life, living rather simply as a bachelor despite having inherited significant wealth. In 1938 Dickinson was appointed Director of the School of Fine Arts of San Miguel de Allende and began to actively promote the school especially to foreigners and wealthy Mexicans but also offering low-cost workshops in traditional Mexican arts and crafts such as pottery and weaving.
Dickinson is often credited with putting San Miguel on the arts map so to speak. He traveled widely advertising the Fine Arts School in San Miguel in the USA and particularly to veterans of World War II who had access to GI Bill funds and were looking to gain an education in the arts. Many of those veterans did come to San Miguel and then returned home to extol the virtues of the city or even stayed on to become permanent residents of the city. The rest, as they say, is history and the interest in San Miguel as a place to visit or to live permanently has never been greater.
So then just around the corner from my apartment is Calle Stirling Dickinson a lovely street of shops and restaurants and the location of two rather upscale housing developments as well as the Hotel Stirling Dickinson at number 28 which was constructed of out of industrial containers in a Bauhaus design with a Neomexicano touch. With room rates starting at about $75 USD/night, it is chic yet affordable with a unique touch. Just up Calle Stirling Dickinson are my favorite bakery which offers freshly baked bread and pastries every morning and my favorite fruit and vegetable store where I often get blueberries or raspberries for breakfast each morning with granola from Mercado Sano about 850 meters away at the intersection of Calle Stirling Dickinson and Ancha San Antonio. Along the way, I pass two excellent Thai restaurants, several Mexican restaurants, and more bakeries and little tiendas (shops) selling all kinds of food,
clothes, art objects, paintings, sculptures, etc. One could spend an interesting and fun entire day just checking out all of the shops along Calle Stirling Dickinson and absorbing the, mostly authentic Mexican culture, along the way. I walk the street every day and never cease to find something new along this most interesting little street named after one of San Miguel’s favorite sons Stirling Dickinson. And of yes, let me not forget my favorite local restaurant La Frontera where on Wednesday the special is grilled Filet Mignon or grilled Salmon both of which are excellent!
And then after I explore and enjoy all of the treats of Calle Stirling Dickinson, I retire to my oasis of plants, trees and flowers at San Martin 44, my home away from home. In spite of the gentrification of San Miguel, neighborhoods like San Antonio where I live can give one a very special and enjoyable taste of what San Miguel must have been like years ago. Come and visit and you can’t fail to be entranced as Stirling Dickinson himself ones now 81 years ago!