San Ángel, Ciudad de México. Tranquilidad.

San Ángel is one of those places in a city that perhaps you’d read about but just never got around to visiting. Once a rural hamlet far outside the boundaries of Mexico City, San Ángel is in-fact, one of the most beautiful, clearly one of the wealthiest, and certainly one of the most security-conscious barrios in all of Mexico City. And now, well and truly within the inner-city limits – connected by a tangle of super highways and flyovers, whisking you there from downtown in around half an hour. 

Once you reach the charming barrio of San Ángel, it’s as if you’ve arrived in a different place in time – not the thronging mega-metropolis of Mexico City that’s actually just outside of the barrio, but perhaps some gorgeous provincial Mexican town, far from the madding crowd. Step out of the Uber (we don’t take cabs here after the last sting) at Plaza San Jacinto and the tranquilidad hits you. 

Narrow winding cobblestone streets, beautiful bougainvillea-covered colonial homes, bird song, splashes of vivid colour and most noticeable of all, no-one around. So you know, there’s not much through traffic here in San Ángel – unless you live here of course…for the houses here are mega-impressive, the likes of which I haven’t seen in Mexico City. Most of what you get to see here is restricted. Imposing gates and stone walls, security cameras everywhere, even (I noticed) embedded into the ivy-covered walls and lush green and very tall private hedges. Strolling through the narrow laneways, there’s a not a lot to see really, just enormous triple garages, discreet black-mirror security windows and of course cameras pointed down at you from every angle. If you happen to linger a little longer and take some interest in a particular feature or coloured wall (as I’m wont to do), then a guard will appear as if from nowhere, tracking your every move and urging you on with his piercing eyes. Walkie-talkie crackling with suspicion. 

Polanco is meant to be the city’s wealthiest barrio, the so-called Bevery Hills of CDMX – and it is pretty swanky, think New York Upper East Side (in parts) and yes, Bevery Hills in other parts. But if you’re super rich and cravetranquilidad and iron-clad security, then San Ángel is for you. And if the snatched glimpses of the real estate we got as the huge gates swung open for a returning resident are anything to go by, then these are not so much homes as compound estates. As you walk around you do hear the tinkling of fountains and the occasional splash from a pool, but mostly, as I’ve said, it’s the bird song and the quiet. 

Back in the early colonial period when San Ángel was a rural community it was clustered around newly-built monasteries, one of which the Monasterio de San Jacinto is one of the oldest churches in Mexico, built between 1564 and 1614 by the Dominican friars. It’s a gorgeous quiet place set in a lovely large garden full of fruit trees and one particular impressive cactus that towers over the garden. In the garden stands one of the oddest Christian crosses I think I’ve ever seen. One of the first atrial crosses, carved in stone and mixing Christian and pagan elements with the Latin inscription INRI ‘Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudæorum’, translating as ‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”. The cross dates to the mid 16th Century and is believed to reflect something of the cosmology of the craftsmen who created it, making it one of the oldest surviving crosses in Mexico. 

Again, thinking of the journey over here to San Ángel, the city smog reaching dangerously high levels, the jammed solid multi-stacked freeways and flyovers… it’s worth it to reach this incredibly peaceful garden, ths most gorgeous old church and to once again be placed in a state of tranquilidad

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Michael Skinner says:

    Which house did you make an offer for?


    1. La casa mas grande!


  2. Bevanlee says:

    What a shame some cheery local did not invite you in for cocktails amidst grandeur


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