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On Mexican Time: A New Life in San Miguel

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  1,571 Ratings  ·  154 Reviews
An American writer and his wife find a new home—and a new lease on life—in the charming sixteenth-century hill town of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

When Los Angeles novelist Tony Cohan and his artist wife, Masako, visited central Mexico one winter they fell under the spell of a place where the pace of life is leisurely, the cobblestone streets and sun-splashed plazas are
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Published July 1st 2009 by Broadway Books (first published January 11th 2000)
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Lisa (Harmonybites)
Oct 15, 2012 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Ultimate Reading List
This is one of those expatriot memoirs where an American or Brit pulls up stakes to live la bella vita--or the simpler life--in some warm clime. Think Frances Mayes' Under the Tuscan Sun or Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence, usually told oh so lyrically, eruditely, with lots of literary allusions and mentions of mouth-watering cuisine. I’ve been reading through a recommendation list of such travel writing--this was the last--and I suppose my reaction to this one might be put down to having become ...more
Aug 21, 2011 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love this book because I have lived in Mexico. Tony Cohan does a wonderful job verbalizing the transformation one goes through when embracing Mexican culture. He understands the subtlties of colors, smells, flavor, sabor. Living in Mexcio is a much larger undertaking than many would understand. The idea of Mexico in the United States is a place you go to party, but don't drink the water. A place riddled with drugs and traffickers and the home of all the illegal aliens that we fear so much.

Aug 02, 2008 Diana rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: retired expats who don't want to think too hard
Shelves: latin-america
I was alternately impressed by and annoyed with this book.

Here's why I was impressed:
-Author is obviously a talented writer in terms of his florid descriptions of the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of small-town Mexico. I liked how they described the perfect bougianville (sp?) color and all the amazing descriptions of the food--see chapter on "mango mousse"
-The references to learning a language and living in particular tenses... the parallel between the improvement of the author's Spanish a
Ramiro Austin
Apr 14, 2016 Ramiro Austin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Quite a few reviewers, on the Amazon website and elsewhere, have been exceedingly unkind to Mr. Cohan and his book. Resentful readers for the most part. They envy his life in San Miguel, and how he writes about it, and can’t find anything good to say about this book. Arbiters of taste and excellence, they grant him a few ‘good descriptions’ and then proceed to cast aspersion on his book. How it is a waste of time to read it and so on. There’s a word in Spanish for such reviewers —a word related ...more
Tara Ethridge
I'll read just about anything about uprooting one's life to live out a dream in a foreign land, and this was great from that aspect. San Miguel itself was a place I visited twenty years ago, and it was a life-altering trip, so I was glad to delve into the details of living there. Lots of great anecdotes about the people and country in here.
Pete Dematteo
San Miguel Allende used to be a beautiful little town and still is, to a far lesser extent, despite its huge sports utility vehicles with license plates from the United States and its now super-expensive hotels and villas. While the book is interesting, I have lived in Mexico City and have traveled throughout the country and learned a few things.
After 2 years there, I grew incredibly bored, as I am a native New Yorker who is fascinated by hoardes of international immigrant groups. If being sized
Jul 14, 2014 Steven rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of my (and my wife's) favorite books of all time. We love experiencing new cultures, so this book made for a fascinating read. Cohan's deep appreciation for Mexican culture (and his discovery of its many facets--contradicting the homogenous stereotypes that Americans typically have of Mexico) makes this book an even richer experience. Stories of Mexico, and the people of San Miguel de Allende are woven seamlessly into Cohan's own story. Reading this book makes you feel like you are g ...more
Jan 27, 2011 Mara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am a sucker for books about people finding a place in this world that speaks to their heart, moving there and diving into a different culture, then finding an old wreck of a house that speaks to their soul, and pouring all their love and hopes and dreams, money and sanity into restoring the old ruin. This book checks off all those boxes and has me day dreaming of a slower pace of life in a quaint mexican mountain town full of color and flavor.
Aug 01, 2012 Ben rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book made me want to live in Mexico. I would be a furniture maker or something. Probably tomar demasiado.
Apr 03, 2008 Cheryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A kind of lazy read memoir - but I loved the images of Mexico and the descriptions of how the author and his wife felt their view on what is important changing as they melded into their new home.
Apr 26, 2008 Laurie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
he admits that he and his wife and their independent $ are part of the cultural problem in these small mexican towns but he is happy to keep doing what he's doing. still it sound heavenly....
Laura Hancock
I purchased this book because I have been intrigued by San Miguel de Allende, a colonial city in Mexico dating from the 1600s where thousands of Norteamericanos (both American and Canadian artists and writers) live. Many of these gringos have established artists' colonies and workshops in San Miguel for people like myself for small snippets of time.
Cohan, an established writer, and his wife, a painter, moved to San Miguel from Los Angeles in the mid-1980s when the gringo population was only abou
Jul 17, 2011 Dale rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, travel, mexico
I enjoyed this book, mostly for the same reasons that I enjoyed Frances Mayes' first book about moving to Tuscany: there's something very appealing about the idea of pulling up stakes and moving to a country different than one's own. The call of the exotic, and all that.

In this case the destination is San Miguel de Allende in the Mexican altiplano 4 hours drive from Mexico City, and the time is 1985 to 1999. Cohan and his partner Masako were there on extended stays for four years, and then bough
Jun 17, 2012 Evan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I truly needed a book like this, to transport me to another place during a time when I can't physically get away. Though a bit dated, published in 2000 and taking place during the early 90s, I couldn't help but love this book of an ex-pat writer's experiences in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. It seems to be a Mexico of the past, a sleepy town on the mile-high altiplano in Mexico's state of Guanajuato. Cohan and his wife travel there to visit friends, and then decide they much prefer its slow pa ...more
Bob Nichols
Cohan writes about how he and his wife fell in love with Mexico, which led to their decision to move to San Miguel de Allende. Most of the book is about town characters and buying and restoring an old house. The writing is excellent. The stories are fun. The author's love and respect for Mexico and its culture is evident.

Even now, after having been discovered by non-Mexicans, San Miguel is a spectacular place and I was surprised that the author didn't write more about the town itself. The settin
Nov 23, 2012 Jrobertus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a travel narrative in the vein of A year in Provence. Tony is a writer and his wife Masako an artist. He has grown children but tires of life in LA so I and his wife move to San Miguel de Allende on the altoplano of central Mexico. They adapt to the beauty and pace of life in this old colonial town and clearly love the place as the narrative unfolds. The book was written in 2000, so one is unsure how the recent narco terror has effected the place, but it seems charming as told. Of course ...more
Feb 13, 2008 MJ rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to MJ by: Ultimate reading list
Tony Cohan and his artist wife, Masako, decided to take a vacation where do they go? San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico were they fall in love with the people culture and maybe each other all over again. After returning to the fast paced life in Los Angeles the couple decided to sell everything and move to San Miguel. They end up buying a 250-year-old hacienda on the verge of fallimg down around them. What happens next as 2 Americans try to change their deadline oriented life into that of a ...more
Martine Walker
Tony gives a colorful and accurate depiction of life in San Miguel in the 80's. I picked up this book since we are taking a trip to San Miguel for the first time this year. This read like a journal, a personal account, I felt like I was there and could also relate to many of their concerns after living in Central America for 2 years. It is also sad to hear about how much San Miguel was changing from the beginning of the book to the end. Another beautiful, secluded Mexican town that was "discover ...more
Jan 15, 2010 Judy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yet another professional American couple discover a haven in a foreign country; namely the hills of mid-Mexico--not unlike 'Under the Tuscan Sun' and 'A Year in Provence'. However
each country, experience and couple bring their own dynamics and expectations to the unravelling of the story. Of course, they ultimately purchase a downtrodden, ancient property (which is actually owned by the Government!) and proceed to restore it with the help of unreliable workers--how does a mar-riage survive such
Deon Stonehouse
Tony and his wife Masako had personal and professional ties to their life in Los Angeles. But they were not feeling connected or really very happy. It takes gumption to try something different. Tony and Masako started first by spending time in San Miguel de Allende. They were charmed by the languid pace and small town feeling of the village. The next step in their adventure was purchasing a rundown house and starting on the daunting task of restoring its former glory. Anyone who has been involve ...more
Nov 17, 2013 Jo-anne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I struggle to explain all that I find so wonderful in my visits to Mexico so what a treat to find this book that so eloquently describes my experiences. One particular dialogue says it all for me.
"If I smile, people smile wider. If I say "Buenos dias," they say it back, stronger."
"In Mexico," Paul says, "you put out a little, you get back a lot. In human terms, at least, you could say it's a functional economy."

Finally understand how the nickname Pepe originates from Jose. "putative paternity"
Mar 02, 2014 Gerrigray rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having just been in San Miguel de Allende for two weeks in January 2014, I very much enjoyed reading about streets and places that I had seen. Buildings do not change in the historic district of this town found in 1542. Cohan writes about the first few years that he and his Japanese wife, Masako Taskahashi, lived in San Miguel. In 1985 they visited friends living there. They fell in love with the slower pace of life and a way of living with less "stuff." They lived first in a hotel, then in a re ...more
Jul 22, 2012 Chrisanne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This book gave me a good introduction to San Miguel and Mexican culture through the eyes of an American writer. It was interesting, funny, heart breaking and, I think, a realistic portrait of San Miguel and Mexico in the 1980s through 1996. So much change - for the better? Perhaps for some, but I regret the loss of the San Miguel Tony and his wife discovered on their first visit in the early 80s. It sounds like San Miguel has lost much of its soul just as most U.S. cities and towns have lost the ...more
Timothy Neesam
Jan 06, 2017 Timothy Neesam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Author Tony Cohan and his wife, artist Masako Takahashi, fall in love with the arts community San Miguel de Allende, a couple hours outside Mexico City. It's suitably atmospheric, with nice descriptions of colour and atmosphere, with interesting characters sketched throughout. It tends to the warm, inviting and appreciative of the differences between American and Mexican culture, even when when plans go awry, or when a character kills someone ... twice. Recommended for those who like travelogues ...more
Mar 01, 2009 Jess rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent, vivid descriptions of the changes two American gringos undergo as they make the decision to embrace, and be embraced by, Mexico and its culture. As they settle into the small, yet heroic town of San Miguel de Allende, Tony and Masako begin to realize and appreciate the very essence of life… succumbing to the realities that the materialistic culture of L.A. has resulted in a sense of “rushed time,” while being in Mexico allows the couple to cherish each other, life, and themselves. An ...more
A friend of mine's brother is retiring and moving to Mexico. He loaned her a book about making the transition from American culture to the Mexican time(less) zone, On Mexican Time by Tony Cohan. A true story of a couple that gives up on LA and retreats to the mountains north of Mexico City, it covers their slow immersion in the timeless culture of central Mexico. The stories are interesting, the writing excellent. There is something romantic and enticing about giving it all up and moving to such ...more
Mar 10, 2008 Linda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a charming account in the genre of the Provence and Tuscany books. Comfortable Americanos buy run-down place in foreign country and try to fix it up as their sanctuary. They learn to slow down and live the way the natives live, and to appreciate the lag time between hopes and dreams and reality. San Miguel Allende is an upscale get-away for many rather upscale Americanos. It has a fabulous art scene and sounds like paradise. Wish I was there. (But do the natives really LIKE these pe ...more
Dec 10, 2007 Joan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of Mexico, the Spanish language, adventuous travelers, or wannabees.
This book really struck a chord in me. Ten years ago I, too, was a newcomer to Mexico, fell in love with it and have been going back almost yearly to study the language, enjoy the people, the weather, the culture. This is an account of a couple who were also captivated by Mexico---their day to day lives as they adapt to living there.

The author does ramble on now and then, but not so much as to make me lay it down. I think one must have a decided interest and some knowledge of Mexico to really e
Aug 04, 2011 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have a really big thing for Mexio and always think about canning my life here and going to live there (I've been there three times in the past three years). This book gave insight into the reality of actually moving there. I would do it in a heartbeat if it wasn't for my family. The advantages and disadvantages of living there are clearly exhibited in the text, but I think their culture and country is so beautiful in many ways. And I never would have guessed I'd think that.....I took French in ...more
Jan 10, 2008 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Has our own bacteria count now reached equilibrium with the environment—like the church bells and the fireworks at dawn we barely notice now—while little devouring creatures bore their way through our intestinal walls?

Things happen, but slowly, and never as planned. People don’t show, or show at odd times, and inevitably they’re late. For every lapse or delay there’s a reason, by somebody’s logic.

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Tony Cohan grew up in Manhattan and Los Angeles, where at the age of fourteen he made his debut as a jazz musician. After attending Stanford and the University of California he spent two years in Europe and North Africa, performing with jazz artists Dexter Gordon, Bud Powell and blind Catalan pianist Tete Monteliu. Returning to San Francisco, he worked briefly at the University of California Press ...more
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“Maybe there´s no home, just road´s end.” 2 likes
“The day set out from the east and started walking. The day is on a journey. We're woven into the design of that day, though we're not inventing it” 0 likes
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