For Patrice Wynne, the arts-rich, colonial town of San Miguel de Allende was the only option when she moved overseas.
“There’s no other place that’s even close for me,” says Patrice. “The people, both Mexicans and expats, are so kind, so caring, so decent, so noble. The city’s colonial beauty is staggering any time of the day or night. I never tire of looking out windows or walking along its streets, even after 16 years.”
Today, Patrice owns Abrazos San Miguel, a fair-trade business that creates housewares and clothing using vibrantly colored patterns inspired by Mexican art, culture, and folklore. You’ll find her products on sale all over Mexico, and in Germany, France, Sweden, the United States, and beyond.
“When I moved to Mexico, I was only 50 years old. I had to find work that would sustain me economically and creatively,” says Patrice, who originally considered opening a tour business. But then Patrice met a family—her neighbors—who were sewing out of their home. The children needed scholarship money and their mother was a great seamstress…and Patrice had a background in business and textiles.
“My mother and grandmother were seamstresses and had a flair for dressing originally in handmade clothes. Even though we weren’t wealthy, we had style,” explains Patrice.
By 2004, Patrice had a line of aprons and was selling at local artisan markets. At first she ran the business out of her home, but the business grew and in 2010, she opened her shop in the heart of San Miguel’s centro historico. The rent for her store, in one of the most popular tourist districts in Mexico, is a fraction of what she would pay in the U.S. and her utility bills are low because the temperate year-round climate means there’s no need for heat or air conditioning.
Patrice works hard but also has plenty of time for fun. She knows a lot of people around town. The local expat population in San Miguel, which numbers roughly 7,000, is active socially. There’s no shortage of concerts, book clubs, theater events, parties, tennis and golf games, cultural events, and more…but Patrice prefers a quieter life.
“My greatest pleasure is being with my partner, Ernesto—whatever we are doing, but mostly when we are traveling around Mexico. San Miguel has anything that you could enjoy doing in abundance…so spending time at home takes some effort but we make an effort to do it frequently,” says Patrice. “But for us, reading a great book in the evening with our dog and drinking a glass of tequila on the rooftop while watching the birds in the sky is as good as life gets.”
This laidback quality of life is why she came to Mexico. And although she works hard to grow her business, that’s not her primary goal. She says that, after regularly working 16-hour days when she owned her bookstore, she’s ready to take a step back and put quality of life ahead of business growth. At her store, Patrice has a trusted staff she has trained—interacting with customers and minding the shop—leaving her focused on finding wholesale deals and free to enjoy her personal time.
“In that sense, I have become more Mexican, absorbing the lessons of living here: family, friends, and fiestas are much more important in life than growth percentage,” says Patrice. “And part of my fair-trade business model is to give enough work for the seamstresses and employees to thrive, but not to create stressful environments that will affect their health and family life. Everyone is happier that way in a Mexican business.”