Musings, San Miguel de Allende

The Joy of Third Places in San Miguel

May 26, 2020

In 1989,  Ray Oldenburg coined the phrase “third places” in his book The Great Good Place, which I read in the nineties. The book made an enormous impact on my life and determined what I seek as the perfect environment to thrive.

Our town of San Miguel de Allende with its cafes, outdoor seating and courtyards, library, parks, beauty, and rough around the edges welcoming vibe has proven to be exactly what we envisioned for our happy place. It is, as they say, a “community living room,” a third space.

Humans need contact and community, and third places are public spaces that promote the exchange of ideas and building relationships while having a pleasant time. They are equalizers or strive to be. Social and financial status shouldn’t come into play. And an email address or fee is unnecessary to join.

This is not always the case because of stigma and prejudices, but we can all work together to bring about change. The lack of inclusivity has reared its ugly head for too long and we are seeing the horror as people pit against each other. When did the earth become so subdivided?

In the hierarchy, first place is home (private), second is work (structured and private) and third is a relaxed, neutral, happy medium between the two and in my mind the most important of the three.

During coronavirus lockdowns, I witness people getting antsy and short-tempered without access to community and unique experience.

Zoom has become somewhat of a substitute, but the coziness of touch and physical interaction disappears.

It is a great alternative for keeping in contact with friends, family, colleagues, and groups. And I believe the result will be a dramatic change in how we define workspace and office.

But we will still seek a basic human need to connect person to person and meet others. A zoom group is just that, a pre-designed group.

A coffee at a cafe is possibility.

A new best friend, a mentor, employer, lover. An endless stream of potentials.

As we near the end of quarantine, we are ready to go out on the streets, into restaurants and parks, and hear the buzz of conversation coupled with the chance to hug, shake hands, and dance again.

Let’s not waste the third places. Let’s latch on and promote them more than ever.

And let’s meet and shout hola with a smile.

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  • Reply Greg Gunter May 27, 2020 at 6:54 am

    How wonderful to read that you feel the same about Ray’s postulation on society! I named my retail development services company in San Diego 3rd Works as tribute to Ray’s theory because we helped create many of those “3rd places” in American society and it was that very same idea that drew me to San Miguel permanently in 2009. I’m thrilled to hear someone else share his theory!

    • Reply ourprimeoflife May 27, 2020 at 7:38 am

      Thank you for your comment. A great premise for your business! I wish more people would look at what their business can accomplish rather than just what they could build or sell.
      San Miguel has such a unique vibe to it and I too believe it is because of its openness. We are very lucky that we have the weather allowing us to take full advantage of our 3rd places. We can’t wait to break out and enjoy them once again!!

  • Reply Lainey Cameron May 26, 2020 at 1:34 pm

    Interesting and thought provoking. I’d never thought about San Miguel in that context but now I see i!

    • Reply ourprimeoflife May 26, 2020 at 2:46 pm

      Thank you, Lainey. If you can check out this book I highly recommend it. When I was in the midst of my breakdown I was searching for answers on how to find a life that fit me and this was one of the books I read that was spot on. Look at us now, living the dream of being a part of a great community in a lovely setting. Oh, happy day!!

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