Q&A: A conversation with Evy McPherson
Jody Feagan
Sovereign X

Q&A: A conversation with Evy McPherson

Key Points

  • Originally from the United States, Evy McPherson recently moved back to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico for the second time.

  • Round two started after her divorce from her husband, a guitarist for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, she decided to spend time with her daughter in the colonial town in the mountains of central Mexico.

  • Evy talks about making friends, raising her daughter, buying a house, starting a business, and living life on her terms as an expat.

In Mexico, it’s even better the second time around

Jody Feagan, director of content and women’s initiatives for SX International, recently spoke to Evy McPherson about her 4-year-old interior design group and her return to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

Originally from the United States, Evy McPherson recently moved back to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico for the second time.  Speaking with Sovereign X’s Jody Feagan, Evy took a break from her interior design business to talk about reimagining her life as an expat and relocating to this beautiful little hamlet, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, nestled in the Sierra Madre mountains of central Mexico.

“Honestly, it was one of those things that chose me.  I couldn’t help myself— the pull was too strong,” Evy said about her decision to move to Mexico, again.

And it’s even better the second time around.

In 2005, Evy and her then-husband, Jerry, visited San Miguel de Allende to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. They immediately fell in love with the charming city and bought a house as a rental property. Jerry, a road guitarist for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, traveled a great deal of the time, leaving Evy to solo parent along with working full time at her design business.

That was when Evy decided to take some time off and spend it with their daughter, Miro, at their new house in Mexico.

What follows are excerpts from our conversation about Evy’s life experiences in Mexico.

Q: What was the impetus for you to move to Mexico?

A: Jerry was traveling all the time and I had a busy interior design practice in Nashville and needed a break. San Miguel de Allende was the perfect place to take a sabbatical. I just didn’t know it was going to last three years.  

Also, I had worked pretty intensely during my daughter’s first 11 years of life so the break was a fabulous opportunity for me to be a full-time parent.  I realized I had the rest of my life to design someone’s kitchen but I would only have one chance at being her mom.  

Q: At 11 years of age, what was your daughter’s reaction to moving to Mexico?

A: At first she was more than angry with me, as it was unexpected— moved during the middle of the school year.  

At first, I bribed her with Nutella sandwiches for her school lunch, which was more her favorite than the normal PB&J.  I also offered sleep-overs with friends during the week instead of just weekends.  

We lived pretty close to the school, so that seemed to work well for the other parents too.  Eventually, she grew to love it. And I could see that living in San Miguel de Allende was a fabulous opportunity for her to be a kid.  At that time, the kids could run to each others’ houses, do fashion shows on the rooftop and have scavenger hunts around town.

A favorite pastime was for her to put on shoes, walk down to the Jardin and have them polished at the shoeshine stand. Then walk home for another pair and repeat.  Living in Mexico was an experience she’ll remember for the rest of her life.  A true life-changer. So much so that she’s planning her wedding here in June 2022.

San Miguel has become “the” place for destinations weddings. But having spent a portion of her childhood there will I’m sure make it all the more special. And it just so happens that her wedding planner used to babysit her!

Q: Was Mexico an easy place to meet people and make friends?

A: I can’t say enough about the people— kindhearted and lovely.  

The first day we moved into our house after months of noisy construction, one of the neighbors came and knocked on our door.  At the time, not knowing any Spanish, we could only guess her reason for being there. After giving her a tour of our house and doing our best to apologize for the construction noise, we realized that she was inviting us to her house for a Three Kings Day celebration. And we ended up being their guests of honor.

(Editor’s note: Three Kings Day is celebrated on January 6, it’s one of the oldest traditions in Mexico where children wake up and open the gifts that the Three Kings of the East have left at the Christmas tree or near the representation of the Nativity).

After two delightful hours of celebration where we drank hot chocolate and atole (a traditional Mexican drink that’s made with corn flour) and ate delicious food, including a wreath-shaped pastry called Rosca de Reyes, with a figurine of baby Jesus baked inside.

We later figured out that the person who got this piece was then obliged to host the next party.

We returned home so touched that anyone could be so kind. Even though neither family could understand each other’s language, somehow we all just knew how to communicate. It was a sweet beginning to friendship.

Q: Your daughter attended a small private school with children from all over the world. How would you rate her educational experience? What were the costs compared to private school tuition in the U.S.?

A: I can’t remember the exact cost, but it was quite reasonable. It was more or less the same education with an extra bonus of the priceless experience of living in another country and experiencing a different culture. The most interesting part was that when it was time to return to the states, the high school she wanted to attend was pretty competitive and difficult to get into, especially at the eighth-grade level. 

But because we were coming from a ‘third world country,’ she was placed in a ‘minority’ category and that helped her in the application process.  That was a nice surprise.

Q: With your daughter starting high school, you returned to Nashville. Your older son, Miles, and his wife, who also live in Nashville, had a baby on the way. You wanted to be closer to them, so another reason to move back to the states. Fast-forward nine years to 2017 and you’re back in San Miguel de Allende. You bought another home and started your own business. Tell us about that.

A: The second time happened was in 2017 when I went for a return visit and remarked, “Uh-oh I think it’s happening again”. As I said, honestly, it was one of those things that chose me.  I couldn’t help myself – the pull was too strong.   

During that trip, I put an offer on a house in San Miguel de Allende, went back to Nashville to sell everything including my house and car and returned back to San Miguel de Allende in less than 50 days to start my new life: Part B.

I started my interior designer business, Evy McPherson Interiors, and created my website, www.evyevyevy.com. My title is “Boots on the Ground”.  I’m the conduit of sorts between local architects/contractors and owners that usually live in the states or elsewhere.  I not only do the interior design but, help manage the renovation or build-out of projects.  I keep a close ear to the ground for exceptional properties so it’s happened that I’ve found and facilitated helping people buy houses (sometimes sight unseen). Then it ends up that I usually do the design work for them too. 

Q: Was buying a home in Mexico a difficult process?

A: No, it was not a difficult process at all—straightforward—and there are qualified people to walk you through it. Contrary to popular belief, as an American, one can own property in Mexico.  

(Editor’s Note: Mexico has a “Restricted Zone,” a regulation that makes it illegal for a foreigner to directly own property within 100km of any Mexican border, or 50km from any Mexican coastline. However, through a Fideicomiso, it is perfectly legal for non-Mexican nationals to own real estate within these zones. A Mexican bank is designated as the trustee, holds the title of the property, and is the owner of the record. A non-Mexican buyer then becomes the beneficiary of the real estate trust and enjoys unrestricted use of the land (along with the options of renting or selling it). Once the trust expires after 50 years, the beneficiary has a contractual right to renew, rent, sell, or bequeath the property to whomever they choose.)

Q: You also got your Mexican permanent residency. What was that process like?

A: Although a lot of information was required, it was not difficult to obtain. And there’s a number of qualified people to walk you through the process.

Q: How is your Spanish?

A: Hah, it could be so much better. If I’m working with a crew that only speaks Spanish, then it’s pretty good. But San Miguel de Allende caters to foreigners, so speaking Spanish is not a must. And that typically goes for most major cities. 

Q: I’m sure the question about safety comes up a lot from your friends in the U.S. As a woman, living alone, living life on your terms, do you feel safe in Mexico? Do you feel comfortable walking alone?

A: Like in any city, anywhere, use common sense. And I don’t walk alone at night. I always take a cab. I’d also say to leave the heels and flashy jewelry at home.

Q: Would you say your quality of life is better living in Mexico?

A: Yes. It’s a less stressful environment day-to-day, and I have a better work-life balance than in the U.S.

Q: What’s the cost of living? I’m guessing it’s much better than in the U.S.

A: Yes, yes, and yes!  Everything about the cost of living is considerably less. I think the biggest surprise for people would be the cost of buying a house.  If you live in the Centro— in the historic district—then it’s not a bargain although the cost of renovation is less. (Editor’s Note: Expect to pay anywhere from $750,000 to $5 million US for a house in the historic district.)

I’ve also found quality health care that’s affordable. I just had a root canal and even though it wasn’t pleasant, it was excellent dental care at a significantly less cost compared to the U.S.

Q: Most people only dream about what you’ve done— not just once, but twice. And the second time around, you did it all on your own. That’s impressive but it couldn’t have been easy at times. Do you have any advice about things you’ve learned for someone interested in moving to San Miguel de Allende?

A: I think one strong piece of advice would be to rent instead of buying at first. I did okay buying my home, but I was lucky from a timing standpoint. It really does help to live here a while before committing to an area. We recently had flooding in some areas and you would only know that if you lived here for a while.

Time also allows you to develop friend groups.  People are amazingly friendly and San Miguel is a very social place—but just like anywhere, it takes time to make real connections.  I, fortunately, had opportunities to meet people when my daughter was in school the first time. This time I have my work and that keeps me busy meeting vendors, craftspeople but also presents me an opportunity to get to know a number of residents. There are lots of nonprofit organizations here and opportunities to volunteer. The language school are a really good place to meet people, too.  If not for one of those, it could be rather lonely at first.

Q: Do you see this as a permanent move or are you planning to live somewhere else in the world?

A: San Miguel is a really good fit for me, so I can’t imagine moving— at least, not anytime soon.  Every time I travel—even if it’s just for a short trip—when I return, I’m always so impressed with what an amazing and magical place this is. I’m very happy here.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


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