|Mayor||Maria Panuan (Since 41 A.A.)|
|Number of inhabitants||15 million|
As San Miguel is one of the few cities where a mayor can be elected by all inhabitants of the city, as long as they are born in San Miguel and are registered as citizens, this will prove to become an interesting time indeed.
The city is the home of the unaffiliated population of Aohu. Due to the cities history of strict regulation on both Corp and Incarnate presence, the city is often referred to as "No-mans land". In the eyes of the leadership of San Miguel, this derogatory term is another reason to heavily regulate the "Inhumans". These regulations greatly favor corporations that have a majority of unaffiliated employees by providing numerous tax benefits. In some cases, companies have gone as far as to hire a number of sit at home employees to reach these quotas. Despite these regulations, the people of San Miguel itself are surprisingly tolerant of the other factions, provided they bring the much-needed credits to rejuvenate their economy.
- 1 History
- 2 Companies
- 3 Politics
- 4 Crime
- 5 Culture
- 6 Districts
- 7 Notable locations
San Miguel started as a small cluster of farms, operated by a small community of families who had moved from different parts of Aohu to flee a drought. The fertile lands surrounding San Miguel, combined with the almost Aohu wide shortage, allowed San Miguel to quickly grow in size and production capacity. The original families, who had since then became the most wealthy and powerful families of San Miguel feared that the newcomers would undermine their power and influence. In response, they formed a community council to protect their interests. Only those that were born in San Miguel were allowed to vote or even hold an official position.
This organization, also called the Farmers Alliance, slowly grew to become much more than a "simple" council, as over time more and more laws were passed that prevented farmers in the region from competing with one other. The founding families kept up the charade of this alliance while buying out all the smaller farms one by one. Over time the alliance transformed into the company that is now known as Lumaki.
San Miguel had the dubious honor of being one of the few cities to be occupied by both the West and Eastern sides of the conflict during the World War. The longest and most influential occupation was that of the Corp affiliated forces, who during their occupation constructed Fort Adorable. These forces forcefully conscripted local population to serve as expandable heavy assault troops to be used against the fortified Feng positions. Most of the young men that were drafted failed to return. Those that did come back returned changed and scarred beyond recognition.
When the war finally ended, the disarmament agreement meant that any and all occupying armed forces had to withdraw from the city. This was initially met with great approval from the local population until they realized how dependent they had become on the money that the soldiers spent within the city. Thousands of "comfort girls" and other entertainment providers, who used to be able to earn a decent living by 'servicing' the soldiers, were left without any clients. But not only the service industry took a hit; almost every part of the economy was harmed. With the crime rates soaring, as there no longer were any soldiers to keep the local criminals in line, providing another nail in the coffin of the local economy.
Theresian independence conflict
"Why make 200 credits a month, when you can make 200 credits a day? We will recruit the entire neighborhood so that you and your friends will stay together, train together and fight together. Do it for our fathers. Do it for our mothers. Do it for Lumaki"— Lumaki drafting slogan, 37 A.A.
With the local economy in shambles, Lumaki and San Miguel were struggling to stay alive. After a few decades of slow growth, the management of Lumaki realized that they needed to diversify; away from the agriculture and into something more profitable. The first opportunity presented itself when it became clear that no-one took an interest in Theresia. At that moment, Lumaki saw an excellent opportunity to rejuvenate their economy by seizing the natural resources.
Given their parents keep talking about the "good times" when "the soldiers were here", it was very easy for Lumaki to try to fix its terrible standing by participating in the conflict. It was a very easy sell to the young inhabitants of the city, who had little in the way of a future.
Lumaki men and women had large families - a hangover effect from rural lifestyles - so many sent their 3rd, 4th, and 5th children to support the war efforts. Not to mention that the communities were tightly knit, so less bonding was needed for these farmers sons and daughters to be converted into military squadrons. Plenty of Lumaki children went to Feng to work in the mines, so Avatar's branding to them was also good. Avatar supplied the machines they worked on in the fields and under the earth. Avatar industries was a name they knew, a name that worked, a name they could count on. They were like the hand and Avatar was the scythe. So in this war, Avatar would supply most of the hardware and Lumaki would send most of the warm bodies.
Recently, Maria Panuan has attempted to draw investors away from New Shanghai to San Miguel by hosting multiple conferences in the Grand Rincon Ballroom, situated in the Our lady in flames. These were accompanied by an extensive crackdown on petty crimes and a major sweep of the city streets. During this time, the number of complaints regarding rights violations nearly tripled, as one could even get arrested for merely not looking taken care of enough. As the Panuan administration had quite some difficulties of forcing their police officers from actually performing the sweeps, security drones, such as the MERC CRA were used.
The only thing that prevented these altercations from not becoming full-out riots was the combination of the stick and the carrot. Maria Panuan quickly realized that she needed something to show her good intents and arranged for massive distributions of food to the poorer parts of the city. Her critics now use this move to attack her position; stating that this was a policy fit for a Roman emperor, as it provided "Bread and Games" for the people, referring to the high view ratings that the smaller riots got on the local news.
The economy of San Miguel has suffered greatly due to the reparations that Lumaki is forced to pay for their role in the Theresian independence war. These payments forced Lumaki to decrease their expenditures in San Miguel to the lowest level they could legally get away with. These rather extreme budget cuts enabled the various crime syndicates to gain the upper hand in almost every part of the city. This, in turn, has forced Panuan to make deals with the syndicates in order to retain control. Any single Syndicate isn't powerful enough to compete with Lumaki directly, and so far Maria has been able to play them out against each other enough to keep it that way. But this shift of power has forced Lumaki to compromise, providing the Syndicates with far more leeway than ever before.
In the past 5 years Etenshi has attempted multiple times to obtain the Civil corporation rights for San Miguel, only to be rebuffed at the latest possible moment by Lumaki.
Corporations in San Miguel tend to fall into two categories; Entertainment or Food based. The most influential corporations are listed below.
The hold Lumaki has on San Miguel is undeniable. Despite the burden that the reparation payments have put on the corporation and by extension the city, Panuan has been able to maintain a tight grip on the city. But this grip is slowly being eroded now that a new election is on the horizon. Some might say that the company is in its death throes, taking its sweet time to make room for another company to take its place. But those people have obviously never been on the receiving side of Lumaki's rule of the city.
It is a public secret that Etenshi covets the Civil corporation rights of San Miguel. It has recently started a PR campaign, combined with aggressive commercial expansion into the city to this effect. Rumors even have it that more than one mayoral candidate is secretly backed by Etenshi supplied credits.
"She never smiles. The most we've ever gotten out of her is a smirk."
Any local can tell you there are only three groups of people in San Miguel that matter; the gangs, the syndicates, and the cops. As far as they have ever known, everyone's a crook in this city. It's just a matter of how much you get away with. But at the end of the line, it's completely clear who is in charge.
On top of everyone, is the infamous de-facto matriarch of the city. Reigning CEO of the state, the leader of the civil enterprise itself, Maria Gloria Panuan. She is the unsmiling face of Lumaki. The only person who has invariably demonstrated herself to be capable of maintaining the balance of power in San Miguel. However, her strong personality and pragmatism have earned her the reputation among other world leaders as an autocrat; she makes unilateral decisions on behalf of Lumaki and the city without consulting her colleagues. She would do anything to stay in power.
Every quarter, Panuan calls the leaders of every syndicate and the ministers, including the chief of SMPD, to a private dinner in Our lady in flames. This is an-off-the-books gathering that supersedes all official policymaking and keeps all the players in line. At any other time, the people in that room would try very hard to kill each other if they met.
San Miguel was once thought of being a place impossible to govern effectively, but Lumaki has weathered many storms. Since becoming the Civil Corporation of San Miguel, Lumaki has not only participated in a major conflict (the Theresian Conflict in 38 A.A) but also survived two separate economic crises. It is through the drastic cost-cutting measures of 41 A.A by the Reginald regime that Lumaki and by extension, the city, survived the financial massacre created by the sanctions and reparation payments leveled by the World Board.
While poor by civil corporation standards, Lumaki is still a megacorporation with standing at the planetary level. They still have a seat on the World Board, which is of course held by Panuan herself. But what they lack in resources or liquid assets, they more than make up with their almost all-encompassing grip on the city. They quite literally own the city and they are the law, which effectively gives Panuan the power of life and death over the population of nearly 15 million people. Only someone truly suicidal would attempt to challenge her primacy, especially in her own city.
San Miguel is governed with an iron fist, and the business end of enforcing it falls to the San Miguel Police department. With far-reaching powers and an enormous budget, the SMPD is also the biggest employers in the city. One very distinctive feature of the SMPD is the sheer number of robotic police units – the EXA-16s are almost everywhere. Another feature is how overbearing their equipment is, SMPD officers are always kitted out for the worst – always wearing complete tactical gear to deal with equally well-armed offenders, their rivals in the Syndicates.
Forced Civic Labor
"The forced civic labor act will invigorate our economy, all the while increasing the service level that Lumaki can and will provide for the taxpaying citizens of San Miguel"
In her last two terms, the Panuan administration created the 'Forced civic labor' (FCL) act. Originally, the FCL act was intended by one of the city councils of the inner city to end homelessness by making the poor work for the state. After the pilot cleanup project in 45AA was able to clean out almost all vagrants and beggars from the inner city, the category for candidates was expanded into petty crime. This act attempted to reduce imprisonment rates by converting jail terms into various low-value infrastructure jobs. These jobs can be anything from parking enforcement in outer suburbs (the entire inner city is automated), assembly line work at an Exatech factory (the irony of humans creating robots to replace them is lost to most of the workers) or Assignment witness. The latter was originally meant to be a 'counselor' but most people relegated to this job usually have no useful advice whatsoever, due to too many humans and too few Incarnate or Corp getting arrested. Some of these civic jobs are completely obsolete, but due to the huge numbers of manpower generated by the act some utterly demeaning tasks were made.
Forced civic laborers wear a black armband with the logo of the city on it. Some petty criminals, trying to escape gang vengeance, intentionally try to get into forced civic labor as they cannot be assaulted without forcing SMPD to act, as they are classified as public servants under the eyes of the law. Unfortunately, most civic labor gigs are used usually implemented for white collar (low-risk) crimes. This is also because most white collar criminals are also richer and more educated and tend to have skills that can be exploited more readily. Most gangsters trying to get civic labor as a way out usually end up becoming a LINER instead.
The act also enabled San Miguel to remain one of the few cities to still have a functional postal system. A famous delivery brand, Argosend, was bought by Lumaki, essentially nationalizing it. Their entire headcount, from CEO to the rank and file, were replaced with free civic laborers. This is so effective that Etenshi started to copy this methodology. When someone is working for Argosend in 60 A.A, they are basically a 'second chancer'.
While arguably part of the private sector, the large organized crime groups form the next political strata, the syndicates. They are exceedingly well-financed and more or less run the day to day lives of San Miguel's residents. While corporate politics in other regions are cutthroat, all of that is child's play when compared to what the San Miguel-based syndicates are capable of.
There are three major rival Syndicates, all of them locked in an uneasy 'peace': The Triple Seven Triad, the Choonhavan Cartel and the Miguelian Mob. They are the beneficiaries of the major vice industries that form a shadow economy, accounting for 60 percent of GDP in San Miguel: illegal guns, prostitution, and drugs. The three syndicates derive the benefits of the various illegal trades via tributes and protection rackets, but leave the execution of such unsightly work to the gangs. This leaves the syndicates themselves to be completely clean on paper. Despite this facade, they do pay a certain percentage over their illicit gains in the form of "shadow tax" to the Panauan administration in exchange for continued tolerance of their hold of the city. This extra income is suspected to play an important part in Lumaki keeping its grip on the city.
Inter-syndicate violence is mostly carried by street gangs who form both a deniable and disposable resource, as well as providing a buffer. Losing good staff is bad for business, so disagreements are commonly resolved by proxy as much as possible. Rival syndicate executives can sometimes be found watching the same opera as tattooed and foaming-at-the-mouth stimmed ruffians are busy dismembering themselves just meters outside the theater. When the syndicates do have cause to act directly, however, things go out of control really fast. Military style raids and strike teams armed with cutting-edge weaponry could turn a section of the city into a practical warzone. The general revulsion for such disruption has caused each syndicate to engage in an arms race for the last decade.
But even though that these parties lay claim to most of the city, they do not control all the criminal enterprises of the city. Various smaller independent organizations, such as the Kurzweil Cult, also claim parts of the city as their territory.
"You can do anything in San Miguel, just don't get caught."— Uncredited, Graffiti at the 'Mouth of hell' land crossing
The default 'profession' in the San Miguel outer suburbs is being a gang member. A lot of gangsters are youths with nowhere else to go, but the gangs are more symptom than the cause of the social problems that plague the city. As San Miguel families are mostly human, they lag behind in skills acquisition and job opportunities compared to the denizens of the inner city. Most San Miguel youths have to fight over low-value employment such as precarious agricultural jobs in skyscraper farms that are yet unautomated. Almost every outer surburbanite has at least one member in their family that has been in the Simbulan Penitentiary at some point in their lives.
Being in a gang is both a form of protection and a secondary source of income. Loners tend to get lynched for their clothes and followed home for a further robbery, so gang members spray tags on their doors to indicate their 'color' or affiliation as a warning to rivals to stay away or face dire consequences. Violence commonly erupts between gangs but this is usually with fists and improvised weaponry. When gangs use anything better, it is only because of Syndicate patronage. This makes the most 'useful' gangs to the Syndicates naturally, the most powerful. These 'sponsored' gangs operate narcotics sales, flesh trade, and illegal weapons behind many closed doors. The secrecy is a nod to the influence the SPMD still has in the city. Although they are ever so slowly losing their grip, they are far from powerless. The most influential and powerful of these gangs are The Divine Dice, 7 Sirens, The Grave Cheaters, The Beasts, and the Platinum Brotherhood.
Non-residents and newcomers sometimes fake gang colors to prevent harassment. This has become somewhat of a signature ritual for adventurous visitors to the four outer districts.
It is a common joke that being a gangster should be seen as an orientation "training" for both the SMPD and the syndicates, as both segments recruit almost exclusively from the various gangs of San Miguel.
"Officially, liners don't exist. Unofficially, it's one of the strongest tools the SMPD has at their disposal to force unwilling civilians to cooperate."
Being a gangster in a dystopian urban hellhole is quite bad, but it can get worse. Much worse. Meet the lowest tier of outer suburbanite: the so-called 'liners'.
No one in San Miguel is clean. The state of total surveillance means CCTV cameras pick up even the most minor infractions such as jaywalking and littering. This data is compiled this into SMPD's central criminal database. This means that pretty much everyone has long lists of minor crimes in their files, each suspected criminal activity forms a new line. The SMPD uses these hundreds of minor infractions to levy heavy charges on an individual of interest. Anyone who is unfortunate to be hauled up by the SMPD and actually taken into account for their countless offenses will, provided they don't have the connections to fight these charges, become part of this underclass category. These people are called 'liners', referring to the long list of lines that make up their docket. Liners have their Lumaki citizenship privileges terminated and have zero protection from the law. The SMPD will literally turn around while their liver gets harvested. Mutants, overstayers, and stateless individuals often turn into liners pretty quickly. No one wants them and no one cares.
It's not even that hard to become a liner in the first place. Let's say you are arrested by the SMPD. Notice that we used 'arrested' not 'shot and run over', both of which is equally likely to happen if you end up in the crosshairs of the SMPD. If you are a cop busted by internal affairs or anyone important really, most of the time your case goes into 'circulation'. Certain investigations have seemingly perpetual status - of being 'ongoing,' sometimes for years, without anyone ever being held accountable. If you are a step-down and a card-carrying Syndicate member, your rich patrons will undoubtedly bail you out, or throw some poor bastard to take the fall, ensuring that you are back in the office the next day.
Now, if you are not any of the above, you actually get the status of your lines in your docket changed from 'suspected" to 'prosecuted'. Ta-da. You are a liner; someone without rights, no protection from the police and at the bottom of the food chain, treated like fodder by even the gangs.
"You must be new here, guv. Thinking that a mere robbing is enough to get the police involved. Didya get hurt? 'Ave connections? No? Don't bother. Chances are the SMPD goons shake you down again for wasting their time."— Passerby, to a tourist attempting to call the police
22 years ago, almost every able-bodied man and woman were drafted into the Lumaki army for the Theresian "liberation force". Those former soldiers, or what was left of them, eventually came back. Almost every household had someone combat-trained and this meant three things: most domestic disputes became violent really fast, San Miguel people were accustomed to following orders and lastly only the very best (the worst of the worst) were asked to deal with the city's rampant gang problem.
San Miguel police are heavy handed and they relish whatever power and prestige they can cling on to. In the inner city, and of course, the Strip, police officers are still respected instead of feared. Despite most SMPD officers being little more than glorified goons, they know that harassing those with the right connections is a sure way to end up floating face down in a gutter. But in the outer suburbs, they are untouchable. Almost as if they were a social class of their own. Publically, all crimes are dealt with by the full extent of the law, but as we know from the existence of the liners, quite a few crimes are not prosecuted at all.
It was a brilliant move to implement drones as part of the policing, as corruption is rife in the SMPD. Drones are much harder to bribe or blackmail and any attempt to tamper with them leaves some kind of technical evidence. Before the implementation of the Exatech contract, the syndicates planted or recruited informants inside the SMPD to make their operations easier. But this went both ways, as some high ranking members of the syndicate leadership are in fact undercover SMPD agents. This rather incestuous dynamic has been the topic of many delightful movie plots and novels for decades. The deployment of the EXA16 and its successor models have turned the tables far in favor of the SMPD.
Most academics debate that the SMPD is just an extension of Panuan's personal political apparatus to maintain the status quo and that the power structure of San Miguel actually polices itself. Lumaki keeps the Syndicates around who in turn keep business pro-Lumaki. The Syndicates make the gangs do the dirty work and the gangs and the criminal underclass keep lowering their own population to controllable levels.
"Never been to a San Miguel block rave? You never lived. Hopping off her '56 auto scooter, Yancy Abadi was dressed to kill. The 25-year-old was in semi wolf, but her face was manicured, fur shaped, tapered in triangles where they met her human neck. She left her hair unshifted, locks beaded and braided down her back. Her bosoms bound tightly for a night of dancing, her cleavage squeezed far too tight. In any other city, Yancy might have been stopped for solicitation, with me in my Centramart three-piece, but she was getting ready. I hopped onto her bike and minutes later we were in a dank apartment living room, smoke wafting out of an incense aromatizer, empty alcohol containers everywhere. This is where I met her friends, a ragged mix of Anubian art post grads with asymmetric haircuts and midriff-baring attire and a few tattooed humans. 'This isn't the party' she whispered, almost too soft for human ears; she kept forgetting I'm a norm. 'This is just warm up'. Yancy was about to take me to my first real San Miguel outer suburb block rave. Though they called it the party at 'Lucy and Vicky's'"
The most exciting urban parties are found in the form of "Engagement Parties" where newlyweds' celebrations become fronts for huge underground block celebrations with thumping dance music and narcotics. It is illegal in San Miguel to hold large party-type events due to the Panuan-regime clampdown of political expression. However, outer suburb promoters in San Miguel have disguised raves as engagement parties. So whenever a proposal is being made, gangs will approach the family, giving them money in order for them to sell tickets and use their engagement as a pretext for organizing an underground party. This has become one of the largest open secrets and the SMPD tolerates as it is mainly a victimless crime, but the occasional crooked enforcement might "fine" couples for hoodwinking the authorities. The gangs behind the party-organizers usually pay out generous fees to the couple and this simply became a cost of doing business and contributed to the edgy entertainment scene beyond Sinner's row.
"The Three Ladies Diner is not a diner at all. It is the living room of Mama Pia, a Gallian grandmother who cooks up unbelievable Gallian Sioba. It is made with imported Grushen sow glazed with the psychotropic excretions of the endangered Sama Tree Beetle with a side of tea leaf salad. Mama Pia's family fled Grushen before the massacre but took enough of it with them to bring along an authentic Gallian gastronomical journey. The diner is decorated with bio-luminous fungi that are always arranged in seasonal shapes such as a respectful sheppard's crook during the Pilgrim's Path. Motes of glowing spores can be seen wafting through the air, floating on the tang of citrus shavings and currents of smoky, savory pork. The original three ladies were her two sisters, now Mama Pia's daughter and granddaughter help her prepare dishes and serve tables. Mama Pia is so healthy that she appears nearly the same age as her 50-year-old daughter, Nan. Mama Pia’s husband, Bee, is an invalid old man who stares mindlessly at the guests from his chair in the corner, his white hair a shock, his mouth agape. Pia tells a different story everytime she is asked: He has dementia, that he was shot in the head in a gang altercation, or that he is traveling the universe with his mind and his body remains in the diner. The diner has moved three times in its history, mostly due to shakedowns from the local constabulary. In contrast, gang leaders respect Mama Pia's position in the community as the Three Ladies is a bit of an institution. Many Gallian residents of San Miguel make it a point to visit Three Ladies at least annually during the festive period, which leads to reservations filled up almost half a year in advance."
Food culture is extraordinary, with multitudes of skyscraper/vertical farms feeding fresh produce to thousands of illegal-but-not home-based restaurants that serve up unique renditions of traditional Argosian cuisine and more continental offerings with exotic ingredients. The easy availability of fresh, locally grown produce, combined with the exotic foodstuffs that come in through the harbor, have fueled the local food and tourism sector. Bachelor's trips almost always have San Miguel as a stopover prior to Vanida.
Death is a common occurrence in the crime-ridden streets of San Miguel, especially in the poorer parts of the city. The way the inhabitants handle death varies from district to district.
One notable exception to the 'common' rituals regarding death within San Miguel (and the rest of Aohu) is the Mutant Ghetto. For those who die there, it's quite common for friends and relatives to eat small parts of the deceased as a sign of respect for the strength of the person that has passed on. The greater respect an individual enjoyed in life, the more of its body is consumed. It's seen as a great honor if nothing of one's body is left after the final rites as it signals both strength and respect from the community.
Some outsiders seem to think that San Miguel only has sprawling orchards and fields of flowing grain. Others seem to only think about the flashing lights and extravaganze of the casino district. Both are equally wrong and equally right. The truth is, that the city is both. The outer areas of San Miguel are so lightly populated that one would be hard-pressed to call it a village, whereas the center of the city has one of the highest prices of ground anywhere on Aohu. This contrast makes for a wide variety of locations and areas in San Miguel.
The city itself is divided into 6 districts. The borders between these districts tend to be heavily patrolled by the San Miguel Police Department. Acces to the "higher" areas, especially by inhabitants from the "lower" areas are heavily regulated. Shakedowns "borders" are quite common. There is a lively competition between police officers and smugglers regarding the price and "comfort" of a crossing.
"It might not be easy to get rich in San Miguel. But it sure is damn hard to stay rich when visiting The Strip."— Local saying
The strip is a narrow piece of land in the center of San Miguel that seems to hold it all, from the dazzling casino's, the fancy upper-class apartments and the most exclusive clubs and restaurants the city has to offer. The strip is the living and beating heart of the city and because of it's attraction to tourists, it's one of the few parts of San Miguel that is considered to be 'safe'. Both the Syndicates and the SMPD keep a tight leash on everyone in the area.
In the middle of the strip stands one of the most (in)famous buildings of San Miguel: "Our Lady in Flames". This ritzy casino serves as the unofficial seat of power for the Panuan administration and thus frequently hosts meetings with various internal and external notables.
Port district + Fort Adorable
Middle class district + Sports stadium
Poor district + Simbulan Penitentiary
A no-mans land that divides the outer suburbs Das Marinas, Montalban, Malabon, Letres and the Strip
Letres is the poorest district in San Miguel and is most known for holding the "Mutant Ghetto".
"The Letres Night market is probably the most famous and illustrious night market of San Miguel. It's famous for its charm, wide variety of food, and festivity. Fortune tellers, Snake charmers, monkey dancers, local musicians, and orators can all be found within the market, making it more than 'just another' night market. But that is not all that the market has to offer. It also hosts the most extensive 'gray market' that sells a wide variety of items that are of 'questionable' origin at best."
The night markets are clusters of small shops and stores that band together in order to share certain resources. The name stems from these stores being the first to be open during the entire night, due to an elaborate shift based system where each store owner would take turns opening their part of the Night Market.
Our Lady in Flames
If not the largest casino in the city, it is arguably the most well known and visible one. This controversial building also hosts the private office of the current mayor Panuan and hosts a number of her closest associates and their impressive security detail.
An old Corp military base from the World War.