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La Biblioteca has a new “lease” on life

La Biblioteca Pública de San Miguel de Allende, A.C., the heart of education and culture in San Miguel, was granted another 20 years of occupancy of its historical building on calle Insurgentes. This marks the beginning of a new era for the 59-year-old nonprofit organization.

A new comodato was signed by General Manager Sandra Suaste on Monday, February 24, and it will last through February 23, 2034. The comodato is a special lease/loan agreement approving the use of a building owned by the Mexican federal government. The tenant maintains and, in some cases, improves the occupied space. The recent agreement also allows La Biblioteca to operate small “social enterprises” to fund its programs.

“We are grateful that the federal agency in charge, INDAABIN ( Instituto de Administración y Avalúo de Bienes Nacionales ) granted us 20 more years in a great vote of confidence, extending our ability to provide educational and cultural programs in this historical building until 2034,” said General Manager Sandra Suaste.

Since its founding in 1954 La Biblioteca has thrived as an educational and cultural institution in the center of San Miguel. Today, it is recognized for providing 30 free-of-charge

programs for Mexican youth and awarding nearly 8,500 scholarships for Mexican students to attend high school and college since 1960. La Biblioteca continues to be a safe place for learning and discovery for the more than 400 local children who come through the doors each week.

Into the future

A well-established institution central to the experience of countless Mexicans and those who relocate or visit from around the world, La Biblioteca will also celebrate 60 years of serving the community in November of this year.

The 60th anniversary and the renewal of the lease of the historical location kick off a revitalization that will truly bring La Biblioteca into a new era of growth. La Biblioteca will continue to provide top-quality cultural experiences for the Mexican and foreign communities while focusing on delivering educational opportunities to underprivileged local Mexican children.

La Biblioteca aims to double the number of children attending free educational courses each week from 250 to 500 by 2018. Accomplishing this will mean more children are exposed to more educational opportunities and may go further in their studies.  A key goal is to help young Mexicans achieve social and economic mobility to change the landscape of poverty in and around San Miguel de Allende.

One ambitious element of this development project involves large-scale expansion of La Biblioteca’s technological literacy program. Currently, 45 teenagers and 36 children are served in the computer program housed on the second floor of the library.

The goal of the program is to prepare students with the skills needed to pursue higher education, obtain better jobs, perform thorough and effective research and advocate for themselves as citizens of a global community.

The success of this program will be made possible by support from the community through voluntarism and charitable giving.

The enterprises

To foreigners in San Miguel, La Biblioteca is more than just a library. It is many things to many people because of the six different “social enterprises” the nonprofit relies on to support programs, overall operational expenses and maintenance.

The first of these enterprises, the Sunday House & Garden Tour, was inaugurated in 1958; the newspaper Atención, created in 1975, has informed and entertained for almost 39 years; the other social enterprises include the Bodega de Sorpresas, La Biblioteca’s second-hand shop; La Tienda (art and gift shop);  the Teatro; and Café Santa Ana.

“This is very exciting,” said Biblioteca President Ken Rowland of the 20 year comodato, “because INDAABIN is allowing this nonprofit a very long “lease“ and permission to operate our enterprises to help fund our programs. La Tienda, Teatro Santa Ana, Café Santa Ana, the Bodega de Sorpresas, the weekly House & Garden Tour, Atención, and library membership contribute about 50 percent of our income for children’s educational programs and scholarships.”

The enterprises significantly reduce library and operations expenses, but their income is not sufficient to fully support the children’s programs and scholarships, so La Biblioteca relies heavily on donations to make these possible.

Come join us

Three generations of Mexicans, expatriates and visitors have enjoyed and benefited from a multitude of programs at La Biblioteca, including the largest bilingual public library in Latin America; language lessons; meeting spaces; free children’s classes in computation, music and art; free wireless internet; performing art spaces; dining experiences; tours and shopping opportunities.

For the next generation, La Biblioteca plans to concentrate more on computer literacy programs, for which additional donations will be necessary. To help raise funds for all of this, the organization is hosting monthly Mexican cultural celebrations that the public is invited to attend.

It takes about 10 million pesos to operate La Biblioteca and its programs annuallyDonations to La Biblioteca are tax-deductible in Canada, Mexico, and the US—Donations can take the form of cash, securities, bequests, checks,  donations of magazines subscriptions, homes, property, gifts in kind and voluntarism.

Contributing to La Biblioteca is a way of giving back to the community that has given all of us a rich cultural education and life.

The hot topic in our community today is security, and La Biblioteca provides a safe place for thousands of children and adults to come together in education, friendship and cultural enrichment. For more information, contact La Biblioteca’s public relations and fundraising coordinator, Katelin Cannon, at and check out

History of the Biblioteca building

In 1734, a group of priests from the Oratorio church, headed by Father José Hipólito Aguado, founded a beaterio (shelter house) for poor women who were single, widowed or abandoned by their husbands. It was called “Beaterio Our Lady of Santa Ana” and was supported by members of the San Miguel community. Ignacio Allende’s great-grandmother, doña María de Retis, at her death in 1743, donated in her will 100 pesos for the beaterio. Many San Miguel women lived there peacefully until their death. The beaterio disappeared in 1862 when the government expropriated the Church’s properties during the Reform War; women were evicted and the building was in ruins. Many years later, it became the local slaughterhouse.

In 1954, Helen Wale invited Mexican children to read the many magazines she had in her house on calle Hospicio. As the number of children grew, she set up chairs and tables. The first book purchase was a collection of stories in English to which Spanish translations were added. The space was soon insufficient, so in 1957 she and her supporters asked the state governor, Jesús Rodríguez Gaona, for a space to establish a library that would serve the entire community. The following year, the governor offered the building on Insurgentes 9 (currently number 25), which had been the local slaughterhouse and previously part of the Santa Ana Church and beaterio for women.


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