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Living Life with Ritual, Sparking the Spiritual

By Phyllis Culp

Authot Viola Canales

We consistently observe the great capacity of Mexican culture to weave the rituals of everyday life into a web of meaningful existence, rich in family and community values.

At this Sunday’s Unitarian Universalist Fellowship service, Viola Canales speaks about the simple, ageless, and important concept of finding, nurturing, and sharing one’s own don—a unique gift or talent.

Ms. Canales provides personal examples of the juxtapositions of living in the fast-moving individualistic American culture and in the ritualistic, highly spiritual Mexican culture. She also shares insights on how to make the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday experiences deeper as we ourselves experience them in our own adopted hyphenated culture.

Ms. Canales is in San Miguel de Allende this week as the second visiting author to children at rural schools through the Libros sin Fronteras program. Copies of her coming-of-age novel, The Tequila Worm, have been given to the students. Some of the children she will meet come from extremely poor communities and have never owned a book of their own before, much less met an author. She will tell them about the richness of roots and about not knowing English in first grade: “I cried every morning before going to school, for this was so overwhelming, confusing, but I had gone on and accomplished things that were important to me. And that they can, too.”

She is currently a lecturer in law at Stanford School of Law and has written three books, Orange Candy Slices and Other Secret Tales, The Tequila Worm (El Gusano de Tequila) in Spanish, and a bilingual book of poems, The Little Devil & The Rose.

Early in her career, Canales served as a field organizer for the United Farm Workers and an officer in the United States Army, where she was a platoon leader at a Hawk missile battery and tactical director at a Brigade Fire Distribution Center overseeing Patriot and Hawk missile systems in West Germany. After graduating from Harvard Law School, she practiced law at O’Melveny and Myers in Los Angeles (while also serving as a Civil Service Commissioner for the City of Los Angeles) and San Francisco, and then headed up the westernmost region of the Small Business Administration under the Clinton Administration. Special musician Yoremem Jocobi, a San Miguel resident, grew up in the Mayo-Yaquis culture in the Mexican northern border state of Sonora. As a child she spoke only Yoremem (the language of the Mayo), a name she now takes as her own. Yoremem’s don is playing guitar and singing heartfelt songs from her Mayo heritage.

The UU Fellowship meets every Sunday at 10:30am at La Posada de la Aldea, Ancha de San Antonio 15 and welcomes people of all ages, races, religions, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Visitors are invited to attend the service and then join the UUs for hospitality and discussion afterwards. Wheelchair accessible. For additional information, visit


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