San Miguel Expat Archive Project
By Diane Largman
Twenty-five years ago a group of forward thinking SMA residents started producing audio and visual interviews documenting what life was like in San Miguel de Allende when the first expats arrived to settle here, starting with Stirling Dickinson in 1937. Some of the questions asked were, why did you come here, what was life like back then, and how has the city grown?
There are over 150 of these interviews, and it is fascinating to listen to people like Stirling Dickinson, Leonard and Reva Brooks, Dorcas Snyder, Sylvia Samuelson, and Dottie Vidargas tell of their first impressions of the town and stories about their social life here.
Dottie Vidargas, who in her early years was a bullring picador and later was best known for her real estate business, recalled that when she first arrived in San Miguel, it was like a stage setting. “We came up the hill from the (train) station. There was moonlight, and it was 2:30 in the morning, and I was all alone. Everything looked white. Looked like everything was whitewashed in the moonlight, and I arrived in the center of town, and there wasn´t a soul about, not a soul.”
These people, many of whom still live here, were among those who started San Miguel’s charitable organizations, art schools, music festivals, and theater groups. Now our group, the San Miguel Expat Archive Project, is resurrecting this project to ensure that these archives are preserved and available for research. Working with La Biblioteca, we hope to present live discussions in the Teatro Santa Ana with long-time San Miguel residents, both expats and Mexicans, and also to conduct additional interviews. Eventually these additional interviews will be augmented with some of the original early interviews to create a library of CDs for sale to the public. These projects will be a way to create revenue for La Biblioteca, enabling it to continue with the programs it offers both residents and visitors of San Miguel, especially the scholarship program it provides for San Miguel’s children.
In order to preserve and enhance these archives, we are asking for volunteers. We need experienced video editors, video shooters, writers and, of course, donations to enable us to proceed with the project. Not only will you be donating to a very worthwhile cause, but listening to the wonderful stories that so many of these early residents have to tell will enhance your lives here. For more information on how you can help, you may contact Diane Largman at firstname.lastname@example.org or Pam Knoles at email@example.com.