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San Miguel Archive Project Brings the Past to Life

Instituto Allende

By Donna Fullerton

On December 8 at La Biblioteca’s Teatro Santa Ana, the San Miguel Archive Project will delve into the history of Instituto Allende with panelists Jaime Fernandez and Barbara Dobarganes, as well as teachers and students from the Instituto’s early days.

“Those Were the Days”
By the San Miguel Archive Project
Tue, Dec 8, 5pm
La Biblioteca
Teatro Santa Ana
Reloj 50A
100 pesos

The program kicks off with a video compilation of fascinating insights by some of the first foreigners to settle in San Miguel. Following the video, event host Camie Sands will interview Jaime and Barbara who will share their unique perspectives on the evolution of the Instituto and its impact on San Miguel. They will also take questions from the audience.

Jaime is co-owner of Instituto Allende and a former mayor of San Miguel. His parents bought the ruined 18th-century Renaissance palace that the Count of Canal had built during the silver boom, renovated the building, and established it as an art school in 1950 with Stirling Dickinson.

Barbara is Jaime’s half-sister. She was involved with the Instituto at its founding and served as the director of languages for 24 years.

During the period from the 1950s to the 1970s, Instituto Allende attracted hundreds of students from the United States and Canada. Many from the US took the opportunity to study art in San Miguel under the GI Bill, where the cost of living was very low. Instituto Allende was the initial attraction that led eventually to the growth of the town’s foreign community.

August event video now available

The San Miguel Archive Project’s August event at Teatro Santa Ana was a sold-out smash hit attended by an enthusiastic crowd asking for more. Panelists Daniel Rueffert, Polly Stark Ortega, CC Stark de Osornio, and Paulina Hawkins Masip entertained with stories about their early years in San Miguel.

A video of the event is available on the San Miguel Archive Project’s YouTube channel at There you can also view 47 interviews and short story excerpts by early residents talking about life here in the 1940s through the 1990s. Some were filmed more than 20 years ago; others are more recent but equally engaging. If you want to be informed when new videos are added, just click the “subscribe” button on our YouTube channel.

Preserving the past

The San Miguel Archive Project seeks to document and preserve this kind of material and ensure that it is available for historians and researchers, as well as to continue conducting interviews. The project is being managed jointly by La Biblioteca and our committee of volunteers, which also includes Diane Largman, Pam Knoles, Sue Beere, Carmen Meade, Dennis Lanson, and Camie Sands.

If you have questions, please email Diane Largman at largman2@gmail com.


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