Person of the Month: Betse Davies

By Karla Ortiz

There are countless organizations in San Miguel de Allende that care about the well-being of local residents. This demonstrates society’s commitment to its people and this is what has attracted so many foreign men and women to live in our town and find their place in the daily cultural, artistic, and charitable scene. One of the most enthusiastic volunteers around is Betse Davies. It’s no surprise that people are so fond of her. Her commitment to helping children and young people to get ahead is boundless. Betse is a lover of history, books, and Mexico. Her parents used to visit San Miguel seasonally. Her father had a career, but he was passionate about painting. For him, it was a way to immortalize himself and leave something behind, and this was what made him have a great connection with the people. So many visits to San Miguel by her parents intrigued Betse, and she came to our land. Little by little she realized that this is where she wanted to spend the rest of her life. In 1989 she decided to move officially to San Miguel with her husband.

In 2000, her first husband developed cancer. It was a long season for Betse, as she was traveling frequently to the US, where he was being cared for, and she was with him until the last moment. After he died, everyone was dismayed about what Betse would do. For her it was simple—she wanted only to return to San Miguel. A few years ago, Betse and her currently husband Jim decided to find a nice place to live and bought an apartment in Quinta de Loreto. They have been there for almost 5 years, “a charming and magical place.”

Betse was a history teacher in elementary school, high school, and a little bit in college. That’s why she has been so impressed by the history of San Miguel. Shelves in every room in her house are filled with books. Thanks to this, she has learned a lot about the history, not only of San Miguel, but of México.

Betse is a very hospitable person. She greets you at her home with a cup of tea and cookies. She loves Mexican folklore, and much the decoration of her home reflects this. She herself is a party of colors and good attitude.

One of the things she enjoys about this town is that she can walk everywhere. Everything is relatively close by and there is no need to use motorized transportation. She mentioned that it has happened that she has been walking next to a car, and later when she looks back, the car has been left behind due to traffic.

On one of her walks some time ago, she met Bob Latta, who was formerly in charge of giving the Patronato Pro Niños tours. He invited Betse to attend one of the tours, but Betse did not go along because she was always walking. One day she decided to take the tour, and for her it was an “explosion in her mind.” She found it so interesting that she immediately wanted to lead tours herself, explaining each piece of the city to the people. “Living [here] and giving tours is the most fun thing I’ve ever done in San Miguel,” Betse added.

One day in 2002, Bob Latta contacted her and asked her to give the tour, then with up to 10 people on each tour. From 2002 until this year when she retired, with up to 30 people per tour, she continued to lead tours. Now, at 91 years old, it is a major challenge for her to continue doing those long 2–1/2 hour walks.

Betse also helped start the Jóvenes Adelante project, which provides scholarships to honorary students who are often unable to continue their college education. When Betse and her colleagues started with the project, they had only about 5 students. Today they support about 80 students to continue their studies. This is something that motivates Betse day-by-day to give the best of herself and make an effort to help with these causes, Jóvenes Adelante, Patronato Pro Niños, or Mujeres en Cambio, which she also supported for some time. Another project she has supported was the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, one of the oldest organizations in San Miguel, which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. For 16 years she practiced yoga until 3 years ago, when she broke her hip at home. She stopped giving the tours although she continues to support the board of trustees by collecting money from the tours three times a week. Now it’s Peggy Jones who does the tours, “and she’s doing a wonderful job,” Betse said.

“I still have a lot of energy, and there are quite a few things I would like to do.” She is currently working on a project that reminds her of the words her father said when he painted to immortalize himself. Her project is a cook book that includes some dishes that she likes to cook and of course some anecdotes. She plans to distribute this book only to her friends although she would be very honored if they used it to do fundraising. “That’s what they do in Indonesia when a person dies. Their people collect all the recipes and pass them on,” Betse told us. Her favorite food is Mexican, and a dish she loves is enchiladas suizas. She also has her own recipes, like meatballs in green sauce, lasagna, and mango bread.

Throughout her stay in San Miguel, her only challenge has been to learn Spanish. She has always been so busy with all the projects she has supported that even after so many years, she hasn’t had enough time to learn something of our language. Although she understands it and knows how to answer some things, she doesn’t speak it in the way she would like to deal with the native Mexican people she has met. And it is precisely one of the things she admires and loves about Mexicans who, although they don’t speak English, do their best to communicate with foreigners, being as kind as possible.

“I really believe in the magic of San Miguel, and if you want to see it, you just need to look at the faces of the little ones who always welcome you with a beautiful smile, or if you walk around the Jardín, you can hear the mariachis, and those simple things make San Miguel so magical,” said Betse Davies.

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