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Members of San Miguel’s Oldest Families Share City’s Oral History


By Kathleen Bennett

The Biblioteca and Kathleen Bennett, facilitator of the “San Miguel’s Secrets Revealed,” virtual tours, would like to thank their four guest speakers who shared the city’s oral history at the library’s February 6 program in the Sala Quetzal.

In San Miguel de Allende’s early colonial years, three main families controlled the power in San Miguel: the Canals, the Landetas, and the Sauttos. Eduardo Sautto, a descendant of those early families, began the February 6 program by sharing his family’s long history. For example, his ancestors donated 26,000 sheep to support the building of La Parroquia’s new facade between 1880 and 1890.

Javier Zavala discussed the original twelve Zavalas who settled in New Spain and how the family evolved into one of the largest in San Miguel. Zavalas were poets and investors, and his father began the San Miguel radio station where Javier now works.

Mercedes Arteaga told of her businesses: Pan y Vino, for example, was a successful enterprise with many foreign customers. When her parents started Bugambilia Restaurant in the 1940s, San Miguel was beginning to experience tourism as American GIs traveled here to study at the Bellas Artes art school, she said.

Patricia Merrill closed the program, talking about how her mother met and married one of those GIs. Her aunts lived where Vivali Restaurant is now located. For a time, they had the original La Parroquia plans in their possession. An interesting coincidence revealed was that Merrill’s mother and Zavala’s mother had been close friends.

These Sanmiguelenses shared treasured family photographs illustrating not only family members but also scenes of life in San Miguel from long ago. Sautto, Zavala, Arteaga, and Merrill spoke from their hearts and captured the hearts of those present. We cannot say muchas gracias enough. They truly gave us an insider’s view into the colonial past of our city.

All monies from this program were donated to San Miguel’s Biblioteca.


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