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San Miguel de Allende and Its People

By Jesús Aguado

It was a time when the neighborhoods of Santa Julia, San Antonio, and La Lejona were not on the map, an era without cell towers at the Cerro de las Tres Cruces—there were not even crosses there. These were the years when native men used wide-brimmed hats and the women wore shawls as part of daily life. Donkeys cohabitated on streets with people, and water was drawn from a fountain in a clay pot.

Firma de libros/Book signing
Vie/Fri, Mar 16, 4pm
Sala Quetzal, Insurgentes 25
For author Michael Olwyler

It was 1954 when US photojournalist Peter Olwyler—who studied journalism at the New York University, fought in the Second World War, and lived in the Philippines—decided to pack up and go on the road to Mexico (accompanied with his wife Teddy, son Michael, and daughter Kelle). He arrived in Mexico to work with one of the most important newspapers in the country. However, a year later, he decided to pack again—this time with supplies for painting classes—and again took to the road, this time to San Miguel de Allende, the town where he would stay “forever.”

When the family arrived in town, via the Salida a Querétaro, Teddy prophetically said, “We will never be able to leave this city,” her son Michael Olwyler tells Atención, but that was because of the road conditions and not because of the beauty of the town they were about to discover.

Michael lived in San Miguel until he was 16 years old and then went to the United States and has kept visiting the city for the last 40 years. He said that his father soon connected with people in the city. After an interview, he became the PR of the Instituto Allende, then directed by Stirling Dickinson and Nell Fernández. The first time that Peter—also once the editor of Atención San Miguel—took a photograph might have been when he was 16 years old. He had received as a present a Kodak camera from his father. The first photo he took in San Miguel was in 1955.

After Peter’s death in 1999, his son Michael took with him his father’s body of fine art photographs, more than 40,000 images of the people, traditions, architecture and landscapes of old San Miguel and other states in Mexico from 1955 to the end of 1980, a period in which his father dedicated much of his time capturing his home city with light on photographic paper.

In 2002, Michael Olwyler held at Bellas Artes a retrospective photo exhibit of his father’s original prints headed at that time by Carmen Massip, He was a master of the darkroom, says Michael. Later, he decided that Sanmiguelenses deserved the right to know the old San Miguel, the history that marked their ancestors. For that reason, he decided to print a limited edition book with 40 photographs from his father’s “Mexican period.”

Michael Olwyler will hold a book signing at Sala Quetzal, at Insurgentes 25, on Fri, March 16 from 3–5pm. He said he is willing to have one-on-one conversations with all those interested in listening to his experiences in old and new San Miguel.


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