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UU Service

Elisa Gonzalez Atencion

By Jon Sievert

At this week’s Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Service, Elisa González discusses her experiences teaching Spanish to indigenous children in the state of Oaxaca for six years.

Oaxaca is one of the most diverse states in Mexico for indigenous people, with 16 languages spoken there. From 1979 to 1985, Elisa was part of a team that designed educational materials to teach Spanish as a second language. The team also developed a Spanish proficiency test for graduating elementary school students who had attended the bilingual educational program developed by the Instituto de Investigacion e Integracion Social.

Though Elisa was acquainted with the life of small indigenous villages around Mexico City, the state of Oaxaca was quite a shock. The inaccessibility of the villages, the dependence on a translator to communicate with the authority in town, and the scarcity of resources made for a unique experience. She will describe the circumstances in which she was sent to the indigenous communities with the testing materials, a sleeping bag, and some canned food.

After flying from Mexico City to Oaxaca, she was met by the program´s coordinator, who provided a list of students to be tested in the different communities where bilingual education had been provided.The team of researchers was divided into four groups, and each was given a list of 150 students to work with who were scattered around the state of Oaxaca. As the new, relatively young recruit, she was in charge of some of the most remote sites, from the highest mountains to the coast.

Born in Mexico City, where she lived half of her life, Elisa was one of the four founding teachers of the prestigious Manuel Bartolemé Cossío School, where she taught for fifteen years. She also studied psychology.

In 1986, Elisa took a leap of faith and moved to New York City to offer her experience as a psychologist and bilingual education teacher to the bilingual children of New York City. She retired in 1998. In 2015, after the passing of her beloved husband Edward Simpson, she moved to San Miguel de Allende.

The UU Fellowship meets every Sunday at 10:30am at Posada de La Aldea, Ancha de San Antonio 15, and welcomes people of all ages, races, religions, sexual orientation, and gender identity. For information about our Children’s Sunday Program, contact us at The meeting room is wheelchair accessible. For more information, visit our website at


UU Service

“Working With Indigenous Children in Oaxaca”

Elisa González

Sun, May 27, 10:30am

Posada de La Aldea, Ancha de San Antonio 15





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