Posted by: ktzefr | February 22, 2012

A Fiesta of Words and Colors: San Miguel de Allende International Writers’ Conference

I’m back from Mexico!

Last night it was very quiet here in the suburbs and I was a bit nostalgic for the bells of San Miguel.  In that city church bells ring somewhere around the clock and there are fireworks every night.  Bare trees here; bougainvillea there.  Houses every color of the rainbow.  Turquoise skies.  Cobbled streets.  Bird song.

So…the San Miguel International Writers’ Conference was a blast.   Hundreds were on hand to hear Margaret Atwood’s keynote speech the first night.  I expected it to be serious, maybe a little otherworldly, as I thought about her work (The Handmaid’s Tale, for example).  But it was a hoot!  She was very funny, down-to-earth, practical.  Never a boring second.  My niece, who went to Mexico with me, is reading The Handmaid’s Tale for her university literature class next month, so she, too, was thrilled to meet Ms. Atwood. In fact, I think she was still a bit shaky when she took this fuzzy pic…


...with Margaret Atwood at the San Miguel de Allende Writer's Conference, Feb. 2012, Photo:KLawson


The fiesta at the Instituto Allende was amazing with folk dancers, mariachis, indigenous dancers, and mojigangas!  And lots of food…

Fiesta, San Miguel de Allende; Photo:KFawcett


While in San Miguel I had the pleasure of visiting with Senora Josephina Hernandez and the children,  teens, and teachers at Centro Mexicano de Lengua y Cultura, a terrific school that serves as a multicultural and multilingual center for the community.  I read from my book, To Come and Go Like Magic, in Spanish (thanks to my good friend Mirella Elias who translated the passages for me) to the younger children and in English to the more advanced students.  Although my book is set in the hills of Kentucky in the 1970s, there are two passages that reference Mexico.  In the first, a creative teacher takes her students from Kentucky, via plastic cars and a huge map, all the way to Mexico, learning about the people and places in between.   The second passage is central to one of the book’s important themes — the meaning of home.  Where is the migrating monarch butterfly’s “true” home —  Mexico or the US?

I only made one major blunder (I think!).  The younger students were to ask me questions in English and I would reply in Spanish.  It’s important, however, to make an effort to think in the language you’re speaking — which I failed to do.  One of the younger girls asked: what eat the butterflies?   Of course, she wanted to know what butterflies eat.  But, thinking in English (what eats butterflies?), I answered — gatos (cats)!  Big eyes, surprised looks all around…the US must have pretty big butterflies if they can eat cats.  And so everyone had a good laugh and this was actually pretty perfect.  The children got to see first hand that an adult struggling with Spanish is likely to make as many — perhaps more — mistakes as a youngster struggling with English. 

I loved all the smiles…


Senora Josephina is always looking for new sponsors for the children.  Some of them walk for miles and then take multiple buses to get to her school on Saturday mornings to learn English.  Guanajuato state is an important tourist destination and the children have a better chance to succeed in the local workplace if they learn English.  Visitors to San Miguel can also take Spanish and/or French classes and the school caters to all levels, all family members.  Learn more about Centro Mexicano HERE.

So many sites and sounds and tastes to relate…more pics and places to come from the “other side” of Mexico that you don’t see on the news.





  1. […] San Miguel de Allende – Google Blog Search February 22nd, 2012 | Category: […]

  2. I can’t believe you are there with Margaret Atwood — The Handmaid’s Tale is such a disturbing novel — did you see the movie?

    • I didn’t see the movie, but I was very pleasantly surprised by Ms. Atwood’s presentation. As I said in the post, I expected something entirely different, but she was very funny and down-to-earth.

  3. […] San Miguel de Allende – Google Blog Search February 26th, 2012 | Category: […]

  4. Hello,

    We saw your photo on Google Images and are wondering if we may have permission to use your photo.

    We are currently working on a project for which we need pictures of local festivals and events in San Miguel de Allende. The photo(s) will be published on our website event calendar.

    Please let us know if this will be okay with you.

    Thank You,
    Realty San Miguel

    • Thank you, Adriana. I emailed links to other pix of San Miguel. The town is so photogenic!

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