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What is Ojalá?

Ojalá (Oh - hah - LA) is the word used by millions in Latin America to express a wish, a hope, or a dream. The word itself has an Arabic background, coming to us through multiple cultures and many centuries.

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Where we are in México?

We are the children of OJALÁ. We live in a small poor village just outside the town of San Miguel de Allende in the state of Guanajuato in Mexico. Our village is called San Miguel Viejo, old San Miguel, because about 500 years ago our Otomi ancestors came to this place to farm. They built a church in 1542 because they had become Catholic. Two hundred years later the Spanish built a big hacienda here and our families worked for them like slaves. We were allowed to live on this land but we did not own it until the revolution in 1910, when the government gave this land to all of us together. Communities like ours are called “ejido.”

A few years ago, the government said that if we had a deed for our little piece, we could sell it. So some families who had extra land sold it for so many pesos, we could not imagine. Three years ago an American lady came here and built a little house on a little piece of land very close to us. Nobody like her had ever lived here before and we were very curious. We slowed down when we passed her house so we could see her, look at her house – it was very nice – and maybe touch her cat and little dogs. She was very nice to us. She gave us pencils and cookies. She let us come into her garden and play with the animals. Then she gave us paper so we could draw with the pencils. Soon she gave us crayons, scissors, glue – all kinds of things that we didn’t ever have. We made so many pictures and she told us how wonderful they were.

She also had some books in Spanish for children and she let us sit in her house and read. She had a bathroom and we all lined up to use it because we don’t have bathrooms in our houses. We don’t have stoves or boxes to keep food cold either. She had all these things and we looked at everything. Our parents and grandparents go out every day to collect wood so they could cook our food. Sometimes we don’t get enough and we’re very hungry. She also had a big bottle of fresh water and we always asked her if we could have some. Her name is Elsa.

More and more of us went to her house in the afternoons and she always gave us interesting things to do – and food too. She would play music so we could sing and dance. She played a piano keyboard outside and taught us lots of songs. Then her friends would come from town to help because there were so many of us. She always took lots of photos of us and gave them to us in little books. One day she made a big board with our photos with the name OJALÁ under the photos. Now that’s our name and now there are 120 of us who come to Elsa’s house for lots of art classes, music and English lessons.

Our historic church is still here, in the middle of corn fields on the other side of the rancho. We have all our celebrations there, with music, food, dancing… we have a large group of dancers called “apaches” who do the ancient dances of our ancesters, the Aztecs. Many of us began to do this when we were small. We don’t know our original language any more. Some of our grandparents remember but don’t speak it. Now there are many white people coming to our area and we are trying to learn English.


San Miguel de Allende is a beautiful colonial town in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico, founded by Franciscan monk, Fray Juan de San Miguel in 1542. It’s located in the geographical center of Mexico, at an altitude of 6,200 feet, with temperate weather year ‘round. The streets are cobblestone, with 7 great churches around the center, and many historic Spanish colonial buildings whose architecture is preserved. In July, 2008, San Miguel and the nearby village of Atotonilco were named by Unesco as World Cultural Heritage sites. San Miguel played a central role during the fight for independence in 1810, when Ignacio Allende, a Spanish officer, joined with the campesinos in their struggle.

In the 1950’s San Miguel became a destination for many artists, able to study at the newly founded Instituto Allende on the GI bill. Now it is a destination for artists and visitors from around the world because of its history, beauty and climate. It’s grown from a village to a town of about 90,000 residents, many of whom are in the foreign community – from the U.S., Canada and Europe.

The calendar year is filled with celebrations and religious rituals that are famous all over Mexico for their rich pageantry and extraordinary fireworks. Whether you live here or just visit for a week, you’ll experience San Miguel’s most-mentioned fact: “You never know what you’ll encounter when you leave your house or round a corner on any day or at any moment.” The other single word is: MAGICAL! LIFE is always happening, there’s no illusion about perfection, so we’re not bothered about fixing everything, and the whole human family is visible, friendly and gracious. MAGICAL San Miguel!

San Miguel also grows many non-profit organizations that fill many needs for local population: feeding the hungry, educating the children, offering medical care… the list goes on and the opportunities to volunteer time, talent & money are legion. San Miguel de Allende is a multi-cultural community with a huge heart in one of the most exciting places on earth. VIVA MEXICO ~ VIVA SAN MIGUEL de ALLENDE!