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Saturday evening we attended a before-dinner fiesta, a musician entertained and hors
d'oeuvres were served in the home of a working artist. Floor-by-floor we found ourselves
admiring the antiques, the paintings, the gardens, a pool and on the fourth floor, a terrace
with the artist's studio, with a mirador overlooking San Miguel de Allende.
We went to church twice on Sunday, Catholic and Episcopal, Spanish and English. After
the Episcopal service, we boarded a bus for a short ride to the Rev. Harold Weicker's
hacienda, which in itself is a religious art museum. Here we enjoyed the hacienda party,
with mariachis and San Miguel's famous carnival giant puppets.
Monday was our busy day. As previously mentioned, we toured the primary school, saw
the lunch program in action and spoke with the teachers and the bright-eyed, energetic chil-
dren. The kids entertained us, and the church at Atotonilco surprised us.
The church, founded in 1740, is painted with Michelangelo-like virtuosity and is listed
as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Indigenous artists painted the church's dramatically
themed interior: the life, passion and resurrection of Christ. It was from this Jesuit sanctu-
ary that Father Miguel Hidalgo took the banner of Guadalupe and led the Mexican insur-
gents against the Spanish in the War of Independence.
From the village of Atotonilco, we departed for a late lunch at Rancho Jaguar hosted by
Robert and Jennifer Haas. Jennifer started collecting Mexican folk art in 1966, and the col-
lection grew over the years. Rancho Jaguar now devotes a private museum to this collec-
Tuesday, a day of leisure, we looked around the shops and art galleries. That evening, we
were guests at a patio-garden dinner and Day of the Dead altar ceremony. Many of us
brought pictures of a departed friend or family member we wished to honor. We placed it
on the ofrenda (offering) altar among the marigold flowers.
Marigolds, with their heady fragrance, copal (incense) and candles are said to guide souls
back to this once-a-year reunion with the living. To me, the altar honored the dead and
celebrated life and the life to come by being aware and not afraid of the transition named
"Death." In anticipation of a visiting soul, altars are decorated with the loved one's favorite
food, drink (typically tequila), cigarettes, mementos and always pan de muerto, a special
round loaf of bread.
Maria Teresa, a Tarahumara shaman, led the ritual and explained Catholic-Indian tradition.
The four elements were represented: Earth as fruits and vegetables, Air as papel picada (tis-
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