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Unitarians In Mexico City

Sonya and I have been in San Miguel for 2 days and there is a lot to write about here.  This hotel's wireless has been down until now so I'm playing catchup.  I want to tell you about an important experience--worshiping with the Free Church Unitarian in Mexico City on Saturday evening.

This congregation is made up entirely of native Mexican and the worship is in Spanish.  They meet on Saturday evenings at the Quaker meeting house.  The energy behind this congregation is that of Francisco Luganes Gaitan.  The group, eight of us all together, gathered around a table and lit a chalice and Candles of Joys and Concerns.  The liturgical elements were made up of translations of what we use in US UU worship and some carefully chosen Mexican sources.  As good as the translations were, and as elementary as my Spanish is,  I noticed that the Mexican elements had a lot more feelings, and heart.  They inspired me.  There were Calls To Worship, Responsive Readings, songs accompanied by music on a laptop, including Spirit Of Life in Spanish, and a sermon by Fransciso about what Unitarianism means to Mexicans.  We all took turns reading the elements of the service.   I understood maybe 60-70%.  The gist of the sermon, if I did comprehend it, is that Mexicans have a very different history and culture.  Brititsh and US Unitarianism developed as a reaction to Calvinism in the midst of a Calvinist culture.  There are very few Calvanists in Mexico and Mexican Unitarianism finds itself interacting with and and reacting to a very Catholic culture.  And yet Francisco feels the the universal and essential message of Unitarianism can have great appeal to Mexicans and it is their job to articulate it.

I loved especially the two readings by Rosario Castellanos, poet, playwright, and, I understand, Mexico's first Feminist.  They are the poems Awarenss and Meditation At A Threshold.  I wanted to quote the ending to the first poem, but could not find a good English translation on the internet.

There are about 20 regular attenders, but all don't attend at once.  In addition a philosophy PhD student Juan Reyes, is the Adult RE Director and other individuals are attracted to the courses he puts together.  In addition, Francisco, offers an adapted version of the UUA Adult Sexuality course, Our Whole Lives, in various prisons in the Mexico City area. The link to the web site, if you read Spanish, is www.unitarian.info   

There is a UU congregation here in San Miguel de Allende as well, but it is made up of North American ex-patriots.  We plan on attending services there on Sunday and we'll let you know about that. 

I am so grateful to the First Church congregation for the opportunity to take this sabbatical time here in Mexico.  It has enriched and expanded my world and, I believe, will help me minister more effectively in an increasingly multi-cultural San Diego.


8 comments (Add your own)

1. Francisco Javier Lagines Gaitán wrote:
Hi Arvid. Great to read from our shared experience in México City.

About our website address is:


Have a nice time with Sonya in San Miguel!

Wed, November 17, 2010 @ 5:23 AM

2. Lee Veal wrote:
Rev. Straube,

First, welcome to San Miguel de Allende, I hope to see both you and Sonya this coming Sunday (21st) at our service. I read your blog entry about the Libre Congregación Unitaria de México (LCUM). I'm so glad that you had such a moving experience with them. They're really fine people, and though their worship service attendance doesn't reflect it, they are, I believe, influencing the Catholic-dominated culture of Mexico in a good, positive and liberal way. We here at the UUFSMA have had one joint service with them. It was a fully bilingual service.

I wish we had known you were coming, We try to trade pulpit time for housing accommodations for visiting ministers or ones on sabbatical. We've provided housing for a short as 1 week (Amy Morgenstern and wife Joy) and for as long as just over 5 months (Jeff Jones, wife Carol and son Micheal).
. Maybe next time.

Bienvenidos y Hasta el domingo,

Lee Veal
(former prez of congregation)

Wed, November 17, 2010 @ 6:50 AM

3. Lee Veal wrote:
Concerning the comment, "There is a UU congregation here in San Miguel de Allende as well, but it is made up of North American ex-patriots."

It's a common spelling error, but the US and Canadian folks willingly living permanently and semi-permanently in Mexico (or any foreign country) are 'expatriates' not "ex-patriots". That is, we LIVE outside the country of our birth (ergo, expatriate). However, we still love, defend and support our respective countries of birth, ergo we are still patriots; it's the governments of the other two North American countries with which we often have issues. So, we vote absentee to voice those concerns and we write letter and e-mails to government representatives, too.
We have issues with the 3rd North American country's (Mexico's) government, too, but since most expatriates here don't yet have dual (US-Mexican or Canadian-Mexican) citizenship, we roll with the punches. Regardless of our status here be it, citizen, immigrant (legal or illegal), rentista or whatever, we love our adopted home. And we support it (with our taxes and good works) and defend it (though not militarily but from detractors and naysayers), when the need arises.

Lee Veal
US expatriate and citizen of both the US and Mexico

Wed, November 17, 2010 @ 7:45 AM

4. Arvid wrote:
Lee, I really appreciate your comments. We look forward to being there on Sunday. I hope all the readers of my blog appreciate the difference you pointed out between an ex-patriot and an expatriot. I'll call their attention to it in my next post.

Wed, November 17, 2010 @ 8:16 AM

5. Benjamin Martinez wrote:
It's great to know you liked your visit to Mexico. We hope to have you back here soon again.

By the way, the website for the LCUM is


Wed, November 17, 2010 @ 2:27 PM

6. David Throop wrote:
The San Miguel de Allende UU group is a member congregation of the UUA, (in the SW district.) Is LCUM (the Mexico City group) affiliated with the UUA or any other UU congregations? The page
speaks of Unitarios Universalistas de México, AC. Where could I find out more about that group?

Wed, November 17, 2010 @ 2:43 PM

7. Rose Van Oss wrote:
Dear Arvid,
I enjoy reading your blogs and am glad you are getting so much from your sabbatical. I believe our worship, both in Hillcrest and South Bay, will benefit from your experiences. We'll all be glad to see you and Sonya again.

Mon, November 22, 2010 @ 5:12 PM

8. Lee Veal wrote:

I really enjoyed talking with you before and after our service on the 21st of Nov. Thanks for your kind words about our fellowship in your most recent post to your blog.
Paraphrasing the Preamble to the US Constitution "We, the members of UUFSMA, in order to build a more perfect fellowship, dedicate ourselves to fostering a liberal religious community directed toward a continuing search for truth, bound by no dogma, restricted by no creed, and which honors the democratic process. We affirm the worth and dignity of every person and join in fellowship to seek values that will enrich our lives, to gain understanding ourselves, and to serve others."

An article ("Under the Spell of San Miguel de Allende") appeared in The Smithsonian Magazine and website which heralds the virtues of San Miguel de Allende.


Some of those virtues were why some of us in the expatriate community came here and why we stay.

At 58, you understand where I was coming from when I spoke briefly on the 21st about the fact that when my wife and I came here to SMA 10 years ago, we were 53 and 52, respectively, in a virtual sea of nona-, octo-, septua-, and sextogenerians.

I often tell my UU friends in the SW UU District, if we were to have an intergenerational service here at the UUFSMA,
Folks in their 90s would develop and lead the service...
Folks in their 80s would provide volunteer and support duties...
Folks in their 70s would probably be the majority in the 'pews'...
Folks in their 60s would be 'sung out of the service' to go to RE...
Folks in their 50s would either go to child-care or have to sit next to a 70, 80 or 90-year-old and be very quiet during the service.

There is a demographic in SMA which has a large number of 30-somethings and 40-somethings with children. We are starting an advertising campaign which many of us hope will draw people from that segment of the expatriate population. If we draw folks from that younger demographic with children, it'll then be a matter of as quickly as possible building an infrastructure which will serve the religious and spiritual needs of those entrants.

It's been my dream to have at first bilingual services and then maybe a fully self-sustaining Mexican UU congregation here in SMA, too.

Enough for now.

Lee Veal
US Expatriate living and loving in San Miguel de Allende!!!
¡Viva México!
¡Viva USA!

Tue, November 23, 2010 @ 10:46 AM

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