Our Old Building
In 1951, a young Spanish-born artist named Carmen Masip came lo live in San Miguel in order to paint. To support her artistic pursuits, she decided to use her training in Spanish and Latin American Literature to teach a small colony of American writers and artists who then lived here, when San Miguel's population was only of about 6,000 people. Soon after, she married Oregonian James Hawkins, and in 1959 they decided to open a Spanish language school along with a group of adventurous Mexican and exiled Spanish friends who were then teaching at the Universidad de Guanajuato. One of them was the Guanajuato-born author Jorge Ibargüengoitia.
They decided to call it ACADEMIA HISPANO AMERICANA, so as to encompass the concept of Iberoamerica through the different courses they would offer. Besides a comprehensive program to learn Spanish through five levels of study, they included Pre-Colombian History, History of the Spanish Conquest and Spanish Literature -the sources of a cultural mestizaje with its different ramifications in modern Mexican literature, history and sociology.
In the 60s the Academia was part of the NDEA (National Defense Education Act), which sponsored advanced training for U.S. Spanish teachers.
Needless to say, the project was a success, and the Academia is now the oldest school in San Miguel specializing in teaching Spanish as a second language.