The Story of the Children of Ojalá Niños


We are the children of OJALÁ.

We live in a small 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 made so many pictures and she told us how wonderful they were.

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 ancestors, 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.