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Lifelong Learning Program

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The Lifelong Learning Program at the Centro Cultural / Instituto Allende provides San Miguel de Allende residents and visitors with the opportunity of taking courses designed for self-enrichment, intellectual stimulation, and fun. Courses are designed for adult learners by skilled instructors. All program staff and instructors are volunteers in order to keep tuition as low as possible.

We offer approximately two dozen courses from October through March. There are two to seven two-hour classes per course. For schedules and fees, which include social hour snacks after each class, please see course descriptions below. The program is an excellent way to meet interesting new people and to indulge your intellectual curiosity. Now you can finally take those intriguing courses you never had time to take in school, but with no homework, exams, or grades!

Charlene McDonald



Jo Sanders



Barbara Kalis

Associate Director


Josephine Curtis

Student and Coordinator Relations


Daniel Morgan

Audiovisual Specialist



1. With  following each course listed below.

2. In person at the Instituto office, Ancha de San Antonio #22, Monday – Friday, 9:00 – 2:00

3. By telephone to the Instituto office, Monday – Friday, 9:00 – 2:00

(415) 152 09 29 / (415) 152 01 90

Approximate US and Canada exchange rates

1 US dollar = 18 pesos

1 Canadian dollar = 13.5 pesos

2017 – 2018 COURSES


October, November, December 2017


Big History: Exploring the History of Everything

Allen Zeesman

Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. October 2, 4, 6, 9, 11, 13, and 16.

Class 1:00 – 3:00, social hour 3:00 – 4:00.

925 pesos (7 classes)

This course was given last year in five classes and this year, by popular demand, will be expanded to seven. Big History is an emerging academic discipline that examines history from the Big Bang to the present. It examines long time frames using a multidisciplinary approach based on combining numerous disciplines from the sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities, and explores human existence in the context of this bigger picture. All cultures have origin stories designed to explain where we come from and where we are going. Big History provides a universal science-based origin story. Why are things the way they are? Why are stars so big and humans so small? Are humans just irrelevant specks of dust in this vast universe? Big History says that it is possible to understand all that has happened from the Big Bang to the modern information revolution as part of a single meaningful story. Truly the greatest story ever told, Big History challenges, delights, annoys and forever shifts how we understand our universe. This course will present Internet videos supported by the Big History Project, followed by discussions. Please note: this course will be seven classes

Allen Zeesman spent most of his working career as a social policy advisor in the Canadian Federal Government. He now lives in San Miguel where he is currently teaching the Enneagram at the Lifepath Center. An autodidactic personality, his other current learning interests include social and moral psychology, Buddhist psychology, brain plasticity and studies of consciousness.

Porfirio Diaz and the Mexican Revolution, 1910-1920

Jesús Ibarra

Saturday, October 21.

Class 10:00 – 12:00, served lunch, class 1:00 – 3:00.

425 pesos

In this course we will talk about both the bad and the good of Porfirio Díaz and his 30-year-dictatorship — the causes of the Revolution; the main leaders Francisco I. Madero, Pancho Villa, Emiliano Zapata, Venustiano Carranza and Alvaro Obregon; the different stages of the Revolution; and the results of the Revolution.

Jesús Ibarra was recently the editor of Atención San Miguel. He has taught history to high school students in the San Miguel school Naciones Unidas for two years, and is now teaching English at the University of León. He is the author of three books about Mexican cinema and theater. His most recent book is Dulce Renunciación, a biography of José Guadalupe Mojica, actor, tenor, and priest who founded the San Miguel orphanage for boys, Mexiquito.

Issues in Bioethics from the Beginning to the End of Life

Martha Hamill de Correa

3 classes Mondays & Wednesday. October 23, 25, and 30.

Class 1:00 – 3:00, social hour 3:00 – 4:00.

525 pesos

Bioethics is the study of the ethical and moral implications of new technical discoveries, biomedical advances, and medical practice. As such, it addresses basic issues of respect and dignity for human beings. Life dilemmas in areas such as science laboratories where life can be created, and hospitals where dead can be kept “alive” or euthanasia can occur, are some of the topics bioethics deals with. This course will contribute to an increasingly wide global debate about human rights.

Martha Hamill de Correa is a Mexican Canadian. She was a professor of bioethics at the Universidad Anáhuac and has served on the Board of the Mexican Association of Thanatology. Her published works include the book Tanatologia y Bioética ante el Sufrimento Humano. In San Miguel she is Vice President of the Red Cross, a member of the Bioethics Committee at the Hospital General, President of the San Miguel hospice organization Mitigare, and heads a bereavement group at St. Paul’s Church. She is a frequent lecturer on bioethics and thanatology at universities across Mexico.


A History of Western Interior Design

Barbara Kalis

Tuesdays and Thursdays, November 7, 9, 14, and 16.

Class 1:00 – 3:00, social hour 3:00 – 4:00.

625 pesos

From the beginning of human history, we have felt the urge to create a special space for ourselves —not just any space, but one that is unique to us. Paintings of animals, plants, and human activity on cave walls were the first indication of the human need to manipulate our surroundings to give us enjoyment and sometimes even admiration. Over the centuries, as inventions, education and industry developed, we created styles and furniture to fit our need for beauty, functionality, and pleasure. There is a name for all this: interior design. So what is interior design? How did men and women get from cave paintings to the furnishings and decorative objects in Roman atriums, Tudor palaces, Victorian living rooms, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie style houses? And wouldn’t it be interesting to know! Let’s explore together the history of interior design as it has influenced us in our need to have that special place we call home.

Barbara Kalis as a practicing interior designer with her own business of more than thirty years, became conversant in many interior design styles to satisfy her clients’ desires for the perfect space. Living in both the United States and Europe exposed her to design styles that are closely connected to architectural styles, both of which were and still are influenced by historical events that affect how people live. A fascination with this interconnectedness and how individuals were inspired to create something new in buildings, furniture, decorative elements, and functionality, inspired Barbara to present a course on the history of western interior design.

Perspectives, Questions and Building Our Future

Bishop William O. Gregg, Ph.D.
Wednesday, November 8
Class 10:00 – 12:00, served lunch 12:00 – 1:00, class 1:00 – 3:00
425 pesos

As we consider our present and our future, both personally and in wider contexts, it’s useful to examine the process down to the basics. What constitutes thinking? How do the questions we ask ourselves affect the answers we reach, and how do varying perspectives alter our thinking? The contributions of social constructionism, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, and more, enrich the idea of perspectives, or different ways to frame an issue. In a world in which optimism and pessimism, chaos and order, and continuity and change all exert their claims on us, how do we reach better conclusions, better actions, and better lives?

Bishop William O. Gregg, Ph.D., came to St. Paul’s in 2014 after retiring as Bishop Assistant in the Diocese of North Carolina. Previously, he served as Bishop of Eastern Oregon. He grew up in Virginia, where he went to the University of Richmond and then seminary at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA. He did graduate work in English at Boston College, and completed a doctorate in theology at Notre Dame University. He has served parishes and taught in Virginia, Connecticut, and Indiana.


Americans in Paris: Expat Writers of the 20s

Mary Katherine Wainwright

Tuesdays and Thursdays, December 5, 7, 12, 14.

Class 1:00 – 3:00, social hour 3:00 – 4:00.

625 pesos

No other city has captured the hearts and imaginations of writers and artists as Paris has. In the aftermath of World War I, writers from the US sailed to Paris in droves. There, they created writing that constituted what has come to be known as the Golden Age of Literary Modernism. Explore the lives and literature of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Anais Nin, Henry Miller, and others, who gathered in the 20s in Paris, the mythical, fabulous, and adventurous literary and artistic capital of the western world.

Mary Katherine Wainwright has a Ph.D. in American Studies from Purdue University. Her dissertation focused on the writings of Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, and Toni Morrison. For thirty years she was Professor of Literature at the State College of Florida in Bradenton/Sarasota, and has taught at various other colleges and universities including The College of Staten Island, Eckerd College, and the University of South Florida. Her specialties include women in literature, women’s studies, African-American literature, and American literature and poetry.


January, February, March 2018


Apology and Forgiveness: From the Personal to the Political

Jeff Blustein

Tuesday and Thursday, January 2 and 4.

Class 10:00 – 12:00, served lunch 12:00 – 1:00, class 1:00-3:00

625 pesos

A philosophical and psychological exploration in both the personal and political realms. In the personal context, we will ask: What exactly do we do when we forgive someone? Can forgiveness ever be a duty? Does an apology make a difference when we have been wronged? What makes an apology sincere and effective? In the political context, we will ask: Are amnesties and pardons forms of political forgiveness? Can they be just? Are political apologies to be taken seriously? How are political and personal apologies different? Examples from literature and contemporary political life will be used.

Jeffrey Blustein is the Arthur Zitrin Professor of Bioethics and Professor of Philosophy at City College of New York, part of the City University of New York.

Unconscious Bias: Becoming Aware of What We Really Believe

Jo Sanders

Wednesdays and Fridays, January 3, 5, 10, and 12.

Class 1:00 – 3:00, social hour 3:00 – 4:00.

625 pesos

With the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the disability rights movement, the gay rights movement, and others, why do stereotyping and discrimination persist even though so many of us are sincerely convinced we are unbiased? This research-based and participatory course, focusing on many equity-related issues, will delve below the surface of our conscious thoughts and attitudes to cast light on what we don’t realize we think and believe. Being biased is human and natural, but by making our unconscious biases conscious, we can do something about the biases we’d rather not have.

Jo Sanders had a career as an educational researcher in gender equity, working with thousands of teachers and education professors nationwide to be more effective for both sexes in the classroom. She has published ten books and dozens of book chapters and research papers, and has given speeches and workshops across the US and internationally. She is the founder and director of the Lifelong Learning Program.

Mexican Law

Gabriel García McFarland

Mondays and Wednesdays, January 15, 17, 22, and 24.

Class 1:00 – 3:00, social hour 3:00 – 4:00.

625 pesos.

This course is a general introduction to Mexican law. It will begin with the origins of Mexican law in the Napoleonic Code, a different system from the origin of American and Canadian law in English common law. It will include attention to the historical influence of Roman law on both the written and precedent law systems in Mexico; compare criminal law systems of Anglo and Latin origin; discuss a general theory of law in Mexico in terms of structure and division; and end with an analysis of the current Mexican law system from the federal to the local levels, including attention to the theory vs. the reality of law in Mexico.

Gabriel García McFarland is an attorney in private practice and a professor of law at the Universidad Patria, both in San Miguel. His law firm specializes in civil, mercantile, penal, labor, and administrative law. He earned his law degree and a masters degree in state and local public administration from the Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro. He has served as a court translator in civil and criminal court, English/Spanish.

The World Refugee Crisis: Why Won’t They Let Me In?

Michael Alford and Maricela Daniel

Thursday and Tuesday, January 18, 23, and 25.

Class 1:00 – 3:00, social hour 3:00 – 4:00.

525 pesos

This course will cover the principles of refugee law and the durable solutions at the disposal of the international community. We will examine case studies to assess the willingness of states to accept and assist refugees past and present. It will include the growing negative refugee policies in wealthy western nations in Europe and the US, Israel’s policy towards non-Jewish refugees, the particular plight of unaccompanied children seeking refuge, and the willingness of first asylum countries in the Middle East and Africa to host refugees.

Maricela Daniel is a Mexican national with Masters degrees in International Law and International Development. She worked for 23 years in the area of human rights and refugees for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UNICEF, and the High Commissioner for Human Rights in many countries around the world.

Michael Alford is a New Zealand national with Masters degrees in International Development and Vocational Education and Training. He worked for UNHCR for 32 years in a wide range of functions assisting refugees in many cities and countries worldwide. Maricela and Michael live in San Miguel de Allende and Madrid.



Louis Marbre-Cargill

Friday, February 2.

Class 10:00 – 12:00, served lunch, class 1:00 – 3:00.

425 pesos

For the fourth year, Louis Marbre-Cargill, opera enthusiast and reviewer, will present an introduction to Pro Musica’s annual opera produced by the opera company of Rodrigo Garciarroyo. With the assistance of Daniel Morgan, audio-visual technician and companion enthusiast, the course will offer commentary relating to the composer, his times, his skill in telling a story through music, anecdotes about performers and performances, and “off-the-record” tidbits along the way that spice a lyric drama.

Please note that this is the SAME course that is also being given on Wednesday, February 7.

Louis Marbre-Cargill is a New Yorker whose workday life has principally been as a high school teacher of English and literature in Ghana, West Africa, and Sudbury, MA. His enthusiasm for opera began in junior high school and developed over the years into a passion that led to attending performances in New York and as far afield as London, Paris and the USSR. He has created an opera library represented on all forms of recording, 78-rpm discs to DVDs.


History of Western Architecture

Raymond Stern

Feb 6  Tuesday, Feb 8  Thursday, Feb 12  Monday, Feb 13  Tuesday.

Class 1:00 – 3:00, social hour 3:00 – 4:00.

625 pesos

This course is an expansion of a sold-out course offered last year. Extravagantly illustrated, the course will cover some 200,000 years, focusing on the historical context and core meanings of architecture, and tracing the development of one period to another over time. To aid in your understanding, the broad principles of architectural design and associated structural design and applied arts will be included: what are the challenges that all buildings must meet? Included will be revelations of the origin of the architecture of San Miguel Allende.

Raymond Stern has practiced and taught architectural design and history for over 50 years in Europe, South-East Asia, the US, and Canada, where he lives, after graduating from the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College, London, England.



Louis Marbre-Cargill

Wednesday, February 7.

Class 10:00 – 12:00, served lunch, class 1:00 – 3:00.

425 pesos

For the fourth year, Louis Marbre-Cargill, opera enthusiast and reviewer, will present an introduction to Pro Musica’s annual opera produced by the opera company of Rodrigo Garciarroyo. With the assistance of Daniel Morgan, audio-visual technician and companion enthusiast, the course will offer commentary relating to the composer, his times, his skill in telling a story through music, anecdotes about performers and performances, and “off-the-record” tidbits along the way that spice a lyric drama.

Please note that this is the SAME course that is also being given on Wednesday, February 8.

Louis Marbre-Cargill is a New Yorker whose workday life has principally been as a high school teacher of English and literature in Ghana, West Africa, and Sudbury, MA. His enthusiasm for opera began in junior high school and developed over the years into a passion that led to attending performances in New York and as far afield as London, Paris and the USSR. He has created an opera library represented on all forms of recording, 78-rpm discs to DVDs.


Existential Psychology: (In Search of) Lives Worth Living.

Bruce Sarbit

Thursday and Tuesdays, February 15, 20, 22, and 27.

Class 1:00 – 3:00, social hour 3:00 – 4:00.

625 pesos

Existential philosophers and psychologists hold that as participants in our own lives, we choose our purposes and our values and make our meanings. Through a study of mythology in relation to the thought of several existential thinkers — including Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, Camus, Rollo May, and Frankl, we will explore various paths to meaningful, authentic, or “good,” lives. And we’ll consider the challenge of living such lives despite the limits, including suffering and death, on the choices we make.

Bruce Sarbit, a counseling psychologist, first in mental health and then at Brandon University in Canada for twenty-seven years, brought an existential-humanistic perspective to his work with clients, to his writing and to his teaching. When he retired from active practice ten years ago, he transferred that perspective to his playwriting. In all of his work, he explores human efforts at self-fulfillment and healthy relationships, at making meaningful lives in the face of limitation, alienation and absurdity, in the face of suffering and death.


Spanish Conquest of the Aztec Empire

Gerie Bledsoe

Feb 19  Monday, Feb 21  Wednesday, Feb 23  Friday, Feb 26  Monday.

Class 1:00 – 3:00, social hour 3:00 – 4:00.

625 pesos

The conquest of Mexico and the destruction of the Aztec Empire by Hernán Cortés, his expedition of Spaniards, and Indian allies in 1519 – 1522 remains one of the most dramatic events in history. Centuries later it continues to be a controversial topic, the source of many myths and misunderstandings. The course will recount this amazing story and delve into the personalities of the three controversial, primary actors: Emperor Moctezuma, Cortés, and the legendary La Malinche, the Indian princess. Discussion will focus on debunking the myths and gaining an understanding of the long-term consequences of this epic event on the language and even literature of modern Mexico. Material will be provided on-line for participants who might want to familiarize themselves with the basic story and issues before class begins. One might argue that it is impossible to understand modern Mexico without understanding the origins of this mestizo nation.

Gerie Bledsoe holds a Ph.D. in European History from the Florida State University. He taught at Randolph-Macon College in Virginia before working with the American Association of University Professors, the National Education Association, and Michigan State University. In all these positions Dr. Bledsoe developed, presented, and supervised educational and training programs for adults. He was a recent resident of San Miguel for five years.



Great Trials that Changed the Course of History

Sylvia Solomon

March 2 (Fri.), Mon. 5, Wed. 7, and Fri. 9.

Class 1:00 – 3:00, social hour 3:00 – 4:00.

625 pesos

For many of us, Socrates, Galileo, Dreyfus, Nuremberg, and Roe v. Wade are familiar names that echo down through time. Why? Because the debates and the decisions that arose from these famous trials changed forever the course of Western civilization. In this course we will explore how the law, while it is the essential underpinning of democracy, can be bent and twisted by the very societies it exists to protect. How and why this happens is the story of humanity’s desire for justice and truth.

Sylvia Solomon is a retired educator with over thirty years in elementary schools, secondary schools, and several universities including the University of Toronto and Queens University. The last fourteen years of her career she worked at the Ontario Ministry of Education developing curriculum policy and resources that changed teaching and learning in Ontario. Her focus has always been social justice in education.

American Political Parties from Lincoln to Trump

Marc Egnal

March 6 (Tues.), Th. 8, Mon. 12, and Wed. 14.

Class 1:00 – 3:00, social hour 3:00 – 4:00.

625 pesos

Don’t get angry, get informed. How did U.S. politics come to its current impasse? This course examines American history from the 1850s to the present with a focus on the evolution of the two major parties. Although there have been noteworthy third parties, most politically active Americans since Lincoln’s election have been either Republicans or Democrats. And while party names have remained the same, constituencies and policies have changed dramatically, reflecting the recurrent transformations of American society. We’ll look closely at those changes in society and politics. Whatever your viewpoint, this course will deepen your understanding of recent events.

Marc Egnal, a retired professor of U.S. history, taught for over 40 years at York University, Toronto. He has written extensively on the American Revolution and the Civil War. He is the author of four books, including Clash of Extremes: The Economic Origins of the Civil War.

The Silk Road: Its History, Culture, and People

Susan Sherk

Saturday, March 10.

Class 10:00 – 12:00, served lunch, class 1:00 – 3:00.

425 pesos

The Silk Road started in the 14th century as a network of trade routes from the Korean peninsula to the Mediterranean. This course will focus on the part of the Silk Road that went from Western China to Turkey, with a focus on Mongolia, the five “Stans” (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) and the South Caucasus (Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia). We will cover the history of the Silk Road; how this region has fared during USSR and Putin times; the various ethnic and tribal groups and their customs, traditions and textiles; and why the concept of the Silk Road is still valid. We will see many photographs of the people, their customs, and their livelihoods, taken by the instructor.

Susan Sherk is a cultural anthropologist who has spent much of her career consulting to corporations around the world to study, predict, and address the social effects of large-scale developmental projects on local populations. She was an assistant deputy minister with the government of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, and a senior public affairs manager with the former Mobil Canada and Mobil Corporation. She has worked or travelled in fifty-seven countries. Her geographic specialties are the Arctic and Central Asia.


The Unbearable Weirdness of Modern Physics

Tony Fainberg

Tuesdays and Thursdays, March 13, 15, 20 and 22.

Class 1:00 – 3:00, social hour 3:00 – 4:00.
625 pesos

The physics that has been developed over the past century and a quarter departs radically from earlier, “classical” physics. The old physics generally explains phenomena that are familiar, intuitive, or at least understandable to humans, based on common experiences we all have had. The most difficult aspect of the new physics, on the other hand, is to understand and accept narratives that are manifestly contrary to all of human experience. For example:
• How can two simultaneous events be not at all simultaneous to observers, who may be zipping past us at high speed? What then is the meaning of simultaneity and, more broadly, of time itself?
• How can tiny objects act both as though they are bits of matter and also bits of wave-like energy? And this, at the same time and within the same experiment? How is it that we cannot know (and the universe cannot know either) both the exact position and the motion of a tiny object at the same time? Does this even matter (no pun intended)?
• How can subatomic particles come into existence and then vanish without apparent cause, provided they do this extremely quickly? And how do we know they do this? Do these particles really exist anyway, and if so, why? Why are subatomic forces so strong and gravitational forces so weak?
• What does all this have to do with the size, structure, and history of the universe? What can humans know about it all? Can we be sure we really do know?
This course will try to explain over four lectures designed for non-scientists the basic ideas of relativity, quantum mechanics, and particle physics, including their implications for our developing knowledge of the universe. Most of the concepts are accessible without recourse to mathematics. The goal is for the student to obtain a basic understanding and appreciation of the complexity and structure of the universe in which we find ourselves, along with an understanding of some of the most salient, outstanding questions that are being researched today.

Tony Fainberg started his career in physics with a doctorate in particle physics from UC Berkeley, and conducted basic research for 15 years at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, at Syracuse University, and at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. He has worked at the U.S. Congressional Office of Technology Assessment on the impact of science and technology on society, and in the Executive Branch, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has previously taught introductory physics courses to non-scientists.

“God Wills It”: A Cultural History of the Crusades

Terry Fitzpatrick

March 16 (Fri.), Wed. 21, Fri. 23, and Wed. 28.

Class 1:00 – 3:00, social hour 3:00 – 4:00.

625 pesos

The course will focus on the major crusades to the Holy Land (1095-1270) as well as the Albigensian Crusade in France. Major questions include: Why were the Crusades undertaken, what were the objectives, what did they cost, what did they accomplish, why do they matter? We will also consider some of the major social and cultural causes of the Crusades: the medieval world view, population and economic pressures, papal versus monarchical ambitions, the role of women, the cult of chivalric love, the rise of monasticism, the building of the great churches and castles, and the invention of a new kind of army of monk warriors — the Knights Templar and The Hospitallers. We will also look at Islamic responses to these invasions from the West, and at how the Crusaders who stayed in the East tried to create permanent fiefdoms in a hostile and unstable world.

Terry Fitzpatrick was born in Montana, BA from University of Washington, PhD from Rutgers University. As a faculty member at Washington University in St. Louis, he taught literature and helped create an interdisciplinary program in literature, history and philosophy. His interest in the Crusades is fueled by his fascination with Cistercian monasteries, Cathar heretics, courtly love poetry, and corrupt prelates. He had subsequent careers as a writer, editor, teacher and publicist at both for-profit and non-profit organizations.