This article is from the May 2003 The Mexico File newsletter.
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Touring Alamos Homes and Gardens Raises Money for Scholarships

Story and photos by Alison Gardner

Visitors on vacation usually interact only with the public face of a country or community, but if they do it with an open mind and heart, this can be a rewarding, stimulating experience. Rarely does the opportunity present itself to move beyond the public face into the private world of those who live, work and play there. Los Amigos de Educación combines a peek at that world with an opportunity for visitors to support a scholarship program for promising Alamos students. 

In the 1950s and following decades, many foreigners began buying up Alamos’ abandoned crumbling mansions. With deep pockets and probably many second thoughts, they embarked on the challenging task of transforming forgotten treasures into gracious homes and gardens once more. Proud of their accomplishments and with a vision of funding a public library in the community, the newcomers started opening their homes to visitors for a small fee. When the state of Sonora assumed responsibility for the library, this informal group turned its considerable energies to assisting Alamos families who were unable to continue the education of their children past the government-financed elementary level. 

Thus evolved Los Amigos de Educación, a volunteer nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging the area’s brightest hope for the future –  its children. Scholarships support academically qualified, financially needy students mainly in junior and senior high school, but also some elementary and post-secondary students. In 2003, an impressive 300 students directly benefit – más o menos – depending each year upon the funds generated by tours, donations and endowment fund interest.

The one-hour tour is led by a rotating roster of volunteers who pre-book for viewing two homes within easy walking distance of each other. Owners are usually available to share their vision and their challenges in a charming personal manner that invites questions. Some homes are centuries old and fairly stuffed with antique furniture and collectables; others are more contemporary but, together with their signature gardens, equally respectful of their Spanish colonial surroundings.  

Alamos is typical of Latin American architecture where high walls and solid doors front right onto city sidewalks. As a visitor, one can only imagine what is behind them. After my house and garden tour, I knew in at least two cases what lay behind those inscrutable edifices; it never failed to generate a smile on my face as I knowingly strolled by.  

Tours leave from the museum at the Church Plaza every Saturday at 10 a.m. A donation is requested. Sign up at the museum or inquire at your hotel. 

Arizona Coach Tours out of Tucson, Arizona, offers several Sonora theme itineraries of six-days each: a Sonora Natural History Tour during which contributor, Alison Gardner, gathered her experiences in and around Alamos; a Birding in Sonora Tour; and excursions to annual music and art festivals hosted by Alamos. Tel: 520-791-0210; Mexico tours web page: .