This blog corresponds to Day 5 of the Toronto Delegation. Emmanuel College.
“Looking at the spirit, painting with the hands” are words spoken by Joalgar, an experienced artist working in San Salvador teaching others to express the spirit through their work. He came to give an art demonstration to Yeny’s youth program and the 15 of us at Chencho’s house. Two students provided us with a live demonstration of their drawing techniques and told us their stories of what made them grow as artists. These two students have overcome a disability in order to express themselves through their paintings and drawings. Walter, who is blind, demonstrated his drawing techniques of measuring distance and the speed of his pencil and drew a fabulous picture of a landscape with a tree, hills and grass. Walter has won awards for the work he has done through his art throughout Latin America. Umberto, who is deaf, drew a beautiful portrait of Sam, our very own student model. He told us his story of how he wanted to draw as a child but his parents thought he was using too much paper, so he began leaving his home in order to draw in secret. Joalgar learned sign language in order to be in solidarity with Umberto. The rich complexity of language was shown through the three way translation of Umberto communicating in sign to Joalgar who was translating in Spanish to Chencho who translated in English to us. These were wonderful demonstrations and practices that showed how we can achieve almost anything with passion, support and opportunity.
Afterwards we were greeted by Yeny and her family at the up and coming Mesoamerican Peace center that Chencho’s organization is supporting. It is a place for peace and community that focus’ on empowering women and taking care of the environment. Yeny’s whole family is working towards the peace project where they are teaching 5 main subjects to the community: the health of people and animals, reading and writing, recycling, responding to natural disasters and sustainability. Yeny’s mother Vilma, has been creating art programs for women, children and men as a tool for relaxation by teaching them card making, sewing, needlepoint, and other crafts. She also raises the animals, tends to the plants and generally educates the community at the peace center. She is a wonderful mother and woman and is an inspiration. We learned so much from her.
The amount of work that Yeny and her family do is significant and lifelong. Currently they are also working to prevent of violence against women. Vilma has begun this by starting with her own husband and boys and organizing the men in the community. Muchismo is the idea that man is the center and it is one of the driving forces of violence. By organizing the men and teaching them of women’s issues, violence against women will be made more aware and how terrible it really is. It will be a long and difficult process and one that will be a struggle for years. Many of the issues that Salvadorans face are deeply rooted within the culture and violent history of the country. These are issues that the Mesoamerican Peace movement and Yeny and her family’s work are addressing. The whole world would benefit in helping Latin America as it applies to us and our solidarity with our brothers and sisters of the world. Listening to the story of Yeny, and the stories of others, I have been trying to find my place in the work towards solidarity. What we learned of Latin America was vast, complicated, and deep and was sometimes overwhelming. So how am I to stand in solidarity from another country? This was a question that tugged at me but after some thought and talking with others, the answers that surfaced were doing my part by donating money to the Mesoamerican peace movement, organizing other groups to get involved in Latin American issues, recycling, teaching others of the issues, being a role model, being more ecologically conscience and helping those in my own home town. There are so many more ways in addition to these but no matter how big or small we can all show our solidarity in some way.