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Art Brigade for Affected Communities

By Karla Ortiz

In San Miguel de Allende, the richness of the culture stands out, and it also highlights the solidarity of its people. Last Tuesday, September 26, an art brigade was organized among the city’s young people to go out to give some support to those affected by the recent earthquakes in Mexico.

The art brigade was very spontaneous. First they tried to go to the rescue workers, but access was difficult and many people were already helping. Then they thought about sending help in trucks, but they were discouraged to learn that the trucks that were being stolen by political parties. After that came the idea of doing an art brigade, “to support people emotionally, especially children and adolescents,” explained Mike Vidargas, coordinator of the initiative.

Since the idea emerged, Mike publicized it on his personal Facebook page. The idea received the acceptance and support of all his friends, and even strangers who could see the post publicly. People from San Miguel and Querétaro were the ones who most shared and supported the initiative.

Six people went on the trip: Azucena Pérez, Noemí Camargo, Fernanda Peón, Carlos Alonso, Yudi Martínez, and Mike Vidargas. They received donations in both merchandise and money and used the money to shop locally and support the economy of the communities they visited.

Mona Lara and Mario Iribe, natives of Oaxaca, were in charge of making contact with the people of Tlahuitoltepec, where the art brigade arrived. Estrella, from the organization Te echamos una mano (We lend you a hand), met them and supported them in organizing the activities. Her organization is in charge of carrying out censuses among those affected to supervise what is needed. “We traveled by truck to Mexico City. From there, we took another truck to Oaxaca, and from there, we took a community taxi to the municipality of Santa María Tlahuitoltepec. Then we moved in pickup trucks that the municipality lent to the community of Metate and Sierra Mixe,” Mike added.

They adapted their plan of activities as they saw the need. The first days they worked in watercolor workshops, where they asked the children and young people to express what they liked best about their village and what they would like people to know about their culture. On Thursday afternoon, in the community of Metate, they made music to the rhythm of the rap jams, and the young people from the community joined in. During their activities, they also played with the children and set up improvised workshops for face painting. In the end, the kids told them what they wanted to learn in the workshops.

“It was like a carnival, full of painting, improvisations, a watercolor workshop, paintings in big size, and lots of smiles”, said Mike Vidargas. On Friday, September 29, they put up an exhibition of all the works carried out by the city’s children and young people, who invited their brothers and sisters, parents, and neighbors to see the creations they had made during the week.

“On the third night, the local councilor invited us to the community radio station along with some Tlahuitoltepec kids who [made] rhymes, and [we] recorded two songs with them about culture and pulque (drink made from fermened sap of certain types of maguey). Carlos, who was carrying the camera, took some shots, and we promised to send them a visual work, which soon we will upload along with the song. It’s very cool. You will hear it very soon.” Mike commented.

During their stay, the Art Brigade could see the damage the earthquake had caused.

“The constructions in Oaxaca that collapsed were those that the government has given them. Peña Nieto said that adobe didn’t work, but I saw many adobe houses standing because they are well made. They still need a lot of help. They need specialized people: translators, rescuers, emotional and psychological support.”

Throughout this journey, more than a learning experience for the children, it was a learning experience for those who made up the brigade. They lived the Mixe culture from within and learned from an education that above all deals with the inclusion of our fellow human beings. Mike told us that the reasoning of the children is not like an adult’s. One boy explained that at the moment of feeling the tremor, they left their classrooms in an orderly, way and by rows, a girl and a boy at a time to make the exit easier and faster. In contrast, in Mexico City, people were getting stuck at the gates, making their exit slower.

The Art Brigade plans a second visit at the beginning of December. It will be better organized so that children from all affected nearby communities can attend. They also plan to hold a fundraising event to help rebuild homes in remote communities, where it is very difficult to get help. “I hope that you can come closer and get to know a little more about what happened in this first brigade, so that you can see the positive change generated by the smiles and drawings, so you can join the project because we can all be part of it,” Mike Vidargas commented. For more information, visit Colectivo Poético SMA on Facebook.


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