Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mujeres Tinecas—San Martin, El Salvador

Alicia is one of three York interns here for three months.  She was a volunteer with the Solidairy Crafts program for three months.  We hope you will be reviewing her Christmas crafts catalog soon!
Today I had the opportunity yet again to go out into the community and meet one of the groups associated with CIS, this time las Mujeres Tinecas, in San Martin. What made this particular trip special was that I would be teaching some of the women a bit of the calligraphy and lettering that I learned in high school as well as from watching my mom doing it growing up. I had to swallow my nervousness about speaking Spanish in front of a group of locals, and try to teach what was essentially an art class, having no prior knowledge of the capabilities of my students.

I certainly wasn’t prepared for the sweet Ancelma, the lady who makes the quilled cards for the group, and who doesn’t know how to read or write. Calligraphy, which had always meant for me a style of “artsy” penmanship, had lost all of its traditional linguistic meaning, and had become instead simply drawing patterns of art. I enjoyed the experience though, and appreciated the effort and enthusiasm of the ladies—I’m confident that after they spend some time practicing, the new lettering on their cards will look beautiful.

Afterwards we talked a bit about their lives and their work, and their little neighbourhood in San Martin. I hadn’t even realized that one of them had to come out to meet us and bring us in (I thought we just needed directions), to ensure our safety in their gang-maintained neighbourhood. There were young boys flying kites, men at work, and women keeping home—washing, cleaning, gardening, cooking, etc.—and other students coming home from school. Though it was clearly a poor area, there was a kind of majesty to it all: the sounds of the carpenter’s workshop, the smiling children with their kites, cars zooming down the highway in the background, the towering and empty industrial tanks behind the galvanized houses, and somehow the flowers finding space to bloom in their kaleidoscope of colours everywhere.

I’m excited to see what the future holds for the group; I hope they keep practicing to make their already beautiful cards stand out even more, to increase their sales, and ultimately, to improve their lives and secure a brighter future for themselves, their families, and their community.