Sometimes it is hard to keep all the families and the relationships straight.
The kids come in groups of 3, 4, 5...This also makes it really hard when ONE kid leaves the studio and I have a family of 4 waiting outside to come in.
Lupe, Angeles, and Samari. The youngest is so tiny I’m doubtful she is the minimum age of 4 to come to the studio. I don’t deny them entry into the studio. To do that would deny them respite from ... their life? The older ones (as young as 8 or 9) are always in charge of the younger ones. Each day I need to ask the older to help with the younger-go to the bathroom, or take her home. Each day they point at the other, or give an exasperated sigh and nod to the other, according to who is in charge THAT day. I call them my first family. They are the first to come into the studio before we are open. They pick up boxes and ask to help me get ready. They feel special because they have an “in” to the materials at the studio. They come every day we are open until they move away.
Most of the kids live within 4 or 5 blocks from the studio. Out our front door I can throw a rock at the homes of 6 families who come to the center. I don’t though, that would be mean.
Citlali, Naila, Angie, Susanna, Emily, Javier, and Zoe. Cousins, sisters, nieces.... and one is an aunt to the others. This family alone pretty much fills the studio, leaving room for only a handful more. They are all under 11. They live at the edge of the jungle. They come as a group and they know who can walk home alone, and who needs to go together. I have accompanied Susanna home when she was alone and it was dark. I accompany her home out of her desire for company, not a parental requirement, she seems to have free reign. I don’t have an extra helmet for her to wear, so she can’t ride the moto. So we go—her walking fast, me driving slow.
Daniel, Dafne, Enrique, Cristian and Diego. I don’t know if they are all one family, but they arrive together so I assume they are. I often have to encourage the older to let the younger TRY the best they can. The older often wants to do the tasks for the younger. They quickly learn they can leave the responsibility at the door of the studio. Enrique calls my name like a husband calling to a wife. He pleads with me, the accent heavy on the second syllable, the last drawn out to a slow fade. “Ah-NI-taaah” as if to say -- Ah-NI-taaah, It’s only a couple of beers with my buddies!
Izamari, Lenna, and Alizee; cousins and sisters. The oldest is quietly productive. The middle one so easily distracted. Even when I’m talking to her one to one, her attention wanders and she is somewhere else. She is tagged in my phone to remind me to make sure she cleans up when she’s done working. The youngest is full of chiles and spice. When given limits she threatens to leave and go home. Some days I hope she does.
Ana, Camila, Amariany, Renata, and Estile. The newest family comes from the farthest away. The eldest is 11 and is in charge of leading the others on the 1/2 a mile walk to the studio; across a busy road with no cross walk or crossing lights. Sometimes the 10 year old is the leader. They are a quiet group, they follow the rules, they clean up, and they call my name with all the familiarity of the kids I’ve known for months. They leave when it is dusk. The long walk is sporadically lit, the main road as busy with zipping motos, giant delivery trucks, bike carts, cars and various stray street dogs. All I can do is bid them con cuidado- go carefully and A Diós - to God.
Who are all these kids? And how in the world did I end up in Mexico?
I am an artist and art therapist with a passion to change the the lives of kids through the power of creating art.
If you are love art and kids join me on this exciting journey. I’m sharing it all here; every hope, every uncertain moment, every sweaty step, and each small victory. —anita yeh norrie