It is my second day in the community of Cheran, yet we’ve moved twice and just last night settled into a house we will keep for the next week and a half. It will also keep me young at heart: we happen share it with a kindergarten in the morning!
Cheran is a quiet town. No dogs all over the place as in many towns. Surrounded by soft hills still covered by dense forests, Cheran is quite chilly, with low puffy clouds hanging from a deep blue sky. It is the feeling of ranches here, people riding horses or donkeys, men in hats, kids with red apples for cheeks, women their hair covered by robes (rebosos), all smiling back, welcoming even after what the’ve gone through to regain their smiles, open, willing to tell the world about them. This is the Mexico I remembered from the 70’s, with the experience of four decades assimilated. A place rescued by P’urhépecha ancient wisdom, today manifested in a citizen’s council made up of twelve k’eri (tatas, abuelitos or grandes – elderly), protected and enforced by community watches (not “guards”) that act to a reconstruction ideal that includes regaining the 20,000 hectares of rain forests done away by their indiscriminate, ilegal and irresponsible felling under the collusion of earlier municipal authorities that were thrown out April 15th., 2011.
The village is free of trash, there are no TV sets on , nor any loud music. One can hear saws working, (they make furniture, have a green house with over a million species, a resin factory and a legal mill) and background noise is the hum of birds in trees. Silence prevails, sounds have meaning, there is no pollution. It’s so liberating, it just adds to the peace that one breathes in a town that is inside the irony of self imposed barricades. What is right and what is wrong is defined by these lines that at night lit in bonfires and brave citizens that take care of their families and tradition, their face illuminated by the glare of the fires, keeping their watch.
After waking up to a lukewarm bath, splashed, we had a long talk with one of the community watches leaders over breakfast. His family had us in his house and brought over food for us. Imagine this: Their peace keeping force logo in the military uniform has a woman embracing Mother Earth, forests and rivers.These mothers of all, courageous women are the ones that lead the uprise in 2011.
We later gathered and went to Casa de Cultura to present our project. The most visible of the K’eris received us. He of course already knew of us. It took ten minutes to get us all their support and resources. What do you need? he asked, like in it’s already granted. He personally took us to see the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional (UPN) students so the effort can remain active as we teach teachers for later Children’s Peace Theatre activities to continue.
We had not started the experience with kids, yet I was already touched, had learnt many things, had written every morning and night and photographed.
They assigned their largest school at our project’s disposal. We spread the word all over town the rest of that day, person to person, so we got a lot of kids attending the workshop since its start. We are now up and running with over 45 of them. A large group of kids that will live conflict transformation through art and the three “C”’s in Compassion, Courage and Creativity, plus a lot of local will-be-teachers guides that will learn about the method to keep and continue the work in this community going forward.
I am grateful to be here, sharing what I’m good at as an invited artist and sharing much needed unconditional Love.
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Children’s Peace Theatre in Cheran: Arrival by Juan Ayza M. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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