Being at Presa de Maravillas and living in the community has been all I’ve wanted. The very moment I arrived at the school and the community, I was welcomed with the most delicious biscuits and hot canela (or cinnamon) drink, by Doña Juana who came to me as I stepped out of the car and said, “I’ve been wanting to know who was the Maestra that was coming.” That was just the beginning. Throughout the week, I was showered with so much care and love and every evening mesmerized by the breath-taking sunset as the sun slipped into the tiny hills with a brilliant red background. This is Presa de Maravillas.
As I have come to know the community, I grow more in love with its people but more pained by some of its stories. My “sister”, is 16 year old with already one born child and 7 months pregnant with a baby boy. She’s a single mom, but loves her kids with all her heart. She is incredible sweetheart who took me in as a confidant and friend. About 4 days ago, we worked on a Langston Hughes’ poem, Dreams and she analyzed it with more depth than I had ever had seen. She talked about her dreams of a new life, of moving forward for her children and how she’s going to fight to create a life for herself and for them. And I know she’s going to do it. Then there are the students who recall of painful stories in school and in the family. During a tamale feast in the school where a bunch of parents came, unknowingly, I asked this student if his mother was coming. He just looked at me and said, “I don’t have a mother.” Oh. “How about your father?” I asked. “I have even less of a father, I never see him.” And this child is brilliant, gentle and kind. These are some of the people at Presa de Maravillas that I have come to learn from and love.
Speaking to others, I have seen how tutoría has changed not just their attitude, but their hearts and their dreams. I am learning from Yohancarlo, in his third year en the telesecundaria, on what it means to learn. When I think about student involvement in the community, I only think of small community projecst, or community service – which is the mainstream literature that we have. But during Yohancarlo’s interview, I asked, what is the role of students in improving the community? He said, “To work hard at school, to study, so that when we become someone in life, and get a good job, that brings the community up. If we don’t learn, the community will never improve.” I was left inspired by his words. Yohancarlo was brought to this school because he was kicked out of another.
Mothers have also left me fascinated by what Profe Gabriel and Cesario are doing in the community. One mother recounted the story of Pedro Velez, when they first started comunidades de aprendizaje. She told me many community members didn’t want the students from Malpaso to come to Presa de Maravillas because they were afraid they would corrupt their own kids. But after talking to Profe Gabriel, who explain the right of every child to an education, they community let the students from Malpaso come in. And what was most interesting was that the school became a space for mothers to interact with the mothers who were struggling with their sons and daughters from Malpaso. They would offer suggestions to build up their kids and the school became a critically important space for those conversations.
What’s more, is that the students were now coming home and being the actors in building the comunidad de aprendizaje. At home they would ask questions, ask for books, try to investigate this and that- involving their family through sheer curiosity and a thirst to learn. And that same mother has even asked to be a part of tutoría, something I’m going to try to start in the coming months after school in the community.
Pedro Velez is such a special space and I am so honored to be working alongside Profe Gabriel and Cesario. The energy they have in the classroom, the organization of the temas and the absolute joy and love for their students have moved me and so many in the community. Amidst the tough and very real challenges in the community, you see the bright light of hope in these giants in Presa de Maravillas.
Every day is a battle, some days the students escape from school and leave before the day ends, some days some don’t want to do their demonstrations or even get up to say their names, some days, you see a spark in interests in some students, some days you don’t. I feel I’m barely scratching the surface getting to know the community and the students, and already this experience has been so rich. I feel I need more, so much more time with the people and I’m glad I’m going to have that. It’s a wonderful balance of learning so much every day but also feeling you have can help be a support to both my new found family in Presa de Maravillas, the larger community and in the school. There’s a lot to be done, but we have he best people working on it, what a wonderful feeling.