While most of you are still getting excited for Thursday’s big feast, here in Mexico the national holiday is today. It marks the 101st anniversary of the La Revolución Mexicana, and therefore nobody has school. Hooray!
In other exciting news, tomorrow will be the start of another session of classes, as part of our children’s after-school program. The last time we saw each other was at the end of October, for Community Links and Tecuanipan’s first ever photography exhibit.
After the summer holidays, the children returned to classes in September and began working on a special new project that Community Links was very proud of: a photography course.
Our after-school program is designed around four main concepts of education: teaching cooperation, creativity, confidence building, and communication. With this in mind, we were really excited when local photographer and documentary filmmaker Alfredo Vazquez volunteered to teach a basic course in photography to the children in Tecuanipan. The original idea was to combine a creative activity with a lesson in the importance of preserving the traditions and history of their pueblo.
Alfredo and another volunteer, Paulina Macias, who is studying photography at a university in Puebla, started out with the most basic idea behind taking a picture. The first lesson nobody even touched a camera. Instead they were introduced the idea of looking at the world through a picture frame. The children used their thumbs and forefingers to make a rectangle and ran around Ina’s house snapping away with their imaginations.
The next week each child brought in a recycled milk carton to decorate and turn into a pinhole camera, with the help of some aluminum foil and a needle. We turned Ina’s bathroom into a darkroom and watched impatiently as shadowy figures slowly emerged on film.
For their next homework assignment, Alfredo and Paulina passed out disposable cameras, one for each family to share. This assignment corresponded with the annual town festival, in honor of their patron saint, San Jeronimo. After snapping shots of the weekend’s festivities, the children turned in their cameras to be developed.
On the last day of class, Community Links held the very first Photography Exhibition of Tecuanipan. That morning, Alfredo and Pauline helped us transform Ina’s house into an elegant art gallery, with the children’s photos hanging on the adobe walls. All of the families and any interested community members were invited to attend the special event.
Complete with an introductory ceremony given by the children and an official ribbon cutting at the entrance, the exhibition itself included pictures of daily life in Tecuanípan, as seen through the eyes of our students. There were pictures of everything from riding the merry-go-round at the fair, pictures of bicycles and horses in their backyard and pictures of sweaty aunts and cousins stirring big pots of mole and plucking several dozen chickens in preparation for a family gathering. It was an exciting moment for everyone, for the children to show off what they had learned, and for the rest of us to get a look at what they chose to document from their lives outside of class. Afterwards, the children were able to select one photo each to take home with them.
There are plans in the works to organize a second exhibition in Cholula sometime in December. It will be held in a gallery downtown and will be open to the public.