-¡Oy, Jonatán! ¿Un lustro?
-Hoy no, gracias. ¿Vas a estar mañana, a las 7:00?
One of my favorite groups in Jícaro is the kids who work in the park. Most of them are shoe-shiners— lustradores— though some of them sell enchiladas or tejada instead. From the first day I visited my site I knew I wanted to find some way to work with them. It took a while, and it is still a work in progress, but after three months we are friends and we meet together most Sunday mornings. My group ranges in age from about six to twelve and in number from one
(myself) to about eight. Initially I intended it as a business group. For our first meeting I had designed little notebooks for them to keep track of how many shoes they shined and what materials they bought during the week. I had made them picture based because I knew some of them couldn't read or write. They loved the notebooks, even if the kids who showed up were a little younger than I had hoped. They were, aparently, less sold on the project. One kid decided the project was about the shoes themselves and gave his notebook to an uncle who was a shoe maker so he could participate, too. I told him that was great and got him a new one.
I haven't seen any of the notebooks since.
Regardless of what is on our agenda to discuss, I always bring my colored pencils and a stack of computer paper. We like to draw. One day we were drawing maps of the community. Another day we drew pictures of what we did during a normal day. Usually their drawings contain a suspicious number of the things I had in my example. They tend to be shy and unsure of their own ability to create or decide what to draw. I hear, “no puedo” a lot (I can't), to which I always reply “¡Claro que puedes! Mira, no puede ser peor que lo mio...” (Of course you can! Look, it can't be any worse than mine...”.
Sometimes not being able to draw very well comes in handy. Still, it can be hard to get them to find the courage to admit they want to participate. They like to slide up beside you and watch what you are doing. The first time you ask them if they want to draw they say no. The second time they just shake their head. The third time they just look at you. Or, if you are one particular little 9 year old who sells enchiladas with her 5 year old little sister you say, “Eh, muchacho, creo que ella quiere dibujar.” (I think she wants to draw). She always calls me muchacho, even though she knows my name. To which I reply. “¡Qué bueno! ¿Y vos?” (Great! What about you?).
Every week I try to get them to take their pictures home to hang up. Nobody ever does. So I have them sign their work and tell them I'm going to put them up in my room. I have a stack on the table waiting for me to buy some more tape.