Eugenia paints. She is a lovely Maya woman who lives in the village of Leona Vicario about half an hour into the jungle from Cancun. I have always wanted to learn to paint, so I asked her to help me.
But there is a back story.
First: This is not the traditional way to adorn Mayan clothing. Although the flower patterns are very typical, for generations, they have been done with hand stitching. So this paint process is a new idea. Eugenia does it beautifully and I applaud her for using her gift in a modern way to carry on an ancient tradition. It is a good example of moving forward while still holding onto things of value from her culture.
Second: For a long time, I have wanted to help people in poor communities like Leona Vicario preserve their art while making a living. It seems like a great way to fill two needs at the same time. These people need to make a decent living and they also want to preserve their culture. Preserving culture is not an easy thing to do when everything is moving into the future at breakneck speed. It is very easy for entire communities to be lured into forgetting their traditional language (Mayan) in favor of learning English on top of the Spanish they need to know. And it is very easy to leave the small pueblos to go to the tourist towns and try to get a job in the tourist industry. I am really impressed by Eugenia's resourcefulness. She has a call phone, she lives in a wooden house where you can see through the wood slates to the garden outside. She takes care of a big extended family and attends her local church. She cooks for dozens of people. And...she taught me to make tortillas! (She makes the most amazing hand-pressed tortillas.) She is an industrious woman. I think its great!
So....I have an idea. Eugenia dosent know it yet. I won't tell her until I am pretty sure it will work.
There are many people who would love to do something to help the people in Leona Vicario. Typically, that means giving donations of food, or clothing or money. While donating is fine when the need really arises, it is not really the best way to help people long term. Its MUCH better to pay them for something they can do. This builds their self esteem and also makes them responsible for their own well-being, which is really important.
I have always wanted to learn to paint and I love the bright colors and fanciful designs Eugenia uses. I also love that her designs are still very close to the traditional Mayan designs. Next week, she is going to give me my first art lesson. And if it goes well (which I have a feeling it will) I am going to invite a friend of two to join me. We will take it slowly, but my vision is to eventually bring small groups of people out to this quaint village to take art lessons. What a great way to give into a community! We can learn from them, have fun, be creative, build friendships, and support their culture and their economy.
I really hope this works.
In the meantime, I will be painting. Anyone looking to buy some art?
HUGS to you all.... in creative pursuit