MEXICO CITY – A Mexican neighborhood has turned into a new hotbed of learning various forms of art and music for children and adolescents of the central state of Morelos plagued by violence for years.
A group of 35 teachers trains their students in visual arts, music, dance and theater in the neighborhood of Cuernavaca, capital of Morelos, where they receive classes.
In Mexico and other countries, houses are built around a corridor or central courtyard, a layout which can be seen in the La Vecindad (the Neighborhood) Cultural Center Neighborhood, founded in 1995.
Since its founding, “La Vecindad,” has aimed to initiate children into art and culture and explore and encourage their creativity and imagination.
“Every child has a genuine and distinct interest (and in recent years) we have dedicated ourselves to grow with the school of artistic initiation,” the director-general of the cultural center, Maria Fernanda Garrido Navedo, said in an interview with EFE.
She said children enter the school from the age of six and can find different classes in it “because it has evolved and there are not only workshops but a class in which they can have continuity to their (learning) process.”
The director explained how the school has been a critical support for children with artistic interests in Morelos.
“Here, we give a very special continuation to the children. If they enter the school and when they leave, at the age of 17 years, they will have the artistic training that can help them gain admission into a college to continue their studies,” she said.
She said that regardless of the artistic activity they take up, children “must have an education from childhood and here they receive that opportunity.”
Garrido explained that such has been the growth of the project in recent years that currently, La Vecindad has the children’s choir and art troupe and youth theater group of the city.
The Cultural Center, which offers more than 130 classes a week, claims to be “a fundamental part in children’s development” in the state which, like many of Mexico, has been plagued by violence in recent years.
There are around 400,000 children in Morelos’ capital, all of whom are looking for spaces with safe, harmonious and loving environments to develop their capacities.
Buoyed by the results, the director hopes that the model can be replicated in other cities of Morelos as well as across the country.
Among the classes taught at the center are initiation to the visual arts, which includes art history, drawing, painting, sculpture and illustration, and initiation to music, with music theory, choral, chamber and orchestral ensemble, as well as a wide variety of instruments including string, wind, percussion, and piano.
“They’ve taught me to play the violin, really well, with technique and theory, they also know how to conduct us,” 15-year-old Brisa told EFE.
Meanwhile, children and adolescents being initiated into theater take courses in acting, physical training, vocal technique, the history of theater and singing, while also being encouraged to engage in reading and writing.
Sofia, 11, says she enjoys interacting with other children and attending classes.
“Teachers have a great capacity to teach,” she said, explaining that she acted in a play in which she played one of the sailors who ran out of resources on a voyage.
Maria, 15, who is studying piano, describes how she was drawn to the instrument after attending a musical event at a city park.
“I was struck by the sound, movement and feeling it conveyed, that feeling of joy that I liked, I went nearer and the children said: come to La Vecindad and I got into it,” said Maria, who expressed an interest in playing the piano at the age of six.
Until the 1980s, the building, constructed in 1900, served to give shelter to several popular families and personalities, including wrestlers, photographers, musicians, and even midwives.
The building was abandoned for almost a decade. However, it retains its name “La Vecindad,” in memory of the children who played and grew up in this space.