Editor’s Note: Our community is celebrating a new mural in Juluchuca, thanks in large part to the initiative of Season 10 fall farm intern, Margot Mattson. Many previous volunteers have talked about doing a community mural, but this is the first time it’s actually been done – and it’s a huge success! Here, in her own words is the story of how Margot worked with local high school students to give us all a wonderful gift. Thank you Margot!
Written by Margot Mattson
This Fall, I was welcomed into the community of Juluchuca as Playa Viva’s Farm Intern. My role was to work on the Playa Viva farm, moving forward their organic food production goals, as well as engaging the community in health and educational projects. When I first arrived, I could barely hold an introductory conversation in Spanish and feared that my language skills would never improve. Thanks to the dedicated help of the Playa Viva staff, I was able to improve my Spanish speaking abilities enough to start working in the community.
A Shared Vision of Juluchuca
Through helping out in the local high school, I quickly realized that a great education project would be an environmental mural. The students had already initiated painting projects throughout the town to remind us to take care of the planet. With the help of the head teacher, Maestra Jessica, and the education volunteer, Ariel, we were able to organize a group of students to take the lead on the project. I wanted the mural design to come from them, an inspiring group of young people working to take care of their community.
My hope as I leave Playa Viva is that these community murals help instill a sense of pride amongst residents of Juluchuca
When you ask the people of Juluchuca why they like living in their town, many respond with a similar answer: la playa. For many residents, the beach is one of their favorite places in the area. It is a space of beauty where you can watch sunsets and connect with nature. It’s a place to enjoy a Sunday picnic with family or the launching point for a day spent fishing. As a town supported by agriculture and fishing, the people of Juluchuca identify strongly with the importance of the natural environment and the biodiversity of our surroundings.
Over the course of several weeks, I held meetings with the students to discuss and brainstorm what most symbolizes their town. What are they proud of? What do they love about living in Juluchuca? Without surprise, the students suggested that what most represents Juluchuca is the beach, the abundance of wild animals, and the agricultural fields. They wanted to include iguanas and sea turtles, both species that are facing the impacts of poaching and anthropogenic pollution. Both animals are also symbolic of the area: sea turtles commonly nest on our beaches, with the La Tortuga Viva volunteers working tirelessly to protect them, and the iguana is represented in one of the most traditional dances of Guerrero.
With our vision in mind, the class selected three students who were considered the best artists to help draw the design. We came up with several sketches and settled on one. We painted the mural next to the primary school, where many families pass by each day. The students were incredibly dedicated and self-motivated workers. They organized themselves into teams in order to accomplish tasks with little instruction. To my surprise, all of the students participated in the painting process, even those who claimed they weren’t very good at art. They were eager to learn new painting techniques to achieve a desired look and were supportive of everyone’s contribution to the mural regardless of their painting experience.
A Mural for the Whole Community
As we were painting in a public space, members of the community would pass by and share their excitement and gratitude for the student’s work. When the principle of the primary school saw the mural, she asked if we would paint another mural to cover the previously grey brick walls flanking the school gate. We agreed, and students who previously showed hesitation and doubt of their drawing skills asked to help with the design process for the other two walls. To show their appreciation, passing community members would give our group cold 2-liter bottles of soda along with a stack of cups for sharing. One of the students brought her speaker and we all enjoyed painting in the early morning shade, listening to music and sipping on cold “refrescos”.
Throughout the mural painting process we talked about the importance of nature and the negative impact of pollution on the environment. Often we were painting in a space surrounded by litter. We are all aware that Juluchuca is not perfect and that we can each do more to keep our community clean and thriving. My hope as I leave Playa Viva is that these community murals help instill a sense of pride amongst residents of Juluchuca, and that this, in turn, will lead to better environmental practices such as recycling and keeping the town clean. Through this experience, I was able to watch as young people expressed themselves as artists and pushed themselves to design, organize and complete a beautiful project. They are the next generation, and I am incredibly proud to say that they are already making our world a more beautiful place.
View this post on Instagram
Meet Margot Mattson, Playa Viva's fall Farm Intern: Margot is from Mount Shasta, California. She spends most of her time in the huerto learning organic farming techniques from Abel and Daniel, who also teach her lessons in Spanish language and in life in Juluchuca. During her last month, she is excited to learn more traditional recipes of Guerrero cuisine and continue improving her Spanish. Muchas Gracias Margot