[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Today is Wednesday, the “peak” of art camp, and I am finally carving out time to sit and write. We spent last weekend in Antigua, resting and preparing ourselves for the week. On Sunday we made the 40-minute drive from Antigua to Santiago Sacatepéquez, the location for the I AM ART Se Luz 2016 camp. To put it simply, the transition was drastic.
Antigua, Guatemala’s capital when it was under Spanish colonial rule, bursts at the seams with color and enchantment. Volcanoes ring the city like sentinels, while tourists and natives alike bustle down cobbled streets, their shadows gliding across thick adobe walls painted orange, yellow, maroon, and teal. In Antigua, we ate, drank, and enjoyed ourselves to our hearts’ content. Coffee, wine, and chocolate were staples of our diet, and when we weren’t eating, shopping for gorgeously-crafted textiles, or touring nearby coffee plantations, we relaxed by the hotel pool, slept, and took long, hot showers.
“I wish we could just live here,” Laura remarked at one point. “Yeah, but”—MacLean shook his head and sighed—“gotta go help kids.”
[/vc_column_text][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/IMG_6238.jpg” image_size=”large”][vc_column_text]Santiago Sacatepéquez. Here, many families live in houses made of corrugated steel and cook beans, rice, and tortillas over an open fire. Those who are better off build their houses out of concrete and cook meat on stovetops. Poverty and a national history of racism, war, and corruption combine to magnify the social evils of alcoholism, drug addiction, gang violence, and teenage pregnancy. Santiago was downgraded from a red zone, or town with an average of one murder per day, just a few years ago.
In addition, at times it seems that everything in Santiago is bleak and dirty. A walk up the hill behind town offers a sweeping vista of steel rooftops in various stages of rust, broken occasionally by concrete walls—a patchwork of gray, tan, and reddish-brown. On the streets stray dogs wander in circles looking for scraps of food and we can’t look ahead as we walk for fear of stepping in dog or horse feces. The dirt that covers buildings and streets soon covers hands and feet as well. At our hotel (it still surprises me that Santiago even HAS a hotel) we experience intermittent losses of electricity and water.[/vc_column_text][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/IMG_4810.jpg” image_size=”large”][vc_column_text]On Monday and Tuesday, though, we discovered that in spite of the struggles the children of Santiago face, they are as full of color as the streets in Antigua. The artists used their workshops to help the kids explore who they are and where they come from, with magnificent results. In the mixed media class, for example, the kids colored plates, bowls, and cups with hues that reflect their emotions. In the miming class, each child practiced trust as he closed his eyes and ran toward a wall of his peers, their arms open, waiting to catch him. In the paper-making class, children traced and decorated their own footprints, recalling that they walk in the light of the Lord, who is always watching over them.
As artists, we left feeling overjoyed at the way the children had used the tools we gave them to express the beauty of their individual selves. Their dignity is seldom celebrated, often violated, resulting in wounds that cannot be healed by anyone but God. At the end of day two we felt thankful that He had put us in this place and used us as His instruments—His artist’s brushes and tools—to help the kids recognize their infinite worth.[/vc_column_text][mk_gallery images=”7787,7788,7789,7790,7791,7792,7793,7794,7795,7796″ column=”5″][/vc_column][/vc_row]