Alongside ArtCorps Artist Isabel Carrio, one Guatemalan child named Alida savors her own “artist-in-residence” program for a few precious moments.
It rains and rains and rains in Guachcuz. The rain here first announces its presence every day in the afternoon with thunder, and then it suddenly appears. You have to grab an umbrella when you leave the house in the full morning sunlight.
I am with Alida in a school classroom, painting a mural that has two gigantic Quetzal birds which will later become measuring sticks to measure the height of the community’s children: we paste tape measures on the Quetzals’ long tails. The afternoon smells like clay, and the dirt paths are covered in water. Only Alida has arrived to paint this afternoon. Contented, she shows up today introducing herself with an index finger to her chest: “Alida…Alida.”
Alida is six years old and she doesn’t speak Spanish. I don’t speak Poqomchí, so we understand each other with hand signals, with the language of glances and the codes of laughter. We spend a couple of hours together like this, sitting in front of the large wall of wooden planks and sharing brushes and jars of paint. Alida never stops saying, “Look, look!” at each figure that she adds to the wall, and she asks to take photographs and tries on my sunglasses. She opens my backpack and returns to painting the wall, saying “Look, look!” She goes to check on the rain to see if it has stopped, and finds an old mirror in a box and fixes her hair, and asks for another photo and checks again to see if anyone else is coming because TODAY IS ALIDA’S DAY. She is happy to be the sole recipient of my attention and to have free access to the table full of paints and materials.
Alida is having her own “artist-in-residence” experience in Guachcuz, and she poses for photos in front of the mural with no shyness or inhibition. She even has an air of the artist Eva Hesse in her New York studio when she was young. Ha! The rain stops and little by little Gladys, Freddy, Danilo, Ebert and others appear. Alida tries to shut the door and doesn’t want to let them in.
Finally we find a way to all work together, and we begin to use the measuring sticks to measure the height of each one of the children. They shout out the measurements as if suddenly we were playing the lottery. The classroom-studio gets a little out of control, between those who want to paint, those who want to sing, and the demands of “Photo! Photo! Photo!” Alida is still a little confused in a corner, and Gladys is shouting numbers in Spanish and giving directions to the younger ones to stand in front of the Quetzal.
The rain comes again, and tonight I sleep in Guachcuz. There is a total lunar eclipse. And there are great expectations for tomorrow, always.