Audioslideshow RT 06:13
Images and Audio by teenagers in the MemoriArte Workshop
Directed by Donna De Cesare with assistance by Jose Castillo

If Santa Tecla, a city just west of San Salvador in El Salvador, has had the bad fortune of suffering several catastrophic earthquakes in its history, it also has had the good fortune of intelligent and far-sighted political leadership.

The mayor of Santa Tecla for more than a decade has been strongly committed to creating cultural and recreational institutions and spaces for the city’s youth. And for almost as long the local government has focused through its Violence Observatory on the same diagnostic public health model for assessing causes and preventive measures to reduce community violence and crime, that was pioneered in Cali, Colombia with tangible impact.

In the epilogue of my book Unsettled / Desasosiego I mention that most of the teenagers I taught in the MemoriArte workshop came from barrios where it would have been foolhardy or even lethal to make pictures on their streets. So many places are now controlled by gangs.
In our weeks together they all learned to see with a camera. Santa Tecla offered my students the freedom to explore. They wandered the streets alone or in pairs with audio recorders and cameras capturing images and sounds that reminded them of their own barrios and hard-working parents and neighbors. This collaborative story is their poem of appreciation for what they found. And as my thoughtful student Bryan added, it helped them show that “ youth are not a plague. We can change our world.”

2011 Santa Tecla Workshop