Linda — which means “pretty” — rides along in the back of a truck with the rest of us members and supporters of Guajoyo’s youth theater group to their presentation of a play — written and acted by them — about family violence. This is how you move around, clumped together with the sun on your shoulders and the wind pulling your hair out of its ponytail. It makes you want to shout, and to be as high up as possible, and that’s what they do; they sitting on the edges of the truck bed, shouting like heathens, and everybody’s in it together. This is how you move the youth of El Salvador, letting them feel so alive and so close to the dangers that stride alongside the beauty and shouting, climbing on top of things, and being together. They’re heathens, they’re rambunctious, and they want to move in this country, in this world. This is how we move.
The mayor of Tecoluca — the municipality that claims Guajoyo and dozens of other communities — has invited children from the region to come together and identify their reality and what changes they think need to be made to make their world a better place. It was a methodical process, picking kids of all ages from schools scattered throughout the region and inviting them to a series of sessions where they played games, made songs, and drew pictures about the good and bad according to the ninos. Nobody was telling them to be quiet. Nobody was telling them this was adult business. They were speaking, and the mayor, the NGOs, the community leaders, and their peers were listening. These kids created a 27-page document that describes the outcomes and proposes actions to be taken by the alcaldia — mayor’s office. These actions include encouraging space for artistic development, education for parents about kids’ rights, Kids have the right to play, to study, to not work, and to live without fear. And today, these kids practiced their right to speak.
Miramar is the community up the road from Guajoyo, but to the untrained eye there is no way to know when you have crossed from one community into the other. This Sunday, the youth committee put on a part for all the kids, celebrating Kids Day — or rather, Kids Month, which is celebrated during the entire month of October. There were games, prizes, dancing, and most importantly, pinatas. And at the end, when the floor was covered with torn paper, candy wrappers, and empty juice bottles, we escorted the children out of the casa comunal and closed the doors for the Youth Afterparty. These young men, usually quietly tending to the fields or swinging in their hammocks, grabbed hold of the mic and started karaoking along with the music, even breaking out with some beep boxing in a moment of inspiration. I pulled out my camera, thinking they would shy away as soon as they saw it, but their unanimous reaction was this.