January 23, 2017 by Jennifer Coreas

5 YEARS IN CONTEXTOS LATER

After three weeks of intensive planning and strategizing in Chicago, I have returned to El Salvador. I came back to the green grass of our patio and the thousands of succulent plants that give life to our office. I came back to an almost empty office. Anne and Enrique are on the road on their way to Perkin, a 5 hours ride to the furtherst spot in the country and Zoila and Carlos are at a meeting with potential donors. ConTextos in El Salvador is strong, committed and passionate. It is mission driven to transform the educational experience of children, so that they think, imagine and create beyond their surroundings.

El Salvador flourishes in green. Regardless the great deforestation over the last couple of years, it is possible, still, to find a Ceiba tree in the metropolitan area. An over 100 years old tree that sits in a roundabout to remind us to breath and be thoughtful of the past. A past of colonization, civil war, migration, and poverty, but also a past full of solidarity, warmth, family ties, and oral expression. Our gift is, in fact, our ability to find friends in strangers, confidants in bus rides and family in a matter of minutes. It is our ability to love easily even if it looks impossible at first.

Our stories overlap so often. Students in public schools and the prisons, they both write stories about becoming parents too soon, about finding love, about loved ones traveling far, about farewells and mistakes. They write about fear, anxiety for the future, freedom, and hope.

I have found myself in their stories too: the need to escape from my parents, and the longing for a love that’s impossible to reach. I have also felt the urgency to grow and be older and wiser, as well as completely overwhelmed by its load. I remember the necessity to fit, and the silence in my dad’s eyes when speaking about the war.

Stories overlap not just to bring us together or to let us see how much we have in common. They also overlap to construct our history, to tell a wider story about humanity and civilization as it is now, as it has been in the past, and as will be in the future.

So, as I sit in my office, I’m grateful and fulfilled. I’ll soon fly back to Chicago to co-teach our creative writing program at Cook County Jail, but also to help building the foundations of what made ConTextos in El Salvador so, so strong and authentic. As for now, it’s not about building the new ConTextos, but The ConTextos in Chicago.

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