Art for Life Caravan

02/03/2017

A few hours after the devastating earthquake that hit Manabí and Esmeraldas, our friends Nixon García and Rocío Reyes, cofounders of La Trinchera, theater group, launched a campaign to recruit actors, musicians, acrobats and artists willing to join a caravan tour to visit the most devastated communities hit by the 7.8 seism of April 16, 2016.

Amid the intensity of those hours, Nixon wrote a beautiful and therapeutically script staging a dialogue between two old friends. The dialogue between Doña Piedad and Don Marcial revisits past telluric episodes that have affected Ecuador since the 20th century. They go on to ponder on the causes of such disasters, they recall the religious and, or superstitious explanations people offer in such situations. A common feature of these explanations is of a sinful cause and therefore calls for remorse and guilt. Doña Piedad shared a calm, well informed perspective that leads to understanding, accepting the violent nonjudgmental nature of the universe. It is not fair, Doña Piedad went on to say, that on top of: losing our loved ones, homeless, dazzled and confused, we are expected to feel remorse, as if we were responsible of this havoc! No, no, and no! She claimed "I will not have it and neither should you!".

The two old friends continued remembering past quakes: the one that hit Bahia in 1998, the terrible one that destroyed Ambato in 1942. Upon this recollection, Doña Piedad suddenly sprang to her feet and said: "I remember that day back in 1942 as clear as today, I was still a young girl, that day the Circus came to town! As soon as she mentioned the word "Circus" more than 40 artists jumped off the bus that had brought them from Manta. Down came the ringmaster, the clowns, a trained bear (in custome J) ballerinas, trapeze artists and the whole Circus spectacle on stage. Actually the stage was our same dusty and torn apart playground of Don Juan. When the show reached its climax, a band of musicians with a clear and sparkling sound started a joyful catchy song that got us all dancing. There was a moment when we were all gaily spinning in a huge circle while holding hands, we looked at each other watery eyed but smiling for the first time after so many gloomy days, the children were jumping and we all were holding back our tears from emotion. That was the instant we became a community, when we realized what had happened to us, had happened to all of us as a whole: that shared experience had changed us. And that is how art restored mental health to a fishing village in Manabí.

We owe our mended hearts to our dear friends of La Trinchera, and our gratitude to all the artists that joined the Art for Life Caravan. This Caravan continued visiting shelters and settlements during several months after the earthquake.