"A sloth bear," he answered. He was a ninth grader at the República de Brasil school, located in the Modelo neighborhood in southern San Salvador. His classmates laughed when they heard his answer. They gave the impression that they were not surprised: they knew his classmate. The question (part of a conversation that would result in the collective creation of a mural) sought to provoke a moment of imagination among the students: what animal would they like to be? Some preferred safer and more common answers, lions and dolphins, but it was the last of the teenagers who unwittingly defined the course of the story that would sustain (or elevate) the work. The young man wanted to be a hummingbird.
The hummingbird served as the perfect metaphor. Considered the messenger of the gods by Mayan mythology - as Salvadoran artists Gris, Claudia and William explained to us - it comprised not only one of the ends of the mural - the students - but also hinted at one of the surrounding values in the school's coexistence: frank dialogue. However, the mural would be incomplete if it did not include the other side, the student's natural interlocutor: the teacher; in this case, women teachers. The tension and relaxation inherent in any fruitful conversation.
Of course, we also met with them. And although each of the teachers embodied a different way of teaching, one more classical than the other, they agreed on the need to share their knowledge in an environment of discipline and respect. Having taken the decision of the hummingbird and its pre-Hispanic context, it was very difficult to abandon that balance in the mural. Fortunately, there is a guardian of knowledge in the local mythology: the emblematic jaguar. The scene was beginning to take shape.
However, there was still work to be done. Defining the relationship between the two characters and thus establishing the balance of the work itself. If the idea was to create a frank dialogue from an image, it was necessary for the composition to reflect this purpose. For this reason another decision was made: the hummingbird would fly from the jaguar's mouth, as if it were his words. In addition, the hummingbird would cross a horizon of Mayan glyphs (signs used in their scriptures) of clouds moved by the wind: the ancestral symbol of communication. Story was closing.
The sloth bear and the hummingbird painted all day long, shoulder to shoulder, under an implacable sun. At the end, they and their classmates received a diploma recognizing their participation in the creation of the mural. What began as a simple exercise of imagination became a space of commitment for the students (which was recorded at the inauguration). From now on, students and professors will have a propitious scenario for dialogue and conflict resolution. And also, a present reminder of the mythical beings that continue to observe them from the overflowing imagination of their past stories.