Day 13 Leave No Plastic Behind, Merida Mexico

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by Cheryl Lohrmann

We are back from the first two work days at the port. I like the tranquility and simplicity of this life outside of the big city of Merida. Of course it’s not simple. There are many tensions within a small town that can’t dissolve quickly among the few people who live there their whole lives or who return to visit often. It is a town with potential that is only tapped when the city of Merida needs an escape. Then it is really tapped, the energy of the locals, the resources, the scenery, all become spent until the city returns to itself. As hard as they work when everyone else is vacationing, these are the moments that provide enough income to hopefully last until the next surge of vacationers.

Last night we planned to prepare some shapes for kids to trace onto plastic pieces. We sat outside on what one might call a patio, but what is treated more as a dining and family room. Little by little more of the young people in the family were coming back for the weekend. One sat down to chat with us and Morgan started to explain the project. She is always ready for anyone who wants to learn. Rey’s godmother, Chucha (but who we refer to as Madrina) sat down to a video as it was starting and began to learn about the Isla de Basura, The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. She sat through the whole thing and after it was finished, she asked, “well now what do we do?” Perhaps she is the oldest Mayan to have a sensitive ear to this issue?

The workshops went well with a healthy number of returning participants but we continue to hold out for  the adults and older kids. Last week we were invited by a teacher at the secondaria, or junior high, to talk about our project, but once we arrived, the director of the school said we were not allowed. His explanation was murky. Some of the students of the school attended the workshop after school, perhaps as a form of rebellion but definitely to quell their curiousity.

The age range of those who have returned is around 6 to 12 and they did not seem to notice that we were low on glue, sewing needles, or paint. I enjoyed showing some kids how to sew for the first time, even if it was with plastic thread into a plastic bag. Of course the creativity is unblocked and pure genius. Morgan took students aside to watch videos about the Isla de Basura (Great Pacific Garbage Patch) and talk about how plastic NEVER goes away. Time went fast and we have some good looking squares emerging. Morgan says the kids are excited to learn how to make their own toothpaste next week.

I’m excited to talk with them about what they learned and what they will do to improve the outlook for the future. Their words will serve as simple artist statements and a synthesis of what they are taking away from it all- inspirational reminders for others who can also play an important role.

In other news the at-large older sister of some kittens Morgan raised (and spayed and neutered) found a suitcase inside the Merida house (she knows the secret cat passageways) and gave birth to three more kittens. Now there is a real-life practical distraction to put into the mix of working to prepare for the art show and getting supplies ready for the body care product recipes.

We have a local newspaper interview on Tuesday morning with El Diario Yucatan. Everyone in town seems to think we will have a huge crowd for our expo, thanks to Holy Week, which is sanctified with vacation time and the desire to head to the coast. I just received news that the Plastic Quilt has been accepted into the Maker Faire in San Francisco this May, an exposition on reuse developed by Make Magazine. In addition an art teacher in the UK is working with 30 young women to make squares and display them locally. Seems this project is learning how to walk.

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