This blog was written by Pablo Mendez Granadino, Founder & Director Armonia Cuscatleca.
2023 is a big year for us in El Salvador.
This year, Armonia Cuscatleca will begin working in two new communities, Altavista and El Carmen, both of which have been funded by the support of donors and supporters! These new activities are part of our sustainable vision and represent the opportunity for older students to become teachers, and start supporting the program as our staff. This represents one of the most exciting and fulfilling aspects of our program as we celebrate the students who have grown throughout the years within our music school.
Our new location in El Carmen, South-West El Salvador is especially important to one of our trainers, Karina Ramirez, who has personal routes and history in the region. Describing the importance of new artistic opportunities in the area, she told us “El Carmen is a municipality that is located in the department of Cuscatlan. Most of the students who attend are from low-income households. The opportunities related to art are scarce because the cultural focus is soccer, as a result, most of the support from the mayor’s office goes to that instead.”
Karina spent many years of her youth in correctional facilities for participating in the gang culture of El Salvador. While in a women’s prison in San Salvador, she began rehabilitating herself with music and cello practice. She ultimately gained her freedom through musical performance and was introduced to Armonia Cuscatleca by our strings coach Mario Marroquin, in 2021. Karina has demonstrated commitment and passion in sharing her experience of rehabilitation through music with her peers, community and social media platforms.
What is your motivation to teach with AC at the new site?
Karina Ramirez: I like the way in which Armonía offers opportunities to children and young people in San Pedro Perulapan. I also came to think about how nice it would be to give this type of opportunity to the children of Carmen Cuscatlan, which is my place of residence. Taking into account that since I started with music, one of my dreams was to teach music classes either independently or with the help of an NGO. After speaking with Pablo (teacher and director of Armonia Cuscatleca) and seeing the interest that he showed without the need for me to express it at first, it was one more motivation to pursue that dream.
How did you get involved with AC?
KR: I came to Armonia Cuscatelca in the year 2021. When I arrived my first impression was that there was a lot of unity and respect between all the students. You could see the interest in what they did and I could see the effort that each student put in to excel with their instrument. I felt quite comfortable that, even though I am a quiet person, they did not care in the slightest, they made me feel like I had known them for a long time. They didn’t question my past and focused on who I am in the present. So I stayed, and soon enough I ended up receiving this opportunity to teach!
What are your goals for teaching at your new site?
KR: I have always thought that music, like art in general, can act as an escape tool from reality.
My plan is to teach my students the basics until they end up playing an instrument, be it violin, cello, double bass, piano, guitar, etc. Starting with the basics, rhythms such as creating a melody without the need for an instrument using tools that include body sounds. Through creative activities such as games where they can creatively learn what a musical figure is, what are the musical notes, etc. One of my goals is over time to be able to form the orchestra with students from El Carmen!