“Limitations mean an opportunity to invent things better”

Through art, you show the children of La Balanza a new world.

Art is liberating... Prejudice holds you down, but art plays with your inner world and your limitations; and by playing with them, it faces them and breaks boundaries. Art is therapeutic.

Over the last 15 years, you have seen children grow up with a different attitude towards life.

There was this kid who came since he was 11, with his flip-flops fixed with a nail so that they would not slip off. He is now a talented theatre director, and I feel so very happy. It is amazing how things can turn out, and Fiteca has welcomed more than 300 kids.

How was it at the beginning? Did local residents accept your proposal?

Even today some believe that this is a waste of time, something for the idle. To them, real work means opening ditches, collecting tickets on the bus, selling potatoes. Therefore, they get scared when their children engage in such activities.

Has any parent ever ticked you off?

Not me, but they have ticked their children off. Survival here forces them to have an economic view of life: if there is no money involved, it is not worth it. They do not realise the great value of culture.

What value does it have?

People who have been part of the group have found their identity. They have gotten rid of barriers and today they can freely express themselves, without limitations, and their relationship with others is much better. They are creative and have tools to improve their situation under any circumstance.

And how is it beneficial?

It makes life liveable! There can be no life if there is no joy, and here we make culture with joy; because culture is not solemn and does not demand you to read fifty books. Culture is not just that.

Thanks to Fiteca, every year, a one-week celebration is held in La Balanza.

It is in this week that values are most strongly promoted ​​in the area, and that really excites the community. But what about the rest of the year? We have proposed a new programme: Cultural Neighbourhoods. What to do to stop being a neighbourhood of survivors and become one of residents who seek to live well? For that, neighbourhoods have to leave pessimism and resignation behind, and regain the enthusiasm for living!

Are there any cultural neighbourhood yet?

The process will take years. But we are working on it, and many artists are getting involved, as well as professionals from other disciplines: architects, videographers, musicians...

Fiteca brings artists from different parts of the country and the world.

They are our “neighbours of the world”, because we are all a great neighbourhood. Now we have volunteers from Argentina, Chile, France, Mexico; people who save for their ticket to come.

What is their motivation? To find meaning in their life.

Children interact with them and as a result get the idea that there is no such thing as barriers and that opportunities are at their fingertips. It is interesting because art makes children more sensitive, but they still have to become aware of their new reality. For this, we need a greater process, so that they understand that it is possible to change the rules of the game and make it better.

Schools must be your allies.

No. It is hard for them to go beyond their curriculum. Directors do not give us access, they are afraid of being punished. Such a pity!

But the soup kitchen ladies do have joined.

They have! These ladies who are our moms have grown up with us, and after having seen so much delinquency, they have opened up to this new, different proposal.

They have even been part of your shows.

That was such a wonderful experience! We did a play, here, on the street, and they became performers for one day. They were all dressed up. Their children could not believe their eyes. They looked beautiful, transformed, like other moms!

It tightened family ties.

Exactly! Many kids feel ashamed of their parents: because they speak Quechua, because they do not dress well, because they carry a negative burden because of poverty... But now they say proudly, “She’s my mom!”

What is the best part of doing this?

Every day is such fun, every day we build something new. There is so much joy in helping; here children have the opportunity to meet new friends and, through them, different worlds... Money does not determine happiness.

Can you live off this?

In financial terms, I survive. In human terms, I live. I do not want to live my life craving money, but enjoying what surrounds me. I might die with one single coin in my pocket, but with a huge heart.