April 25, 2008

Puppet workshops empowers children in Tijuana’s old dump

By Pablo Jaime Sáinz

When you’re growing up next to an old garbage dump and your parents make a living as trash pickers, looking for things to sell from other people’s trash, the future doesn’t look very promising.

This is especially true in Tijuana, a city where it’s very difficult for low-income children to end the cycle of poverty.

But a group of San Diego artists and filmmakers is trying to give hope and artistic skills to the children near the old Tijuana garbage dump, near Colonia Fausto Gonzalez.

Independent filmmaker John Sheedy, director of the award winning film El Inmigrante, is working on a documentary about the children who live in the Tijuana garbage dump and a school that was started for them.

This week and through tomorrow, Saturday, April 26, he will be filming children’s theater workshops and a street parade through the dump neighborhood with the help of The San Diego Guild of Puppetry, which has sponsored a series of workshops where the children learn how to make their own puppets.

The film, titled The Tijuana Project, focuses on a family that lives near the dump.

“This is a very unique and empowering story; is a place that is usually pretty depressing,” Sheedy said.

The Fausto Gonzalez dump is now closed. The city moved the dump to a place on the Tijuana-Tecate free road, Sheedy said.

“They closed the dump after I started the documentary and we are following the story of a family who live in the dump neighborhood,” he said. “The family sends their kids to the school next to the old dump and the parents commute to the new dump near Tecate almost every day.”

It was the children who showed their interest in the arts and culture, Sheedy said, proving that poverty is not an enemy of creativity, artistry, and talent.

“The kids asked if they could have art or theater in their school so we raised money to bring a giant puppet theater to their school,” he said.

The puppet group that’s doing the workshops is The San Diego Guild of Puppetry, a non-profit organization that offers puppet education programs in under-served schools.

More than 200 children are participating in the workshops.

They’re learning to create their own puppets, make music, and at the same time they’re having lots of fun.

Sheedy said that there’s a lot of interest from the community in these workshops, because they help their children to spend time off the streets. “These workshops are a celebration of community,” he said.

  The children are working on their puppets outside a community elementary school. They are excited to be creating their own puppets, and on Saturday, parading through their community with their creations, playing drums, having fun.

In addition to The Tijuana Project, Sheedy has directed another documentary.

El Inmigrante is a 2005 documentary about immigrant deaths along the U.S.-Mexico border. The film documents the story of the fatal encounter between Mexican migrant Eusebio de Haro Espinosa and elderly Texan Sam Blackwood, close to Blackwood’s property near the international border.

On Saturday, there will be a giant puppet parade with all of the children in the workshops (more than 200) through the old dump neighborhood as a celebration of community. The parade will start at 3:00 PM.  The name of the neighborhood is Fausto Gonzalez. 

You can learn more about Sheedy’s project and film www.tijuanaproject.org. The puppet group is from San Diego and you can see their web site at www.sandiegoguildof puppets.org

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