I was planning for the second half of Sheyla’s life story to be gracing these pages for this next entry, but I’m afraid that that shall have to wait a little longer, for what I am about to recount now follows on splendidly from the last entry.  Once again, it is all to do with our photography enthusiast Miguel Ángel (and in case you were wondering, he did read the last entry, even going as far back as the video in which he features, pasting it all into Google translate).

Good old Miguel Ángel, he did it again. He surprised me, appearing when I least expected it. And it was not only him; by his side were Gerald and Oswaldo, two boys freshly escaped from the home as of Monday. I was overcome with this strange alien feeling, which I warily identified as parental concern, at seeing them outside of the home all snotty noses and dirty fingernails. I’ve grown a great fondness for Gerald and Oswaldo over the months, they have both been photography regulars and were the first to welcome me as a newcomer into the foundation in September. But like every cloud, this one too has its silver lining: newly immersed in the freedom of their own devices, they had independently decided that one of those devices was to be the street photography workshop, which they’d heard was taking place at 9am that morning. I was, well, chuffed! This ensures they will maintain a strong connection with Casa Alianza through the project and, we hope, lead to their return.

Our little group straggled towards the pitch for the usual preliminary game of football to get the juices flowing and the concentration levels up. Although, this time football was only enthusiastically received by our one female participant, Itzel, and two of the boys. Our group of young men were, for the most part, gay and intent on living up to the stereotype of their sexual orientation by sitting in the middle of the pitch cross-legged, gossiping and creating quite a shambles as they one by one paraded off the pitch on account of “tiredness”. If I sound spiteful I don’t mean to – I was secretly grateful for this behaviour, not being much of a Cristiano Ronaldo myself (in saying that, the street children who I’ve played football with in the past took to calling me Wayne Rooney. More on account of my goals than the potato head, I like to think. Sorry Wayne). The premature cessation of the game also meant we could get down to the part I like best, the nitty gritty photography stuff…

Andrés describes what he thinks about this photograph.

Enter Mauricio Palos. Without wanting to bestow too much praise upon him, I cannot miss out the part about how grateful I am for this photojournalist’s voluntary participation in the project. Over the next nine weeks, Mauricio will be helping me run the street photography workshop: it helps that he is both Mexican and a professional in the photography industry. For this first session, he magicked up a bundle of postcard photo images, themselves courtesy of a project called Foto Buzón from Yucatán, Mexico, which aims to promote photography as a communication medium through its free distribution in letter boxes and public spaces. Mauricio put the postcards to their assigned role and handed them out amongst the group; within minutes he had the boys and Itzel talking about the ins and outs of each photograph. He then had them taping the images onto the fence and encouraging passers-by to come and look at the display and take their favourite photograph home. The importance of this activity must not be overlooked – it had the teenagers interacting positively with members of the public. For youngsters who are so accustomed to asking, begging or even selling themselves for things, it was an opportunity for them to offer others something for absolutely nothing in return but a friendly smile between human beings.

Mauricio discusses with the group what they can read from the images their holding.

Gerald (front) and Oswaldo (back) tape up postcards, whilst a passer-by looks on with interest.

The group takes a break after much hard pasting work.

At the end of the session, the group were allowed to pick out their own favourite images to carry away with them in their pockets. Itzel peeled away from the fence a simple photograph of a green cactus against a bright blue wall. “Why have you picked that one, Itzel?” asked Mauricio. Itzel didn’t hesitate to reply, “Because,” she said, smiling, “it reminds me of my home. Lots of flowers everywhere, loads of colours, nice smells and the warmth.”

All seven of that group have agreed to come to next week’s session, in which we will invite members of the public to have their portrait taken. It is never certain who will turn up, but maybe, just maybe, I can count on the appearance of one person…

Iztel's first photograph. The boys take a break against the circus truck.

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