Archives for category: Non-Government Organisation

A metaphor, this title is not. Indeed, on the evening of the final (outdoor) show, a mere hour before the exhibition was due to open – and in the same minute that the participants arrived to see their mounted photographs – the skies gave way; Nature took a deep breath and blew over Mexico City a series of tornadoes, the first in all its written history. I hear you ponder, But why had no preparations been made for rain in a climate-dependant exhibition? I ask myself the same, often. The sun had beamed down on us for two weeks, and when the clouds began to gather on that fateful day, and I inquired with the museum into a Plan B in the likely case of rain, in all their unbreakable Mexican optismism, they simply rationalised that, “It won’t rain”.

Oh, but how it rained!

Panic stricken, I saved our precious photographs from the elements and tearfully announced to the expectant particpants that the show was off, for the museum had no space for us inside. Faces fell, indignant voices were raised, and I confess to you, faceless reader, I broke down.

Luckily for me, I had two best pals with heads tightly screwed to their shoulders to pick up the debris of the exhibition. Foamboards and frames were hauled inside and reconstructed in the childrens’ workshop, Claire Atri’s trained eye measured the layout and nailed the frames, Sophie James quickly went about documenting the scene, and thanks to her initiative, I have photographic evidence of the event. In its own adhoc way, our exhibition had its charm and drew in visitors from another event at the museum – and the show did go on…

Before the storm: me and my specially built outdoor mounting frames – the bane of my life for an intense two weeks.

Claire saves my day: last minute remount of exhibition indoors

The event saved and in full swing.

Triptych of the park they slept in by 12 year old Yadira and 13 year old Fabiola, mounted indoors.

That’s not all. This will be my last blog entry posted from Mexico and I write it far from the smog and cacophony of its City’s concrete horizons. My nine months amongst the young inhabitants of its bridges, sewers and plazas are up, and so I came to end my Mexico days in the warm climes and cactus deserts of San Luis Potosí. However, I would not be so remiss as to say goodbye without one last look into the lives and perceptions of those aforementioned young people.

In my last two weeks working with Casa Alianza Mexico, I was approached by a friend of Miguel Ángel’s, a gentle, smiling boy named Edwin. He’d been wondering about these cameras he’d seen his friend with, and inquired into whether he too could take some photographs. I was, of course, happy of a volunteer and after a quick chat about what he would like to photograph about life on the steet (drugs, money and food), the last camera was handed over. In the stretch of two weeks that he had that camera, Edwin helped me paint the foamboards and brought me jugs of juice from the office during those long, hot afternoons of monotonous painting in the playground. It was he and Miguel Ángel, my two trusty street vagabonds, who saw it through to the end with me. Miguel Ángel contributed extensively to this blog, disappearing for lengths of time but never straying far from his word. True to this form, they both arrived at 6pm sharp to the exhibition opening night, despite the rain and tornadoes. I was only sorry that I couldn’t deliver to them the recognition that they deserved. Still, this blog is here, they have the address and I know they regularly check it.

For the forseeable future of the Street Children Photography Project, London calls for a January exhibition, and I am positive that geographic and economic distances will surely attract the exposure and recognition that all the photographs (and photographers) deserve.

Gallery? Check. Tequila sponser? Check. Rain? Double check. As any seasoned Londoner knows, we are always, always prepared for that.


Metro Hidalgo is the setting for much of Mexico City’s under-age prostitution (mostly gay). It is where Edwin and Miguel Ángel work and play, and where Casa Alianza is based.


Sleeping grounds: Miguel Ángel in foreground, Edwin in back.


The street outreach team often takes street children on day trips and excursions to distract them from drugs and get them interested in the wider world. This was taken on a trip to the zoo that Edwin joined.

The verb ‘to sniff glue’ in Mexican Spanish is ‘monearse’. Andrés, in this picture, is doing exactly that. Most street children are to be found like this from the moment of waking to when they sleep. It’s a full time occupation.


Food at a street taco stand


Edwin’s self-portrait

Change raised from begging and lying across glass shards…

And its rewards, in bottled, sticky inhalant form.


For anyone in Mexico City on Friday, 1st June, 2012, and who would like to come to the opening event of Transitions exhibition, please contact me for guest list entry. The event will take place from 6pm in the Patio Rojo of the Museo Nacional de San Carlos.

And for all those reading at home (and beyond!), I invite you to read the exhibition statement, presented below in both in the English and Spanish versions.

Transitions was, initially, a photography project about street children in Mexico City, some living in the homes of Casa Alianza and some still on the street but making regular contact with the foundation. The idea was always to teach them what I knew about photography, in the hope that it would help them to communicate their lives and find self expression using a visual medium. However, as the project progressed, less and less it became about street children as I began to see that this title had connotations too negative and did not fit with the participants’ photography. These teenagers’ visions were not limited to the experiences of the streets, or the experiences that had led them to the home, for what struck me above all else was the sense of overcoming I saw in their pictures, a sense of moving forward from the old life into a new era.

It was at this point that I decided the project was not about street children, but about the universal experiences of adolescence and change, in this case in the context of one of the world’s largest urban sprawls. The young photographers of this exhibition are undergoing complex periods of personal transition, whilst denied the stabilities offered by a nuclear family and home, and acceptance in the general community. This exhibition is proof of the participants overcoming past rejections, rising above the limitations imposed upon them by society and exposing a part of themselves to the wider public. Every photograph represents these psychological transitions, in which there are revealed the physical transitions also: from street to society, from prostitution to school, from biological family to a chosen family, from drugs to sobriety.

From the twenty or so disposable cameras that I handed out to teenagers on the streets to document what they wished of their lives, two were returned to me. Both these boys had already lived in Casa Alianza and were both to return soon after they’d delivered me the cameras. In another five cases of boys on the street, I spent an afternoon with them, a street educator from Casa Alianza and my own digital SLR camera, teaching the boys how to use it. Of these five, I only ever saw one again. He is still on the street washing windscreens but his best picture is displayed here; he had an outstanding eye for the right moment. Given the chance, his capabilities reach well beyond scraping the filth off a car front.

Of the teenagers living at Casa Alianza, we carried out an eleven-week intensive course in which they learnt how to use a professional camera, and in which we carried out various activities encouraging them to think about how they could express themselves via imagery instead of words. Over the weeks the participants began to open up, and as a result their photography began to tap into intimate corners of themselves: revelations of their secret places of solitude and reflection, the methods they employ to help them reflect, preparations for an independent and stable life, their interpretations of what liberty is or what luxury means to them; objects that had been carried with them through thick and thin and skills they had acquired from the families from which they had been separated.

Behind every photograph lies the story of an individual. The exhibition is not about the grim, hopeless life of the streets, nor is it about a happily-ever-after ending in a stable home. It is about the in-between and the difficulties that lie in changing one’s life in a society that is apathetic towards those who fall behind; it is about the universal experience of readjusting, reinventing, overcoming and creating a personal transition.

  Transiciones era, inicialmente, un proyecto fotográfico sobre los niños de la calle en la Ciudad de México, algunos que estaban viviendo en los hogares de Casa Alianza, y otros que estaban en las calles pero en contacto continuo con la fundación. Siempre estaba la idea de enseñarles lo que sabía de la fotografía, con una visión que les ayudaría a comunicar parte de sus vidas y descubrir una auto-expresión por un medio de lo visual. Sin embargo, durante el progreso del proyecto empecé a ver que este título tenía connotaciones muy negativas y que no iba de acuerdo con las fotografías de los participantes. Ahora no se trata de los niños de la calle; las visiones de estos jóvenes no estaban limitadas a sus experiencias en la calle, o las experiencias que les habían conducido al hogar; se me ocurrió sobre todo que sus fotografías revelaban una intención de superación – un sentido de moverse desde una etapa de la vida hacia una nueva.

  Fue en este momento que decidí que el proyecto no trataba de los niños de la calle, sino de las experiencias universales de la adolescencia y el cambio. En este caso, estas transiciones se ubican en el contexto de una de las extensiones urbanas más descontroladas del mundo. Los fotógrafos jóvenes de esta exposición están experimentando periodos complejos de transiciones personales y al mismo tiempo no tienen acceso a los servicios básicos y de bienestar: una casa, familia nuclear y la aceptación de la comunidad. Esta exposición es un testimonio de que los participantes pueden superar rechazos pasados, sobrepasar las limitaciones que les ha impuesto la sociedad y que han adquirido la confianza para exponer una parte de sí mismos al público. Cada fotografía representa estas transiciones psicológicas, en las cuales también se revelan las transiciones físicas: de la calle a la sociedad, de la prostitución a la escuela, de la familia biológica a la familia elegida, de las drogas a la sobriedad.

  De unas veinte cámaras desechables que regalé a jóvenes de la calle me devolvieron dos. Los dos chicos que cumplieron con el taller ya habían vivido en el hogar de Casa Alianza y regresarían ahí poco tiempo después de haberme entregado las cámaras. Hubo cinco ocasiones más con chicos de la calle donde yo y los educadores de Casa Alianza pasamos una tarde con ellos en la ciudad y les enseñé cómo usar mi cámara digital profesional. De los cinco chicos, sólo volví a ver a uno. Aun se queda en la calle limpiando parabrisas, pero su mejor fotografía está expuesta aquí; tenía un ojo excepcional para capturar el momento perfecto. Con suerte, sus capacidades rebasan por mucho quitar la mugre de los coches.

  Para los jóvenes en Casa Alianza, llevamos a cabo un curso intensivo de once semanas en el que aprendieron cómo usar una cámara profesional. Realizamos varias actividades para fomentar el desarrollo de cómo se podían expresar por medio de las imágenes en vez de palabras. Durante esas semanas los participantes empezaban a abrirse y, como resultado, su fotografía empezó a acceder a partes más íntimas: revelaciones de sus lugares secretos, soledad y reflexión, sus métodos que emplean para hacer esas reflexiones, sus planes para una vida independiente y estable, sus interpretaciones de la libertad o lo que es el lujo para ellos; los objetos que han sido parte de su vida, y las enseñanzas aprendidas con las familias de las que fueron separados.

   Detrás de cada fotografía se halla una historia individual. La exposición no trata de la vida dura y desesperada en las calles, ni trata de un final feliz. Trata de el paso y las dificultades que se encuentran para integrase en una sociedad que se muestra apática con ellos; se trata de la experiencia universal de reajustarse, reinventarse, superarse y crear las transiciones personales. 


That’s the sound of the emotional roller-coaster I’ve been riding for the past seven months with these teenagers. That was the sound it made as it plummeted last week towards ground zero.

The problem is that it is nobody in particular with their hand on the control stick, not me, not the kids, nor the street educators. Their is nobody to blame – the machine bumps and rolls, advances and reverses under circumstance. And circumstance is not in anybody’s control.

Here follows the story of the last two weeks.

A week after the events of the last entry (Public Space Invasion), Mauricio and I arrived at the Casa Alianza gates at 8.45am to be warmly greeted by a deserted street; nobody from the week before had turned up, not even Miguel Ángel. As we sidled along behind the street educators, en route to a pair of newly found young girls, Mauricio made those dreaded words, already ringing silently in my head, into tangible, regrettable sounds: “Ali, this isn’t working”.

We crossed through a food market in Garibaldi Square, where the sombreroed mariachis come to sing and the restaurateurs chime out their menus. In one booth not yet open, beneath the littered tables and overturned stools, we found the sought out girls, heaped together with worn, stinking blankets and tightly clad in last night’s hotpants, Hola, Catarina. Hola, Maria Antonia. They greeted us sleepily, flattening out their hair and readjusting their clothes. After this brief introductory meeting, they reluctantly agreed to join us back to the Casa Alianza HQ with the promise of a change of clothes, some breakfast and a hint of photography.

A surprise awaits around every corner in this job and that day was no exception. On our return to HQ we caught sight of Gerald, the Belizian boy who had unexpectedly turned up the week before after his escape from the home. A week on the streets had taken its toll, he looked a little rougher, a little older, although he had smothered the signs with fresh make up. Alongside him was a boy I had seen now and again around the Alameda Park, well known for its wealthy supplies of under-age gay prostitutes. His name was Francisco Javier, he was clean, smiling and enthusiastic.

Huddled in the back office with our three new members and Gerald, Mauricio once again magicked up his ice-breaker, the Foto Buzón postcard photos. Maria Antonia made it her intention to show as little interest as possible, although she eventually warmed to it. Catarina, on the other hand, picked out this photo and stared at and searched it for minutes. Just like Itzel from the week before, she said it reminded her of home, she is from the state of Michoacan. She also noted the young bullfighter practising with his cape, and this seemed to make an impression on her. With the ice now cracking, we decided to give it a final breaking blow with the digital cameras; we hung up the black background and had the three of them snapping away, first at me, then at each other. To me, it seemed Catarina was totally captivated.

Francisco Javier getting into his role as photographer.

Catarina's portrait bi Francisco Javier

After this successful first encounter, Mauricio and I did not lose any time in arranging a second meeting for the next day.  Gerald (quite inexplicably and very obstinately) refused and Maria Antonia violently shook her head; they had not been taken by the impromptu workshop and true to their word, they did not arrive the next day. Catarina and Javier, by contrast, happily joined us. My roller-coaster ride was trundling up a steep incline, jittery and slow, but heading towards a sunny sky. Our second workshop took us to the Revolution Plaza with its great monument to the ideologies of that movement, and it was here that I listened intently and with wonderment to Catarina’s inspired interpretations of the images Mauricio had given her. She pored over those photography books, savouring every image; when she spoke about them, she spoke of religion, poverty and the human condition. If anyone knew of these things, it was she and she was articulating them well. My roller-coaster was ascending faster now, hyped by a cork-screw twist in the track. The next hour Catarina and Javier spent wandering the Plaza, each with a disposable camera, choosing their own moments to freeze in time.

These images were a practice for the second set of disposable cameras that I gave them. This time I took a different approach. I asked them to specify a story they wanted to tell, not necessarily about themselves, but to create a narrative with these cameras, similar to the ones they’d seen in the book. Javier said that he wanted to tell the story of the people who work in the rubbish dumps of the city. Catarina wanted to tell the story of the children of Tepito, a notoriously dangerous zone in Mexico’s Federal District and the place where she resides.

That was the peak, and then came the inevitable plummet. Last week neither Javier nor Catarina appeared with their cameras. We looked for them; José Juan and I trawled Tepito, shuffling between its hoards of black-market stalls and searching the groups of faces of the youngsters who shelter beneath them at night. Outside the soup kitchen that Catarina goes to for lunch, we found Maria Antonia. She told us that Catarina had been taking photos, but that she’d disappeared two days ago without a word and Maria Antonia didn’t know where to. No one had seen Catarina. And Javier, who had been turning up at the Casa Alianza gates regularly for weeks, was not to be found. He hadn’t been seen outside Casa Alianza that week at all. We circled Alameda Park, asked the men adorned with their heavy eyelashes if they had seen little Francisco Javier, no, they told us, not for a while, although someone mentioned they had seen him in the waiting room of the HIV hospital. Via these contacts we passed on messages to both participants, but I could feel my roller-coaster hitting ground level and slowing down towards the exit sign.

That said, I won’t be disembarking this ride for a couple of months yet, and so the best I can do is keep my seat and wait for the next go. It is sure enough that a couple more loop holes await me ahead. It is still even possible that Catarina and Javier might appear to accompany me for a second go on the ride.

Catarina spots a parallel Kodak moment.

"The Thinkers" by Javier

A lone passerby, by Javier

Javier looks below for inspiration.

Javier shoots the square from a new perspective

My favourite by Javier of the street cleaners.

Catarina looks up for inspiration.

Catarina's ground shot of the Monument - shame about the tiny little bit of finger!

Catarina runs with the dog, and just manages to get him.

"The Boys" by Cata

My favourite by Catarina: a perfectly framed and captured facial expression.

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.

I am aware that this blog has been left stagnating a month or so now. There are two reasons for that: firstly, I went on holiday(For details please see Secondly (and this is the part that I didn’t want to write), Andrés Brayan didn’t come up trumps. I wanted to believe that he had – so much so that I went back to him every day, twice, three times a day sometimes, for over a week, believing that he had indeed forgotten the camera, would go back to his bedsit and fetch it, had given it to a lady at one of the stalls to look after; I believed him when he said she didn’t usually get to her stall until 3pm, I believed him when he said he’d get it off her later in the afternoon.

Eventually, I came round. “Andrés, which lady is she? Which stall? I’ll get the camera from her myself.” A vague wave of his arm indicated that it might be any stall, any lady. The fact was, he didn’t know and she didn’t exist. He was fast running out of excuses. “I’ll go and get it developed myself if you like, Ale.

“Andrés, if you haven’t shown me that you have the camera, how can I believe that you’re going to get the photos printed?” We went on with this rhetoric until I said what neither of us wanted to say.

“You’ve lost it, haven’t you?”


“Tell me, you’ve lost it.”

His head dropped. “I didn’t want to tell you”.

Now, I could tell you all about my reaction but I’m sure you can already imagine it. Anger? Check. Disappointment? Check. Frustration? Check. Tears combining all three of the previously mentioned? Check. I thought it only sensible to wait until the turmoil had ebbed away to write this down. I don’t want to vilify Andrés Brayan because he is a good boy. However, I will never understand his logic in thinking it was the lesser of two evils to make me keep coming everyday rather than simply tell me that he couldn’t return the camera. But there we have it, human beings are unfathomable creatures.

Feeling sore, I sought fresh inspiration, which brings me to my next shining light (for there must always be one). If I’m going to learn about picking myself up and starting over again, it’s got to be from my next protegée.

Sheyla by Pati. Sheyla holds her personal diary and the teddy bear she was giving to her mama for Christmas later that day.

Sheyla Olvera Guerrero is 17 years old and a Casa Alianza resident of three years. She came bounding into the photography project all guns blazing and it transpired that she is currently applying for a university placement in Communication; she wants to be a journalist. With this in mind, she and I are putting together a sort of Communication Project which will include photography and writing by her about her. She told me that she had only ever written privately, so I presented her with the first challenge: to write something for the public eye. You, readers, will be her first critics.

I present it to you both in Spanish and in my English translation (comments on this also welcome for those bilingualists!).

Guest blogger, Sheyla Olvera Guerrero (Part I).

Quiero que mi primer blog sea de mi vida.

Mi familia es algo amm….  Muchos dicen que disfuncional, yo le digo rara. Mi papa y mi madre se divorciaron  cuando yo tenía 3 años; desde ahí  digamos que empezó mi infierno. Mi hermano abusaba de mí. Dicen que los niños hacen lo que vieron o les hicieron, así  que siempre he pensado que a él le hicieron lo mismo. Mi hermana era dura, muy dura, para ser sincera se volvió así. Tal vez  desde que mi padre le dijo que no era su verdadero padre. Desde ahí ella me humillaba por un abrazo; ya que me sentía muy sola.

Mi mama desde que la dejo mi papa se obsesionaba con su trabajo. Cuando yo era pequeña mi papa me robaba, mi mama siempre hacía todo lo posible para que yo estuviera con ella. Ya que mi papa siempre querría que su otra esposa tomara el lugar de mi madre. Claro que yo sabía muy bien que mi madre era Alín. Con el tiempo me sentía rara, no sabía con quien estar: con mi padre o con mi madre. Al fin de cuentas mi mama se quedó con mi custodia y no me quedó de otra que dejar de ver a mi padre y solo estar con ella. Más bien estar sola. Cuando iba a la primaria era duro pues salíamos muy temprano, a veces por las prisas de mi madre. Principalmente, a mí jamás me ha gustado su trabajo así que hacía todo para que la despidieran, pero mis intentos siempre fueron fallidos.

Mi hermano era muy peleonero, a veces me defendía de los niños que me molestaban y esa fue la razón que mi mama me cambió de escuela. Ahora me quedaba a unos minutos de mi casa, pero tal vez ese cambio fue lo peor pues conocí a unos amigos si, se les puede decir así, casi no entraba a la escuela. Siempre la escuela mandaba a llamar a mi madre y yo por miedo jamás le dije. Me gustaba estar sola mas no sentirme sola. Con mi madre casi no había comunicación, ya que nunca estaba. Cuando estaba era raro pues no había tema de conversación. Claro que no le iba a contar de mis faltas en la escuela. Ella al fin del mes se daba cuenta y mis castigos eran moretones en la piel, al igual que los de mis hermanos. Recuerdo que nos pegaba con lo que fuera: cucharas de metal, palos, lazo. Su frase era, “te voy a pegar hasta que me canse,” y así lo hacía. Eran como 20 o 30 minutos de dolor después. Si no estaba tan enojada te daba de comer, pero aun así no me importaba paso el tiempo.

Un día, cuando tenía 8 o 9 anos, estaba sola, ya era común, y me decidí salir con mis “amigos”. Recuerdo que tomé demasiado alcohol, tanto que tomé la loca idea de consumir activo con tachas. Eso me hizo sentir bien, más bien sentirme en un planeta que jamás había estado y donde me gustaba estar todo el tiempo. Cuando me acordaba de todo, lo que me hacían poco a poco consumía cada vez era más, y ya no solo esas drogas sino también consumía  piedra, cocaína, marihuana y todo lo que me encontrara. Así pasaron años. Eso me hizo muy rebelde. Mi mama no encontró de otra más que correrme de la casa; yo ya tenía 11 o 12 así que ya no me daba miedo. Me fui con una de mis tías paternas. Siempre me iba con la misma tía hasta que llegara el momento en que se cansó y ya no me aceptó en su casa. Me fui con otra tía. Ella me aceptó por mucho, pero mi primo quiso abusar de mí así que me salí y fue mi primera vez en la calle.

Esa noche estaba lloviendo y yo no llevaba suéter. No me quedó de otra más que estar en una casa abandonada y así estuve tres meses. Fueron difíciles pero no me importaba; prefería vivir ahí que regresar a mi casa. Mi mama no me buscaba. Llegó el momento en el que no querría ya estar ahí; me dolía mucho el cuerpo y regresé con mi tía. Ella no me dijo nada como había faltado 3 meses a la secundaria pues tomé la decisión de regresar. Empecé a ir pero mi vecino de enfrente un día me hizo una propuesta: el empezar a vender drogas. Me dio mucho miedo pero lo empecé a hacer en las noches cuando mi tía dormía. En la  secundaria entraba por la puerta principal y me salía por el estacionamiento. Llegué  a tener problemas con otros; por eso muchas veces me corretearon  y solo sentía las balas cerca de mí. En esos momentos yo pensaba, “¿Qué hago aquí? ¿Por qué lo estoy haciendo?” Y siempre corría por mi vida. Era difícil salir y siempre estar volteando para ver si no te están siguiendo.

I want my first blog to be about my life.

My family is something ummm… Many say dysfunctional, I say strange.  My dad and my mother divorced when I was 3 years old. Let’s just say that that was when my hell began. My brother would abuse me. They say that children do what they have seen others do or what has been done to them. I’ve always thought that they did to him what he did to me. My sister was a very hard person, very hard; in order to be sincere she became like that. Maybe she was like that ever since my father told her he was not her real father. Since that day she would humiliate me just for being hugged; already I began to feel alone.

After she left my dad, my mum began to obsess over her work. When I was little, my dad kidnapped me from her, so my mum always did whatever she possibly could to make sure that I was by her side. My dad already wanted another woman to take the place of my mother. Of course, I always knew who my mother was, she was Alín. Over time I began to feel strange, I didn’t know who to be with: my father or my mother. At the end of the trial my mother won custody over me. She refused to let me ever stay with my father or see him; I was only ever with her. Better said, I was alone. When I began primary school it was very hard because we would leave very early in the mornings, mostly because my mother was in a hurry. I have never liked her work and so I would do everything in my power to get her fired, but my attempts always failed.

My brother was a fighter, sometimes he would stick up for me against the kids in school who bullied me. It was for that reason that my mum had me change school. Although now I was only some minutes walk from my house, perhaps that change was the worst decision she made; I made some new friends and, let’s say, I hardly ever went to school. The school was always leaving calls for my mother and from fear of what she would do, I never told her.

 I liked to be alone but not feel alone. With my mother there was hardly any communication between us, she was never there. When she was there, she wouldn’t talk to me. I obviously wasn’t going to tell her about my failings at school. At the end of one month she found out anyway and punished me with bruises all over my skin, same as my brother and sister. I remember that she would beat us with whatever was at hand: metal spoons, sticks, whips. Her phrase was, “I’m going to beat you until I get tired,” and that’s what she would do. We would be in pain for 20 or 30 minutes afterwards.  When she wasn’t annoyed she gave us something to eat, but as time passed I stopped caring whether she did that or not.

  One day, when I was 8 or 9 years old, I was alone, as was common by now, and I decided to go out with my “friends”. I remember I drank too much alcohol, so much that I had the crazy idea of taking Activo glue and ecstasy. It made me feel good; I felt so good, as if I was on another planet and I wanted to be there all the time. When I look back on everything, what I was doing was consuming more and more every time, and not only those drugs, but also crack, cocaine, marihuana and anything else I could find. Years passed like that. I became rebellious. There was nothing for my mother to do but throw me out the house; I was 11 or 12 now and I was no longer scared. I went to live with one of my aunts. I was always with that aunt until the moment finally arrived when she got tired of me and didn’t want me in her house. I went to my other aunt’s. She accepted me for a long time, but my cousin wanted to abuse me so I left and that was the first time I found myself on the street.

 That night it was raining and I didn’t have a jumper. I did nothing else but stay inside an abandoned house where I remained for three months. They were difficult months but I didn’t care; I preferred to live there than to go home. My mother didn’t look for me. Eventually, I couldn’t bear to be there anymore; my whole body was aching and I went back to my aunt’s house. She didn’t say anything to me about it. I had missed three months of secondary school so I took the decision myself to go. I did for a while, but then my neighbour, the one who lived opposite, made me a proposal: he was going to start dealing and I would help him. I was really scared but I started to sell drugs at night when my aunt was asleep. I would go to school through the front gate and then leave for the station. I began to have problems with the other dealers; there were many times when they chased me and I could feel the bullets around me. In those moments I thought, “What am I doing? Why am I doing this?” And I would run for my life. It was difficult having to go out and always be checking behind your back to make sure no one was following you. 

This is Sheyla’s ‘ideas’ page about herself. It says:

She finds it hard to follow rules.

She likes Rhianna – although her life wasn’t so beautiful she puts in her all.

She [Sheyla] has great dreams.

One of those is to become a journalist.