Monday, July 30, 2012

Katelyn Stanoch: Final Project

Katelyn Stanoch, a junior at Augsburg College, painted a mural for her final project of the Social Work in a Latin American Context program this Spring. At the end of each program, students are required to complete a final project which will be presented in some way upon their return to their communities in the States. Most students choose to do a creative project like a mural, video, newpaper article or poetry, and Katelyn used her artistic abilities to make the living room in one of the CGE houses here in Cuernavaca even more lively and meaningful.

The mural is of a tree with twisting branches and falling foliage, and next to the tree is a poem that is an ancient Nahua poem (below). When asked about her mural, Katelyn said, To me my mural represents a sense of sorrow yet the presence of strength. The poem is about searching for peace and a place to be free from whatever it is that is not positive in life and the strength it takes to keep moving forward. This subject of suffering related to the oppression of the people of Mexico. More specifically related to drug violence, domestic violence, and the effects and causes of migration. The strength I feel that allows the people to move on in times of hardship which in the mural is represented by the tree that looks aged and twisted but yet is still standing strong. The mural represents suffering yet a strength that allows those to keep pushing through."

The poem Xochicuicatl, or A Flower song, was originally written in the native Nahuatl language.

In the place of tears, I the singer, watch my flowers; they are in my hand; they intoxicate my soul and my song, as I walk alone with them, with my sad soul among them.

In this spot, where the herbage is like sweet ointment and green as the turquoise and emerald, I think upon my song, holding the beauteous flowers in my hand

In this spot of turquoise and emerald, I think upon beauteous songs, beauteous flowers; let us rejoice now, dear friends and children, for life is not long upon earth.

I shall hasten forth, I shall go to the sweet songs, the sweet flowers, dear friends and children
O he! I cried aloud; O he! I rained down flowers as I left.

Let us go forth anywhere; I the singer shall find and bring forth the flowers; let us be glad while we live; listen to my song.

I the poet cry out a song for a place of joy, a glorious song which descends to Mictlan, and there turns about and comes forth again.

I seek neither vestment nor riches, O children, but a song for a place of joy

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful mural, Katelyn -- so creative! It is a balance to the assaulted tree in Rivera's mural that overhangs the barranca from which the people hang and whose roots are being chopped....

    Here's what I wrote about that tree in my article reflecting on social work in Cuernavaca:

    Less than twenty years after invading Mexico, Hernán Cortés had built a fortress in Cuernavaca on top of a ruined temple. Known locally for centuries as Cortés' Palace, the building now serves as the city's Museum of Cuauhnahuac. Up on the second floor of this dark, imposing relic, covering the length of the wall of a loggia facing away from the town plaza, toward the east where visitors once could see snow-capped volcanos now obscured by perpetual urban haze, is an epic mural painted in 1929 by Diego Rivera. Dramatic scenes flow from one doorway of the balcony to the other portraying the invasion of the Spanish forces, the subsequent exploitation of native peoples and their enduring resistance, and finally celebrating the Mexican revolution led by Emiliano Zapata.

    Toward the center of the mural there is a scene in which the active violence of the battles is suspended for the moment, expressing as much sorrow as outrage. A large tree is leaning down, almost fallen over a ravine. It is a kind of tree common in Cuernavaca with thick oval leaves and leather-smooth bark with folds at its branches like skin. Men in simple clothes, some without shirts or barefoot, are clinging to the branches -- some hugging the limbs, others hanging by their hands -- while at the base of the tree, stepping on the exposed roots, helmeted and armored, the invading forces are stabbing at the living trunk with spears, an ax at hand. According to Helms (1986: 268-73) this scene, La Toma de Cuernavaca, depicts Cortés' use of downed trees to cross the barrancas that had temporarily protected the town.

    The Problem Tree: A Metaphor for an Historic Tension in Social Work

    I encountered this scene while participating in a program in Cuernavaca offered to students, staff and faculty from the United States by the Center for Global Education (Augsburg College, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA). On the day after I saw Rivera's mural, the class I was teaching met with Mexican social worker Josefina Vázquez Pérez. She described a process of consultation which she and her colleagues call "the problem tree." They try to distinguish between the branches or indicators of a problem and its root causes where they then will focus helping efforts. Remembering the tragic central scene from the mural, I wondered: With the forces of oppression at the roots, how often have we social workers waited to catch people falling off the branches, to mend broken bones, to salve bruised spirits, to lift them back onto limbs whose very life is being sapped, and thus have we potentially perpetuated rather than reduced suffering?


    Bibus, A. A. (1995). Reflections on social work from Cuernavaca, Mexico. International Social Work, 38 (3), 243-252.