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Posted March 21, 2016

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East San Jose Students Voice Concerns through Arpilleras

The tapestries on display at the UNM Latin American & Iberian Institute depict community and global concerns, but also express student hopes and dreams for the future.

The lovely colorful arpillera-inspired tapestries created by fourth and fifth graders at East San Jose Elementary School depict very real community and global concerns: immigration, poverty, hunger, violence, pollution, homelessness, terrorism, substance abuse, animal cruelty

Mensajes del Corazón, an exhibit featuring arpilleras created by East San Jose students, will be on display through May at the UNM Latin American & Iberian Institute, 801 Yale Blvd. NE

“My concern represents the many people who do not have jobs and only have a little money,” wrote one student.

“I wish drugs, alcohol and cigarettes were never invented,” wrote another.

About 200 students participated in the inter-disciplinary project centering on the traditional tapestries created in Chile during the Pinochet era as an act of social and political resistance. The students studied the history of Chile, worked collaboratively to identify global and local concerns, then chose their own concerns to visually represent on cloth arpilleras.

Art teacher Amy Sweet described the project as “art as voice.”

Now, about half of those arpilleras are on display at the UNM Latin American & Iberian Institute. The gallery, located at 801 Yale Blvd. NE, is open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The student narratives, in both English and Spanish at the dual-language school, touched on many personal experiences. Several children expressed fear of deportation because of the verbal attacks on Mexican immigrants by presidential candidates. There were students who felt that their parents were so busy on Facebook that they no longer got any attention.

While the children’s concerns were often troubling, their hopes and dreams were encouraging, even inspiring. One child concerned with cancer talked about becoming a doctor. “I hope one day everyone can live in a new house,” wrote a fifth grader whose arpillera focused on homelessness. And from another concerned the river pollution: “I hope when I get older I can swim in the Rio Grande and maybe my children can, too.”

As part of this project, fifth graders attended a Globalquerque event at the Hispanic Cultural Center that featured Chilean musicians. Some of the fourth grade students heard the stories of a Chilean visitor who lived through the historical period studied by the students. And others took a field trip to the gallery where they got to see their arpilleras on display.

Arpilleras at East San Jose Elementary from APS in Motion on Vimeo.

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