Becoming a First, Second, Third place or Honorable Mention winner of the 2018 FOFA/MEAPO  concurso (contest) was a thrilling moment for the young developing artists who participated. Receiving  their award certificates and the cash prizes FOFA awards at the ceremony for winners and their  families held at MEAPO, was a jubilant and moving experience for all. The awards ceremony, however,  is only the first chapter of the ongoing support that FOFA regularly offers to concurso winners.

FOFA's commitment to supporting young, developing artisans in the state of Oaxaca is, most  importantly, about offering opportunities to young women and men whose emerging identities as artists  are challenged by the economic hardships that affect their region, and particularly by how those  hardships impact on the folk-art community. FOFA offers educational opportunities through workshops  and classes to empower them with knowledge as developing business owners and better  communicators in a global world, in the service of refining and growing their creative practices into a  sustainable livelihood.

This year, starting in early 2019, FOFA  partnered with the Oaxaca Lending  Library (OLL, www.oaxlibrary.org ), a hub  of activity and resources for Oaxaca's  socially engaged ex-pat community, to  launch a new English language tutorial  program. Suzanne Grant, an ESL  teacher, originally from Minneapolis, had  volunteered for many years to teach  group English classes to FOFA concurso  winners during the winters that she then  spent in Oaxaca. Now residing in  Oaxaca full -time, she has, with FOFA's  support, conceived a tutoring program  which she oversees as part of OLL's  Outreach Committee, chaired by Fay  Henderson Diaz. Drawing upon her  earlier experiences, Suzanne proposed  that individual tutoring would be far a  more effective approach to teaching  English to artesanos (artisans), given the  broad range of each artist's facility with  English and their individual learning  needs.

This program has met with enormous success and has been deemed a win-win for its participants.  Tutors have had the rewarding experience of getting to know one artist well, while participating artists'  future prospects have been enhanced as they gain knowledge and comfort in communicating with  collectors and others they will encounter as developing business people.

One Great Duo

Mauricio Méndez Martínez in his taller (workshop)
Photo by Otto Piron
Mauricio Méndez Martínez is one of  fourteen winning concurso entrants  who participated in this new one-on-one  tutoring program. He is a textile  artist from Mitla, whose beautiful  rebozos won an Honorable Mention  prize in both 2016 and 2018.  Mauricio's tutor, K.T. Maclay, has  shared these excerpts below, with  Mauricio's permission, from their  observations about their experience,  which illuminate their exemplary  relationship and great sense of  humor, as tutor and artist. The  winning combination of K.T.'s  thoughtful educational approach and  Mauricio's pride in his developing  language skills and his understanding  of the benefits (some unanticipated)  of his growing ability to communicate  with visitors to his taller (workshop)  demonstrate the impact that FOFA  and all our partners can have on the  lives of Oaxaca's enormously talented  young artists.

K.T. Maclay wearing a rebozo woven by Mauricio

K.T.'s Perspectives
Selected highlights of first
three months:
It's been a great pleasure working with Mauricio. On his FOFA application for tutoring he listed his English language skills as "basic", and indeed when we started in February... he was insecure about his abilities...

Despite Mauricio's hour-long bus trip from the village of Mitla, he's never missed a class, always arrived on time... and participated in everything with interest and sometimes with genuine gusto.

My focus has been less on technical or grammatical perfection, and more on getting him to feel comfortable speaking to and listening to gringos... The classes have kindled a curiosity about English and a delight in using and understanding English that will carry Mauricio on to more conversations, contacts and adventures with the language.

Selected highlights of months 4-6:
  • While watching CNN in English with his Mom and his brother, Mauricio reports that
    he understood EVERYTHING without subtitles.
  • He's been listening to videos in English while he's working on the loom.
  • He texts me in English if he's going to be late or needs to miss a class...
  • He's taking English books out of the library and, because he's realized that adult books are too challenging, he's borrowing children's books that he enjoys.
  • He can now understand 100% of the "Power Learning" English podcast.
  • He is very surprised that in a gringo negotiation, if the seller does not want to agree
    to the terms or the price suggested by the buyer, the seller begins his/her response
    with "I'm sorry, but..."
I should mention that none of these things are homework assignments. They are all Mauricio generated and they are all Mauricio enjoyed. In other words, we've come a long way, baby! And we are both very happy about it.

Mauricio Méndez Martínez in his taller (workshop)
Photo by Otto Piron

Mauricio's perspectives
After three months, K.T. asked Mauricio to share with her his thoughts on the benefits of tutoring.  She has transcribed his responses as follows:

Now I prefer watch movies in English. Before only in Spanish with subtitles.
Now I can understand when the person can speak in English to me. I can talk with person, can have a  question, or want help. For example, two past weeks, a woman talking about she goes to Hervey el  Agua. Was wonderful because I can speak with other person (who) don't use Spanish, only English.  When she get out of the taxi, the driver say me: "Hay, you can speak English!" In the taller, American  persons visit us and they want to see (and) practice in the loom and I can give instructions in English.... I listen to person when he have a question. I can understand and answer. I can see in the client's face  that he knows I understand the question.

One day in the taller, beautiful girls came. I was working with my ear buds (in) but this day my shirt was  stuck to my body. It was a "V" neck. This girl said: "Look at his muscle. I like it, baby." I only smile, but I  didn't want to look at her, because if I looked at her I would laugh.

In closing, K.T. writes: "Thanks so much FOFA (and Suzanne) for giving me the chance to work with  Mauricio and to be involved with the good work FOFA is doing in Oaxaca."



Thank you!

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