A SPLENDID COLLABORATION:
AMERICANS LIVING IN OAXACA TUTOR OAXACAN ARTESANOS IN ENGLISH
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
This year, starting in early 2019, FOFA
partnered with the Oaxaca Lending
), 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
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
Selected highlights of first
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
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."
TO SUPPORT PROGRAMS LIKE THIS PLEASE
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