4 Paula Nicho Cumez – Cruzando fronteras

“Many ways to tell stories”

Adela Esther Tuy

I come from a family with indigenous roots, in a small community where there is abundant culture, nature and talent. At least that is what people talk about the communities and what the system has made us believe, that everything is perfect. I can infer that it is a pride to live in the place where I live, as well as a great challenge, because stand out in society is a danger, in many cases.  

I was born in a place where women are silenced, silenced, and forced to accept an ideology that points out that the space to explore art should not exist. I remember my father giving me my first notebook and pencil before I started school. I didn’t understand the power they had, nor did I imagine that they would change the overview of my life. In my search for answers, about building my identity, my voice and my resistance. To the imminent changes in my life, I found in writing and drawing, a door to understand that in me, is the way to break the social system that has created the same society with which I live. 

When my parents were kids, in old times for the inhabitants of my community, poetry, drawing, painting and other types of arts, were things of artists, famous and prestigious people. But in the churches there was an exception for men, for the followers of God, who were allowed to make music and paint. Women could only watch and sometimes admire. 

I spent my entire childhood in a small house, with my large family of five sisters and two brothers. I witnessed the changes that each one had in their childhood and adolescence, since they no longer played and did what they liked, to having to comply with behaviors imposed by my grandparents and the community in general. The pressure of poverty towards the idea of having to work was great, which made my older siblings grow up fast to become adults, without knowing, exploring and discovering the world around them. Everything was going on like this until a revolution in the family took place.

This revolution occurred when my father gave us the freedom to choose what we wanted to be, which made me feel powerful. It was incredible to be able to choose the things we wanted and from that action, most of my siblings began to enter the world of music. As my restlessness towards the world grew, I discovered that I could draw, awakening my interest in this art. I made and drew things from my childhood, like dreams: me on a plane, me on top of a dragon, me playing a guitar, me being afraid. Each of my drawings was accompanied by an emotion. I also drew one of the things I admired the most: Lake Atitlán. I also drew aurora borealis, or imitated Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night”. My passion for the arts was growing little by little.

At the age of 12, I entered MAIA, the school that has given me the opportunity to find my voice. There, I discovered not only writing, but also other skills I possessed. I wrote and wrote, stories, experiences about my life and about the topics that are interesting to me. The writing that has marked me the most is a poem dedicated to poetry itself, it is “My world in poetry”, which I write below:

When I speak it to you and write it to you, you put your essence in it. You let me absorb you in the harsh winters, you let me flow the stream of words that between sunsets, starry nights and sunrises I write in you.

My head is on your shoulder every afternoon, I express to you my laughter, joys, tragic situations and that story I tell every night. You are the component that is part of my weaving.

My world in poetry… you let yourself be used to understand my feelings through words. You will cry with me, maybe of joy or of deep weeping with the most terrible pain.

At MAIA, I met educators, classmates and other women who have beautiful writings and other talents. I realized that we share the same experiences and stories, of women who despite the struggle, remain in the dark and invisible. However, I have concluded that this must change, and that I must tell my story. Everything I came to do, from the first drawing, the first writing, each one was part of who I am. They not only helped me understand reality, but they also understood my changes, discoveries and pasts. From the beginning to the end, there was, there is and there will be a response in me: I consider art as a friend, a world, a political weapon and a door to let out what is inside you. Women must strengthen our equity and empowerment, and for that we need more spaces and opportunities, because there are powerful stories, talents and voices; possibly on paper, in a drawing, in a painting, or perhaps in a photo, in a poem or in a song, that need to come to light. 

The previous article is part of a series of articles that EntreMundos will be publishing as part of a training process in opinion articles provided to young students of the MAIA school, impact Infinite. MAIA is the first secondary girls’ school in Central America led by indigenous women.  It is redefining education in Guatemala through a unique empowerment model.  It integrates educational quality with social/emotional accompaniment, encouraging adolescent women’s talent in order to create a generation of female leaders who will impact their families, their communities, the nation and the world.

*All pictures taken from the paintings of Paula Nicho Cumez.