AsoArtCa – “Asociación de Artistas en la Calle”
(Association Street Performers)
HOPE FROM PEOPLE WITH HEART AND KNOWLEDGE
In Santo Domingo, while on my daily discovery-meditative walks, from the eastern side of the town, across the river to the other side of the city, after few hours of wandering I hear skilled street musicians, I take the chance to record and talk to them.
It’s Camilo Fulcar, playing in the street promoting AsoArtCa = Association Artistas de Calle (Association for street Artists); an emerging, yet really promising, association; teaching on the street to people of the street.
Their activities are focused to help individuals getting out of the street, rescuing them from poverty through learning and belonging to an artistic group. Learning is open to anyone, but the targeted students are especially indigents and ‘limpiabotas’ (shoeshiners), which are boys—often kids—cleaning shoes of whomever would give them some coins. Saddly enough, many people in Santo Domingo live in the street, or in caves without access to food, wc or shower.
Camillo is well known around here, he is a little more than a boy as age, same as many limpiabotas, despite that he has a strong charisma, huge teaching, social and musical skills, and even bigger heart. His strident acute voice enters in your skin as poverty was in the skin of his students. You can understand all this just with a short stare at Camilo’s eyes while he is playing.
WHY IS ASOARTCA GREAT YET SIMPLE?
The smartest concept behind AsoArtCa is that it takes place in the street, for the ones of the street. This simple, open, and zero-bureaucraZy setting makes it easy for people to join, participate, learn and be a community; it also helps to have external people knowing about the activities of the Association, with possibility to ‘live’ contributing and monitor how the contributions influenced the learning having complete transparency.
This is the kind of education missing in the Dominican Republic, open places where to learn, for free, without requirements or registrations needed.
INDIFFERENCE – Convincing ourself that the problem is somewhere else
Many people love, support and appreciate the efforts of this association, still, there is not enough help to the most fragile groups in this area of the caribbean.
Alienation, classism, colonialistic mindset and egoism are the ingredients of the disgusting cocktail that is still served in too many places.
While talking with a local, a wealthy girl working in a office in Santo Domingo, I pointed out the problem of poverty to her, she was arguing that the problem does not belong to ‘her’: “I work hard to make the money I make” this was the only sentence she could say about the issue. Even more sensitive people, individuals active in social, give reasoning blaming sometimes the poor himselfs: “they make too many kids, the should avoid that…”. Some also argue that it’s not just a local problem but a world problem: “Poverty is not just here, also in USA and Europe it happens, look at the situation with Greece for example…” was said by local youngsters involved in social activities.
My opinion is that here the situation is critical, there is no well-working program for homeless or people in danger. There are people living in state of extreme poverty since they were born, giving them the lifelong title of “poor”, recognized by anyone else.
The programs to reduce poverty are slow to develop and don’t meet the needs of the weakest. Even disabled people may get no practical help at all. For sure no pension if you are without a leg or an arm. If you are lucky you get a (donated)old-wheelchair.
NO MONEY TO HELP THE ONE IN NEED
“There is not enough money”, this is one common answer to the question about helping the ones in need.
Governments have not enough money, banks neither, churches state that they are in deficit, rich people say they can’t afford to help.
Still, I see a lot of wasted resource and mega luxury around me in this ‘colonialistic’ city; an huge amount of money spent to:
– Army, military, police, guards.
– Illumination wasted: during daytime lights are on, in almost all Santo Domingo
– Political propaganda: installations, affiches, video, audio and internet party advertising
– Governmental and presidential security, luxurious expenses such as top suv-cars and huge fancy buildings for institution
– Ministry of culture (& friends), really fancy, not necessary events and facilities that use huge resources under the name of culture.
Not to say that there are many extremely-rich not taxed enough, you can say it from the number of supercars you see going around in Santo Domingo. Almost as an irreverence towards the poor with no money to eat. I didn’t even see so many SUVs and luxurious cars in Europe.
AsoArtCa is working at the moment just with the work of volunteers and donations. They are doing the most needed tasks of the country and they don’t get a cent from the institutions. The biggest richness they have is the genuine will to help and the commitment.
GETTING FOOD WITH NO MONEY – FREEGAN LIFE IN SANTO DOMINGO
After one week with just few hundred pesos (few euros), once those were finished, I challenge myself going to ask shops and restaurants for free food, any leftovers or stuff they don’t need
at bakeries, they said they didn’t have anything; a pizzeria’s waitress said they just give food for money; at two colmados (small food shop), they were looking at me with a mix of surprise and anger, shaking their heads to give me a negative answer; at a fancy restaurant, during closing time, a worker told me they had nothing left; I went to the back of an expensive supermarket and asked to a security agent if I could dumpsters dive, he didn’t understand the expression but said no anyway; I went to two ice cream shops, one didn’t let me inside because they were closing, another gave me a small ice cream-spoon to try.
I went to more than six churches, asking if they have any food for poor people, or any knowledge of it, a priest told me: “we never thought about it, we are getting used to poverty” another told me that I have to go to the Archbishop near the Cathedral of Santo Domingo before afternoon. I went the luxury and huge Archbishopric palace, with large patios, many unused spaces, all freshly renovated: they are surprised to hear me talking about fighting poverty, I am told there is no help that they can give directly to the poor, because ‘they don’t have enough resources’, they do organize donations of small amounts of food in the street weekly, but the clerical failed to tell me when and where; neither I have ever seen any of those.
While sitting on a bench, a small street kid, which was a beggar-shoeshiner until few months ago, now a street musician—thanks to AsoArtCa—offered me a slice of pizza, another of those AsoArtCa kids offered me a piece of bread.
That’s all I got for free.
It’s easy to say: “nobody starves of hunger” or “homeless are used to be like this”.
But, did you ever try to get something for free?
Did you ever try to sleep outside?
You can’t understand it until you don’t feel it on your own skin.
THE CHARM OF POVERTY
I am always surprised and worried about how much we romanticize many situations and environments that are not romantic, or even human, at all.
Why do we have to make them so appealing?
Let’s think about war, poverty, living in social isolation. There is an high glorification for warfare for example, many soldiers are seen as heroes worshiped as saviours—for sure in the USA—, but all what they do is getting a salary in order to kill other people.
The only reason I see, war movies are so often hitting the cinema, it’s because there is manipulation, political and economical power that pushes movie makers.
Many stories about poor, homeless, mafia and nomadic people are also highly romanticized, in this case the production’s aim could even positive, to sensibilize and let people know, but often there is an emphasis on the charm of a certain marginal lifestyle that does not match the reality. The most poor don’t decide to be poor, neither the homeless nor nomadic populations.
Before sailing on boats for long time, I was also victim of the ‘common thinking’ that made me picture boats as means of freedom, liberty and wildness. That’s why I spent long part of my life doing nautical studies and after working on boats.
I can say that life on big boats is not as you may imagine, if you like the sea and to travel, you don’t really get any those.
On large vessels, above the water of several hundred meters, you don’t smell the sea, you smell the pollution. Moreover, the ship is often taking navigation routes that are totally uninteresting for you and you may not even have time to go ashore.
Many Nautical environments (for sure in south Europe and Italy) are dominated by right wing people; to not say fascists.
I think that we should experience the world more and watch less TV, if we don’t put ourself in someone else’s shoes(shiners) we can’t really understand how the world goes.
One reason why I liked the famous book “Gomorra” is that that it was one of the few works showing the Mafia, and corruption, for what it is, without perfuming it: a cancer, disgusting, poisoning and destroying the society.
I don’t say people should go to war or on boats, I actually hope you would never do the first. But you could easily understand how a poor person lives. Try one day to go around without money, without a place to stay, after you can tell how charming it is.
Same goes for homelessness: I thought it was charming and wild, a rebellion to the system.
I am, and have been, kind of traveling-homeless, I spent months without a fix place and days sleeping in streets, train stations and parks. The feeling of having no place where to go–even just for one day–the uncomfort of not having water, a toilet and a shower, are so strong that you can’t understand if you never have experienced it yourself.
There is even a movement called “Comfort Zone Crusher”, which aim is to let us experience situation that we would not be into in daily life.
Worldwide, every 3.6 seconds someone dies of starvation, and it is often a child in his first years of life. One billion children are severely deprived of essential goods and services they require to survive while 62 world’s richest have the wealth of half globe population–while in the USA the main health problem is overweight–.
‘Reasoning’ that we “don’t have enough wealth” to help the poor is just absurd and false, discharging our responsibilities.
The world is going worse, more wealth is going in fewer hands.
We have to feel all accountable for it, if we are just wealthy enough to have food and necessary goods, we are in power to contrast this trend and improve the life of the poorer with our daily choices and lifestyle.
The one with a full belly does not believe in hunger.