Friday, June 30, 2017

A Week in Tucson

      Hello. My name is Belle. I have just finished my first year in high school and as of tonight… my first YNIA trip. Despite being a newcomer, I had some amazing experiences and was tasked with more responsibility than I could ever have imagined. My week was supposed to be spent with World Care, an organization that distributes school supplies to schools and students in need. However, I was taken away from my post a few days in to serve a different role.
      The group working with 'Casa Alitas', a temporary home for immigrants, needed a figure as the center of their mural. They wanted to paint Our Lady of Guadalupe and no one felt like they could do it. I was asked to try it out because it's known that I enjoy drawing. Now I'm a pretty anxious person, right? Nervous about anything and everything. So the thought of painting a *permanent* figure that held so much significance to the Christian communities in the southwest terrified me. I accepted the offer though and really tried my hardest to make it look as good as possible.
      This part of the mural is the center of the alter. It's meant as a space for the migrant families staying there to pray before and remember loved ones who are no longer with them. It's… a big deal. It took so much hard work. It tested me in ways I had never been before. I endured blazing heat, the struggle of replicating a drawing onto an uneven brick wall, and the pain of sharp rocks digging into my knees. I kept a mantra to myself as I worked. "For them." This was to remind me that no pain I felt came even close to the pain these immigrant families experience. I am incredibly thankful to have the stability and luxury that they lack in their daily lives. I persevered through it, holding the image of the people who would bow in my place close to my heart.
      Normally I hate my own artwork. I look at it and see only flaws and mistakes and 'what-if's. This time I saw only love. I'm so proud beyond words of my mural. Of my artwork. I'm grateful to the people of Casa Alitas and to the other, older girls who helped me through the process. This is the most meaningful thing I've ever created. In the sense that I'm leaving a piece of myself here in Tucson of course, displaying my signature and painting for years to come… but again, my meaning isn't what's important. This mural will mean so much to everyone who sees it, everyone who prays before it, and everyone who starves for a better life. I hope that our artwork can be a bit of hope in a strange, scary new world. I hope the love I poured into it is returned and felt over and over again.

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