Youth in El Salvador Find a Future in Performing Arts

Ambassador Giroux with young artists.

Youth perform at the Embassy’s Canada Day reception

Once "troublemakers", now artists.

Canadian Ambassador to El Salvador, Mr. Pierre Giroux, talks with young artists about their experiences.

Youth who were once hopeless, living in poverty and exclusion, are now the face of a transformative project in El Salvador.

EsArts is helping young boys and girls from the municipality of Suchitoto dream of a better life. More importantly, it is empowering them to pursue one.

The program exposes these young new artists to performing arts training like acting, lighting and sound, make-up and costume-making. These workshops allow youth to gain self-esteem, to use dialogue to explore their community’s stories of trauma, conflict and violence and to gain a voice in their community.

Through theater, these young participants are learning to resolve conflicts and promote reconciliation, find alternatives to engaging in criminal activities and violence, and contribute to the economic development of their town. Ultimately, they are contributing to a safer and more secure community in which to live and work.

In 2005, Canadian volunteers from Cuso International visited the historically and culturally rich municipality of Suchitoto in El Salvador, and were reminded of the evolution of their hometown of Stratford, Ontario. Over the past 50 years, Stratford has grown to be recognized as Canada’s premier arts town.  

Once back in Canada, and through constant dialogue and brainstorming between Stratford Festival leaders and artistic and municipal leaders from Suchitoto, EsArtes was born.

In 2009, a local theatre school opened its doors in Suchitoto, and continues to grow, empowering over 100 young boys and girls.

EsArtes has completely changed Marvin Orellana’s outlook on life. Having lived the first decade of his life in the streets and in and out of children’s’ homes, Marvin moved in with his mother in the rural community of El Barillo in Suchitoto. The history of violence and abandonment he had been through early in life quickly caught up with him, and he became a violent “troublemaker’ in his community. A friend invited him to the EsArtes project, and he agreed to attend “for a laugh”.

He was quickly surprised to see how artistic workshops could be such a liberating and inspiring experience. “My story is one of transformation” he agrees. “I now think of the future. I dream of continuing in theatre. I want to keep studying theatre”.

Marvin is one of the 13 artists who performed an excerpt of theatrical version of the Mayan creation story “Popol Vuh” during this year’s Canadian Embassy Celebration of Canada Day.

Hosted by the Canadian Ambassador to El Salvador, Mr. Pierre Giroux and his wife Blanca Ureta-Giroux, this was not an ordinary Canada Day reception: it was an opportunity for Canada’s friends to see “an example of successful cooperation between Canada and El Salvador”.

He added: “Through our actions, we show that Canada is a committed long-term partner in the Americas. Canada is a trustworthy investor, a reliable supporter in confronting the challenges of national development and a solid partner for studies, business and innovation”.

Over 250 guests attended this year’s Canada Day including diplomats, government partners, business sector leaders, key academics, and the Canadian wardens’ network. Scotiabank, who regularly support the EsArtes project as part of their extensive program of Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, also cosponsored this year’s presentation. In 2012, Canada contributed CAD$150,000 to the project.