As the sun sets, Gloria and I walk back to our home stay. Don Alejandro stands tall outside his door greeting those who walk by. After greeting Rebecca and I various of times, he greets Gloria and I. I decide to initiate a conversation with Don Alejandro after noticing a drawing table through the crack of his door. I ask Don Alejandro if he is an artist. In doing so, Gloria and I are submerged into his world. He invites us into his home and shows us various art pieces. He explains the process of each of these paintings and shares the type or art it is considered. He shares openly and freely. Even though he knows we are not art students nor have the same degree of art knowledge, he shares his passion freely.
Curious about who we are, he asks where we are from and what we are doing in Oaxaca. We share our parents’ are from Jalisco and Cuernavaca and that we are Social Welfare students in a cultural-immersion program. He is happy we are there and have not forgotten about our Mexican roots. Of course, he shares our Spanish sounds different, which leads him to think we were Central Americans. Gloria asks him to break down how we sound different and he does so in a manner, in which we are able to understand and not feel as if he is the Spanish police.
Throughout our conversation, he listens authentically and shares his own experiences of when he went to both New Mexico and New York for an art exchange program. Our conversation with him revolves and touches on various topics: ethnic identity formation, gentrification, migration, being an immigrant in the U.S., education system, income inequality, and politics. Beyond these topics, the conversation allows us to share and validate our lived experiences, feelings, and dreams. A conversation beyond the confines of academia centered on community knowledge, an undervalued phenomenon in the sciences.
Don Alejandro did not only open the doors to his doors to his home, he opened the doors to his reality. He represents the voices often ignored. By taking the time to allow those voices to be heard, to get to know each other by seeking the energy to create those moments, I was reminded of the importance of taking the time to listen. To listen authentically and more importantly reminded communal knowledge has truth and value despite what the sciences and academia says.