MERIDA, Mexico – An association in Mexico’s southeastern state of Yucatan is creating a venue for children, and adults, with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and autism to act in sold-out plays and participate in an assortment of sports competitions.
“September 13 will mark our 20th anniversary,” Ayelem Special Club director Nelly Canton Mendez told EFE. “And we will celebrate with more tours to Monterrey, Puebla and Guadalajara.”
She said that the club members, ages 18 to 48, are making history with the help of theater director Emilio Kantun “because they are the first theater troupe to feature Down syndrome and cerebral palsy children who learn the dialog by heart.”
Canton added that she decided to form the Ayelem Theater Troupe upon the insistence of brothers Juan and Diego de la Rosa, who discovered the children’s artistic potential at the center, debuting with the play “Mision fallida” (Mission failure), and following that up with a dozen more.
“This was the ninth year we’ve gone to Mexico City and it was very special,” Canton said. “The children still have a good taste in their mouths from seeing a full house. We even found out that many people did not make it in. They thought we would repeat the show.”
The kids have very famous friends, such as singers Ricky Martin and Espinoza Paz, as well as performer Margarita La Diosa de la Cumbia and several actors and actresses from TV networks Televisa and TV Azteca, who invite them every once in a while to visit the television studios.
“When we visit, they treat them like kings and queens,” she said.
The club is located in downtown Merida – the Yucatan state capital – thanks to one of the mothers, who provided the building for them to use for their social and motor integration and inclusion activities.
The kids have won everything from sports dance competitions and world swimming championships to carnival crowns and applause following their theater plays.
Thanks to this program, they won eight gold medals in a 2009 sports dance competition and one of them won the Yucatan Medal for his outstanding swimming track record.