BUENOS AIRES – Colored pencils, an accordion and the voice of a narrator quickly attract curious children from Concordia who had to evacuate their homes due to flooding.
Via art, some 60 people are seeking to keep the defenses against depression high for thousands of evacuees in this Argentine city.
Some 10,000 Concordia residents abandoned their homes last Wednesday when the Uruguay River flooded a quarter of the city. During the first few days of the emergency, the refugees sought shelter, a hot meal and blankets.
“Human beings in those days increase their adrenaline and their defenses, but afterwards they fall and there’s more vulnerability. Here’s where art can help,” music therapist Julian Presas told EFE.
For 15 years, Presas has been using artistic tools to intervene in different regional catastrophes to bolster the spirits of people facing the challenge of rebuilding their lives.
At the shelters and sites established by Concordia authorities, televisions these days show children smiling and playing under the supervision of their parents, although the latter are often burdened with worry and sadness.
“The children, in general, are very happy. Imagine sleeping in a school! But then they are the ones who get sick first,” Presas said before reiterating the importance of “strengthening their defenses” through play and artistic events.
With his guitar, Presas and others had visited evacuation centers in Concordia during previous floods, but this month’s flooding is the worst since 1959.
Several dozen people responded to the call, including musicians, teachers, psychologists, dancers, storytellers, lecturers, librarians and yoga instructors, among others.
In groups of three, on Monday they began approaching the displaced children to sing, draw, listen and contemplate the suffering with the aim of collectively transforming it.
“When nature intrudes, there’s a return to the primitive, to the need for survival. ... Electricity is cut, there’s no Internet. But (we) have a genetic memory that makes us connect with primitive sounds,” Presas said.