International Class alums Miguel Cortes, Jorge Burciaga and Institute colleague Mariana Soledad Loya Parra report on developments at El Centro Fred Newman Para la Terapia Social — the independent therapy and community center they’ve built over the last five years in Juárez — long at the epicenter of the drug violence in Mexico.
Working with Dr. Maria del Carmen Santos Fabela, director of the masters program in special education at the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez (where Miguel is completing his masters degree and Jorge is an instructor), the team recently organized a visit for the Institute’s director of pedagogy, Carrie Lobman.
Lobman led a workshop at the Fred Newman Center — Does Juarez Need Therapy? New Approaches to Human Development — which drew an audience of some 30 therapists, community educators, activists and students. They spent the day playing, performing and conversing about ways to offer the people of Juárez opportunities to rebuild the life of their city after years of extreme drug violence.
There are less people being killed in Juárez, but people don’t talk about the crisis being over. The violence has shifted to other areas of Mexico; but there is nothing secure and nothing developmental.
The past decade has stifled people’s ability to be social and this has seriously impacted a generation of youth–many of whom grew up being kept inside their houses all the time. They’ve grown up learning to be deeply fearful.
Lobman also led a two-day course on social therapeutics (she describes it as an “interactive play space”) with several dozens of Dr. Santos‘ masters students in special education. Dr. Santos, who came to Mexico from Cuba, is a Vygotskian scholar trained in the former Soviet Union and has developed a Vygotskian-inspired special-ed curriculum for the program, which includes offerings by visiting activist scholars/researchers such as Dr. Lobman.
Carrie shared how Vygotsky’s work has been advanced by Fred Newman and Lois Holzman in a social therapeutic practice, that has proven especially effective under conditions of poverty and underdevelopment. She introduced the hopeful work with multi-family social therapy groups pioneered by Social Therapy Group director Christine LaCerva and the performance-based youth and adult development programs of the All Stars Project.
Commenting on Lobman’s visit, Cortes says:
The focus of our work is development — helping our neighbors create new possibilities and incorporate methodologies that relate to people as creators of their lives.