Mercedes stayed a month at Sachaqa and I think we can safely say something profound happened to her. She was really open to the experience and just went with the flow. As wild and natural in person as she is in her art. Thank you Mercedes you are a STAR.
We are now accepting South American volunteers to help with some translation work, interviews etc.
Interview with Mercedes Llanos-
You stayed in Sachaqa as part-time volunteer – how was that?
Volunteering at Sachaqa was an exceptional experience. I never anticipated that a month in San Roque would change my life so much. Thanks to volunteering, I had the opportunity to really get close to the people in the village. By creating tourist routes and writing about them, I became friends with many people and learnt about their life. The simplicity of the local people has motivated me a lot, encouraging me to follow my own life in a very similar way. How nice it is to realize that one really does not need almost anything to live happily.
What goals did you have when you arrived in Sachaqa?
Honestly, my goals were not very well defined.
I was overwhelmed by the consumerist lifestyle, which I see every day living in cities. I needed a change. I planned to return to the United States to work and wanted some quiet time to reflect, paint, and be with our mother earth.
I was not clear on what I wanted in my life and where I wanted to be exactly. A total existential crisis. I have many goals, but unsure of which path to choose. I had felt anxious about that and confused.
How do you feel now?
I still feel confused, but now I understand what I want. I found – acceptance for myself, just the way I am. I no longer feel anxious. Sachaqa allowed me the time to find happiness once again. I have found a deep rooted happiness within. It was a really beautiful realization. An unforgettable experience.
What did you achieve at Sachaqa?
I Painted, made many drawings and clarified my thoughts through writing. Life in San Roque gave me everything I needed and more. Living in the Amazon jungle was like returning to my place of origin. I felt at peace, which I had not felt in a long time.
I learnt to love myself and learnt to celebrate and express my sensitivity. I think those achievements are absolutely irreplaceable.
How does San Roque compare with your home town?
I was born in the city of Mar del Plata. San Roque is completely the opposite.
I come from; cement streets, cars, malls, restaurants, discos and alcohol. From mate (tea), bills, hot baths and comfortable toilets. To San Roque’s fresh papayas and bananas, insufferable showers of ice water and dry compost toilets. The people of San Roque are very shy and reserved, compared to the people of Mar del Plata, who are generally very outgoing. I went from one place where self-image is very important, to a place where people do not even have mirrors.
At first it was a shock to see such a humble lifestyle. Earth floors, almost no valuables and not even a constant supply of water. At the same time people were happy, laughing and having fun in the river, sharing their belongings with strangers, as if they had everything in the world.
Did you have any revelations in your creative journey?
Yes. The truth was that I felt a bit stuck at first. I did not know what I wanted to paint. I felt very stiff. I have been educated to think it was important to follow some kind of rule, or protocol. I realized it did not have to be this way. I could do exactly what I wanted – free myself and nothing else. This artistic revelation was an incredible sensation. I began to paint what came out of my soul and I began to feel a great relief – some kind of release.
I came to realize how important it was for me to paint the human figure, in relation to our natural environment. The abstract form and spaces between objects.
Life goes far beyond what the eye can see, which now reflects in my art. I began to realize that I not only paint in an expressionist form that comes from within, but I paint the energies that surround us – interpersonal interactions
I had many revelations and I will continue with my artistic search. I have much to reflect, develop and solve. Very exciting things have happened at Sachaqa.
Tell me a little about the murals you paint? What makes you want to create?
I believe in making art for the people. In kindergarten I always would draw on the walls. I have always been hyperactive and in constant motion which has brought me to paint large and use my whole body. These last two years I have been given many opportunities to paint murals – almost like the universe is taking me that way without me looking for it. I have painted in the United States, Argentina and Chile. My purpose with the murals, for now, is to take the fine arts to the streets.
I want to show that there is something beyond what we can see. That in life we have to express ourselves. I am not interested in telling stories like other muralists. My murals are relatively spontaneous, they are made in the moment. The most exciting moment is when I move away from my ego, I forget myself. That is very difficult to do as a muralist unless you leave the plan aside and allow your body to guide all your movements. Only this way you reach a point of spiritual realization, where you are a vehicle of creation and nothing else. I am interested in human expression.
How has your philosophy of life changed since you were a resident here?
I have come very close to plants and nature and there is no better place to be. I see the trees as if they were people, they have personality and strength. Each one with its own beauty. I have learned about the strength of my own vulnerability and that it is okay to be hypersensitive – it even makes me more powerful. Sachaqa has helped me on my spiritual path, every day I feel more at peace with what will happen in the future.
I’ve always had a little fear of death, what happens after our lives, but Sachaqa has helped me to see beyond that. Now I feel more present than ever. If one lives in the present one will never fear death. Why fear something that doesn’t exist?
Would you come back as a volunteer?
What are your plans for the future?
Paint, paint and paint !!! I am highly inspired at the moment. Now I’m back in Chattanooga, United States. Here I am going to work giving art classes for adults and children. I am preparing some sketches for some mural projects I will be working on in the coming months. I have plans to go to other residences and possibly do my master’s degree in fine arts. For now, I will live the present. I want to manifest everything I have learned. I want to develop a series of impacting paintings, there is much I want to share with the American people.
Three words to describe the experience of Sachaqa Volunteer?
#THERE #ARE #NONE