María Rosalía REYES TORRES
Birthplace: Llano Grande, Durango, Mexico
scholarship holder of AMFPA since: 2001
Painting Method: foot painting artist
I was born in a small village in Durango, Mexico, called Llano Grande. My mother was a young 19 year old woman with a humble background. When she was barely 7 months pregnant, my so called father abandoned her leaving her with no support. In the midst of these extreme conditions, I came to the world with the help of a local midwife. It wasn´t until I was 3 days old that my mother noticed that I could not move my arms. Fifteen days later she took me to the regional hospital in Durango to be examined. The doctors only prescribed some drops to complement my feedings and suggested to my mom to cross my arms against my chest with a bandage. Soon after, she discontinued these instructions. When I was about 4 months old, my mother noticed certain movements in my shoulders and some shaking in my arms, which gave her hope.
During that period, the financial situation in the house was agonizing. On occasion, she would receive help from a family member or from the neighbors, but it was never enough. At that time, the teacher from the rural school in town, who was older but with very good feelings and intentions, offered to marry her and be a father to me. My mother accepted and our life´s conditions improved. The arrival of this person had a big influence in my life. Not only did I receive love and attention from a true father, but I also had the opportunity to familiarize myself, from very young, with books and didactic material that my father used for his classes at school. Even though I continued growing without the movement in my arms, I developed a great easiness to use of my feet, as if these were my hands.
One day, when I was only 4, my father and I were playing inside the house and jokingly he put a chalk in my right foot and said: “daughter, paint your mom here on the floor”. I took it as a joke and played it. I made a cute drawing of my mother. My father was surprised and, since that day, he encouraged me to continue sketching on the floor or on paper.
My father finished his work as a teacher in that town and we then moved to the capital where I studied primary school while, at the same time, I would receive rehabilitation to try to find some movement in my arms. Getting results became impossible for the doctors who just concentrated on experimenting.
At the age of ten my father got very ill and decided to move to the place he was born, a town named 18 de Agosto (August 18) where he wanted to spend his last days.
As the years went by I was able to finish primary and secondary school. While in secondary school, I met an art teacher called Angelita; as her name states, she was an Angel to me. She encouraged me to paint. Nevertheless, all my teachers were also real angels. Each one in their own area would help and encourage me to move ahead.
Towards the end of secondary school, my life did not really have any direction since I did not have the means to continue studying due to the fact that our financial situation was precarious. So at times, I would make decorations for party events.
When I turned 18 and after attempting to find work at the DIF (National Mexican System for the Integral Development of the Family) Municipality, I was offered a preschool teaching position for kindergarten in the location where I lived.
It was wonderful for me to have my first job, so I put all my effort and dedication to give it my best. Since a good portion of the activities with the children were manual projects with paper and paints, I had the opportunity to greatly develop my talent for drawing and painting with my feet. This amused the kids and caused admiration from the other teachers.
I worked three years teaching kindergarten. My father had been suffering during the last years of some form of degenerative arthritis and he died in 1984 at the age of 84. This was a sad event for my mother and me. Again we started experiencing financial problems since I was the only one working.
The same year I met someone; we started a couple’s relationship and got pregnant. Unfortunately the relation did not last, and he left me with no help or support. Unluckily, during that time they changed directors at the DIF and I was left without a job. While trying to find a quick solution to the situation, I learned how to knit with my feet and I was able to sell some of my work. I also continued sketching and creating didactical material that the teachers would order to use in their classes.
In 1986 my first child was born. He and my mother depended on my income and my only hope was for God to help me find a solution to my problems. I knocked on many doors without finding an answer and I worked occasionally creating drawings.
I found work at a library were I would help adults to learn to read and a few children to do their homework. Seven years of my life went by without a stable situation for my family and with many difficulties. During sadness I could feel how much I worked extra to finally end up with sores on my feet after sitting and knitting, to end up receiving little money.
In 1993 I left my town to find new opportunities in the capital and I visited the offices of CONAFE (National Council for the Promotion of Education). While investigating about a job application I had left there before, I was pleased to find out that there was a vacancy for a Community instructor. Thank God, I had a formal job again.
Having some peace of mind with the financial situation, I was able to dedicate more time to another one of my dreams: be accepted in the School of Arts at the University of Durango. Unfortunately, my effort did not work since they were only accepting students that had not gone thru preparatory schooling. So again, my efforts were in vain.
During that time, my son´s father returned to try to work on our relationship, and again I got pregnant. My second child was born in 1995. Once again, the union did not work out and we separated. This time I was able to make sure he gave his sons child support, even though it only lasted for a period of time. He left his job and went to live in the U.S.A., abandoning us again and leaving us in a very desperate situation.
During that time, another person came into my life offering unconditional support for me and my children. So we started a new life together with this person and procreated a baby girl.
In 1999 I encountered a pamphlet of the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists. A light of hope shined in my existence immediately. I contacted the Association by sending a letter to get more information and to inquire about the requirements to obtain a scholarship.
After sending them samples of my work, I waited impatiently for the response which came towards the middle of 2001. I had been accepted as a scholarship grantee by the Association! That day I cried with happiness. It was like a dream come true.
When my first scholarship stipend arrived, I immediately registered in what had seemed my unreachable dream: the EPEA UJED (School of Painting, Sculpture and Arts and Crafts of the University of Juarez in the State of Durango). All this happened thanks to the financial help offered by the Painters Association. My life now is less difficult and I can now concentrate with greater enthusiasm in painting, the great love of my life.
Obtaining recognition and support from the Association has increased my self esteem, and I can see my future and my children’s future with greater optimism. I know with certainty that by dedicating my life to painting, I will be able to offer them a better life.