Omar RÍOS MARTÍNEZ
Birthplace: Hidalgo, Mexico
scholarship holder of AMFPA since: 2009
Painting Method: Mouth painter
My name is Omar Ríos Martínez and I was born on July 16, 1989.
My parents did not realize that I was born with a motor disability until I was 18 months old. During that phase of my life, we lived in the home of my maternal grandfather in Hidalgo. When my parents noticed that I did not carry out the activities that other kids my age could, they became very worried and took me to the General Hospital of Hidalgo. There they were told that I had a disability called infantile cerebral paralysis.
My parents decided to take me to the Federal District to be seen at the General Hospital of Mexico. There I received therapy treatments 3 times a week for two years. After, the therapies continued daily at home, and I would return every three months to the hospital for an evaluation. I also received massages in a massage center in the State of Hidalgo for a year and a half. By then, I was three and half years old.
After realizing that my development was slow, my parents took me to Reynes Hospital located in Xotepingo, Hidalgo. The hospital informed us that I did not require any surgery, but another type of therapy. I was then sent to the children´s Hospital IMAN. My parents requested an evaluation from this hospital and they concluded that I should be taken to the Attention Center Gaby Brimmer of the DIF (National System for the Integral Development of the Family).
The center opened a file in my name and in 1992 my therapy started three times a week. By then, I was 4, and during this time, which lasted around a year and a half, we lived at my uncle Pedro’s house, my father’s brother.
At the Gaby Brimmer Center I was evaluated by a psychologist that saw me for three months to evaluate my capacity to go to school. During this time we lived at my uncle Victor’s house. During this phase I improved a lot in my rehabilitation; I could sit and was starting to stand.
In 1994 at the age of 5, I attended the kindergarten of the same rehabilitation center “Gaby Brimmer”. As a requirement, I had to live in the Federal District, so we went back to live with my uncle Pedro, who lives in Santa Martha Acatitla.
The school is located inside the rehabilitation center, so when I a left school I would go to rehab three times a week. Besides this, every three months I would be evaluated to check on my progress.
In 1996 I went to primary school at CAM No. II of DIF where I did my six years without repeating a single year.
For financial reasons we had the need to go back and live with my uncle Víctor. Fortunately, my parents reached an agreement with the transportation service that took me to school, which allowed me to continue my studies.
Some changes also happened in the family during these times. My brother Rubén was born and I was able to live with my cousins for a longer time. When I was on vacation I would go out a play football with my cousins. I would move around with a wooden walker that my dad made for my size.
As to schooling, I was in the second year when I realized that it was easier to write with my mouth than with my hand, and my writing was clearer. During that year, I also received a few recognitions for participating in academic activities as well as in sports.
When I got to the fifth year, I was still going to therapies as they were scheduled. So I would also take advantage of the time by taking French, English and Italian classes. However, the teacher that gave us these classes was hired to help in our care and feeding. For this reason, I don’t have any document to proof that I took those language classes. These courses lasted 8 months. My therapy rehab sessions were later changed to the same schedule of my language classes and I had to discontinue them.
In primary I was the best student and was congratulated for my academic performance. Because of this, I was named representative of the flag. My parents adapted a tube to my wheelchair to carry the flag. Also during this time it was impossible for my mother to take me from Chalco to Cárcel to wait for transportation since she was pregnant from my brother Eder. So we decided to rent a room in Santa Martha Acatitla; we concluded that we were spending the same in transportation as the cost of renting a room.
When I was in the sixth grade, I participated in a guard escort contest integrated by disabled students. This took place in the Military School where various CAM participated. We won eight place in the contest so we did not get a certificate.
When I did my entrance exam for secondary school, I got the highest grade in the group. During the first weeks in secondary, I found it difficult because my sixth grade teacher had told me that I was not capable of going thru secondary schooling. Nevertheless, my mother always encouraged me. At that time we had to leave the room we were renting because we were asked to vacate.
During high school I realized what studying was really about. Much more was demanded of us and it was more difficult. But at the same time, it also allowed me to make new friends and meet new teachers.
During this time, I took workshops in plastic arts, learning to work with metal (repoussé), glass staining, oil painting and molding, among others. After six months, I started participating in painting and posters´ contests.
Academically during my second year of school, I was awarded recognition as the most outstanding student in the school, and was given the designation of flag bearer of the escort.
An assembly was called for an academic evaluation and the director had chosen me to take a test. I was not allowed to take it since it was believed that I would wet the test page with saliva. So soon after, the newspaper got a hold of this information and wrote about it.
I finished secondary school in three years with a good grade point average. So the decision to continue studying had to be made and it became a very difficult one.
After attending workshops about different schools and bachelor degrees, I decided to attend Conalep (National School of Technical and Professional Education) Iztapalapa as a first option since it was close to home. I selected the degree of Assistant Director. When I presented the CENEVAL (Evaluation National Center) oral test, I was correct 64 times and was accepted to the school with the option selected in Iztapalapa.
When I started in CONALEP, the environment was totally different. I had to coexist with classmates with no disabilities, and I had to adapt and work at their same rhythm. Besides, the projects were designed for people with no disabilities, so it was not easy for me to keep the same tempo. Nevertheless, I was able to keep the speed of progress with the help of cousins who would listen to my recount of the classes and wrote my homework instructions. I also received much support from my classmates who would use carbon paper to copy notes for me and at home I would paste these to my notebooks. In this manner I was able to keep the pace.
Some professors thought that it would be difficult for them to adapt their classes to my disability needs, but I was able to prove to them that I could adapt to their method of working.
After a few semesters I improved my performance, and this was reflected in my grades. One of the most wonderful events that happened was that my history teacher saw a painting I created with my mouth and she asked if I had done it myself. She then proceeded to hand me a pamphlet of the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists. I immediately got in contact by telephone and Mr. John Grepe explained how to proceed with the application to be accepted as a grantee.
I continued preparing and sent 5 of my best work to the central office of the Association together with the personal documents requested. It was on March 1, 2009 that I was granted a scholarship to develop myself as an artist and become a professional.
During the time I was in Conalep many things happened. On one occasion, my brother and I were on our way to the bookstore and he was pulling my wheelchair with his bicycle. My wheelchair tripped and turned over; I got hit on the face and lost 3 teeth. This prevented me from writing for a very long time.
I did my social service requirement in 3 months in the same school where I studied in the Promotion and Association office, capturing vacancies that came in for the job center.
Amongst my scholastic activities I participated in events such as Expo PYME (Small and Medium Companies), where I was part of a work team designing, producing and promoting stained glass work, glass photo frames and other crystal crafts, as well as molded oil paintings created by me.
Thanks to the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists I have been able to take individual painting classes learning different techniques. All this has given sense to this phase in my life, and my dream is to become a professional artist.