ArtesMiami and Cuatrogatos with children from Centro Mater de Miami

January 18, 2021

Days ago we received a call from Dra Aida Levitan to propose that the Cuatrogatos Foundation participate in a project that the ArtesMiami organization, of which she is the founder and president, had just started. It is about bringing, in these difficult times that we are going through, different cultural activities to children from low-income families, and it is a project that is sponsored by the City of Miami, Mayor Francis Sánchez and the commissioners.

It is not the first time that Dr. Levitan has taken an interest in our work. In 2020, ArtesMiami granted us one of the grants given to various cultural organizations in the city to support her work in the midst of the difficulties of the covid-19. (In our case, the amount we received was used to partially cover the expenses of the annual Word Viva Weekend event). However, a few years ago, in 2014, ArtesMiami had already had the deference of granting the Cuatrogatos Foundation its annual ArtesMiami Holiday Award in the category of Best Cultural Institution of the year “for its continuous work in favor of culture and education, with an emphasis on children and youth ”.

"What do you need from us, Aida?" We asked him over the phone. “Carry out a literary event in Spanish for the children of the Centro Mater”. Our response: “Take it for granted. We will organize an author's visit ”.

The invitation moved us, because, after seven months confined to virtual work, we wanted to get back to school and see the faces –even with masks in between- of the children of our city.

An author at the Mater Center

Due to the security measures imposed by the pandemic, it was decided with Madelyn Llanes, director of the Mater Center, that she would work with three groups of ten children each, consecutively, in tents located in the front yard of the institution . Their ages? Between three and four years; well, and some other "big", five.

We loved visiting the headquarters of the amazing Centro Mater and that - masks, plastic masks, thermometers to measure temperature and disinfectant gels in between - sharing stories and poems with about thirty little ones.

Looking back and forth

Centro Mater was created in 1968 by Sister Margarita Miranda Otero, a religious of the Order of the Sacred Heart in Cuba. The purpose of it was to help with childcare services to the new families of Cuban exiles who arrived in Miami escaping from the radical social changes that occurred in their country, including the imposition of a unique educational system established by the government; the nationalization of all the written press, radio and television, and the prohibition of any type of private business, just to mention a few.

Most of those families - some from skilled professionals - came to the United States to start from scratch, and many mothers had no one to leave their preschool children with while they worked for a living.

Over time, the Mater Center grew and diversified its services, and the Cubans who benefited from its work were joined by numerous immigrants from Central America living in Miami. The philosophy of the Center has remained the same: to support lower-income families, without distinction of religion, race or nationality.

Currently, the Center has three locations (Miami, Hialeah and Hialeah Gardens) and serves more than 1,200 children annually. The little ones receive their classes in these institutions; the elderly are welcomed, once they conclude their school days in public schools, to participate in various educational and recreational programs until late in the afternoon, when their parents pick them up.

A rewarding morning

We loved the warm welcome received by the stories and poems of his authorship that Antonio Orlando Rodríguez read to the children. Although, to guarantee a successful closing in each of the three meetings, at the end of them the author made use of the infallible stories of the Ediciones Ekaré Paper Theater. (What is the magic that makes these and other children - who are used to all kinds of electronic devices and video games - fascinated when they hear a voice telling them a story and when they see how illustrations printed on cardboard sheets appear in the stage of a modest wooden theater?)

There was not the slightest doubt about the children's enthusiasm for the attention they gave the writer, for the sparkle in their eyes and for the smiles that could be guessed behind his masks. Rarely have we had the opportunity to do a literary activity with such an enthusiastic and disciplined group of preschool children.

As a complement to the visit, a video will be delivered to the Center in which Rodríguez will read his texts so that they can be enjoyed in their classrooms by everyone.