Jaguara Interacts with the audience
The El Triunfo biosphere reserve is known for the dense fog that creates a permanent cloud over the hills of Chiapas, Mexico. Within this rare Cloud Forest are thousands of endangered species, as well as villages of people currently being affected by biodiversity loss and climate change. In an effort to promote sustainable practices among different villages that reside within and around El Triunfo, Jaguara, Tapirgo, Mr. Ceiba and Quetzalo, the visually enchanting characters of the Guardians of the Mist theater performance toured eight communities during the month of February.
The main characters of the play captivated the populations of the communities of Escuintla, 3 de Mayo, Nuevo Paraiso, Jaltenango, Mapastepec, Vergel, Puerto Rico, and Montecristo. Some people needed to walk an hour to reach the town squares, schools or basketball courts where the production took place. Each production was wildly successful, reaching an average of 200 people per show.
According to Hector Moguel, the Communication Coordinator at the Fondo de Conservacion el Triunfo, the purpose was to bring isolated communities together and begin the conversation about sustainability, especially amongst children, and show them how important it is to preserve one of the world's most endangered ecosystems.
Sustainable practices benefit not only the life of the ecosystem, but the people as well. In Chiapas, where hills cover the landscape, many villages rely on agriculture for food production. If the land is not farmed using specific sustainable techniques, the soil can deteriorate, making it unusable in two years. This leads to cutting down trees to farm new soil. The trees in El Triunfo are extremely valuable as they hold the trademark fog. Without the trees, the fog turns to rain, causing flooding and mudslides in lower communities. "That is why it is important to take this Entertainment-Education approach, so that children can grow up having a different mentality than that of their parents," Hector said.
The animals and plant species are the protagonists in the Guardians of the Mist play. Although the people live within the biosphere, they do not see the animals depicted in the production. Enamored with the realistic costumes, the children were eager to know more about the characters. "It is a world of conservation, but it is a fascinating world like a comic book," Hector beamed. He went on to explain when the children see the animals in their home as heroes, those animals are incorporated into their lives. When the children play, they will want to be the Jaguar, the Quetzal or the Tapir. The animals will become important parts of their lives they want to protect. “Taking the theater play Guardians of the Mist to more communities of the sierra [of Chiapas] is taking the messages on conservation to the true guardians of the mist that are the children that live there… touch their hearts at the right time…"
Guardians of the Mist has since received multiple messages from various communities asking when they are going to visit. In an area where the people only come together for soap operas or football matches, pushing alternate activities is extremely difficult. The success of Guardians of the Mist is significant because it shows that this type of Entertainment-Education works. Hector hopes to continue taking the play to more communities and expand, adding workshops and other conservation activities.
Children wear Quetzalo's mask
Drama surrounded by mountains
Mr. Ceiba and school children
Everyone wants to be part of the story
No one wants to miss a moment of the play