Silva-Juan Jose

Juan visited CIE in Fall 2013 and took the opportunity to reflect on his time at CIE and his career as a popular educator in Chile over the years since then.


It is true though, that I did not study much, but in exchange I stole an idea from a project sponsored by CIE in the Ecuadorian sierra of using the so-called "salon games" or card games as educative tools for impoverished adults. As a matter of fact, I never had the chance to see the game "La Hacienda", as it was being developed at the time and used in the context of such project However, it became clear in my mind that most card games work with the logic of truly "alienating" the players, taking them out of their own realities, sometimes even making them to impersonate odd roles, from police detectives or bankers, to stock brokers. This way people have fun and "pass the time", with the game helping them to forget their everyday problems. This made me think that, on the other hand, if I were able to develop games that would submerge the players into their own realities, playing their own roles, allowing them to share, analyze, and compare their different life experiences, interchange useful information and survival strategies, they would finally be adding a more profound meaning to their own lives through these sessions.


Following my return to Chile, and for the next 25 years, working for the same NGO that sent me to this kind of exile, I dedicated myself to develop the widest variety of educational games for adults, some of which were printed and distributed throughout the country. The very first ones though, were made and drawn by hand in a very "primitive" way. These were made to be used with small rural communities as well as with groups of youngsters and adults in poor urban settings. One of the most successful of this period was called "El Campo y la Ciudad" made with the purpose of reviewing and analyzing with actual and/or potential migrants’ participation, the massive migration phenomenon from the rural zones to the urban areas, that by the 60's and 70's plagued the Latin American cities with a wide ring of poverty.


Later, along with the decline of the Pinochet dictatorship, the main themes for these games were the laws involved with the electoral system to be used in the plebiscite that would put an end to his rule, the complexities and norms that would apply to the system of political parties that had survived the winter time, and the civic education that would bring back democracy. Evidently those themes had been forgotten by a whole generation. Some of these games were printed in the order of 15 to 20 thousand copies, which I believe, in my country (and many others) constituted a record. These games were spread by means of a pretty effective system of enchainment of facilitators and end users, which sadly, was never effectively evaluated due to the lack of resources.


As time went by, my work in this field introduced and later led me into the area of training of educators and popular leaders. This and other decisions and/or accidents in life, led me to participate in many encounters, trips, and seminars in different countries, including some time in Guatemala and over a year of hard work in Brazil.

But all that is behind me now. There is nothing left of those wonderful materials. Disappointed by the "coup of democracy" that came after the dictatorship I finally managed to get fired, partly accused of being too much of a "fundamentalist", persisting to work in the area of popular education, and not wanting to join the institutionalized work for the policy makers that were almost totally neglecting what we had been doing before.


On my last few active years I spent some time working for the Chilean IRS as a consultant in the human resources department, which in the end resulted in a wonderful experience. Today, going into my autumn years, I am finally retired with a very low retirement pension, using money I don't have, just to buy common medicines, as it usually happens in third world countries; however, I am most proud and happy of my marriage of 45 years, (my wife still works to sustain the family) and of my three grown up kids that won't let me eat or drink the things I like.


Thanks CIE for having me revue almost all of my working life in thirty lines!



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