Alex Rocha is a tour guide on a mission. His mission is simple: to change the face of the barrios where he grew up. He’s looking for volunteers who can help him. Charity starts at home they say and this certified tour guide with over ten years of experience, who speaks fluent English and has worked as a translator, a teacher and mentor is determined to leave his mark in the barrio where he was brought up.
Right beside the Cartagena airport is a neighbourhood that despite being the first place most visitors to Cartagena see is one people rarely go back to. The barrio that welcomes you to Cartagena is a place that few would recommend you visit. Not Alex. There are no horse-drawn carriages offering romantic strolls in this part of town, no sandy beaches or fancy restaurants but he still wants to take you there.
Education. The schools are not focused on keeping the kids in school. They should be visiting the houses of these kids to see how they are living, and talking to the parents. They don’t do that. They need to work with the families to keep the kids off the streets. It’s a lack of caring, they just want to manipulate the system.
This city comes from a background of slavery. Seventy percent of its people come from an African background. The people who run the city want to keep it the same. I lived the same way as these kids are living now.
When I was growing up, no one ever came to my house to see how I was doing. There were never any programs to help me. I never felt like they cared. If you go to the South-East of Cartagena, all of these neighbourhoods – El Pozón, Olaya, Líbano, La Candelaria, San Francisco just to name a few — they are all African American communities and they all have the worst living conditions.
How can people get involved?
I’m not asking for money. I am asking for skills and knowledge. We want people that come here to teach the children what they know, to give them better opportunities. It can be anything; dancing, singing, baseball. There is always something for everyone. For example if someone knows how to make kites — they can come to the centre and give classes on kite-making.
In Cartagena there is a season for kite flying, so if someone knows how to make kites here, it can be a good opportunity.