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#OurStories: Play For Peace in Mexico: Working for Inclusion

“In learning the philosophy and the core values, as well as all of these activities, I have become more inspired to help others. The conversations we are having in the PFP community provide a lot of opportunity for reflection.” –Francisco Hueyatl León

Francisco Hueyatl León is a facilitator with Play for Peace Mexico City. An artist and educator, he graciously agreed to sit down with me a few weeks ago to tell me about himself and the work he is doing with his community in beautiful Mexico City! Read on to see our fabulous interview.

How did you get involved with Play For Peace?

I discovered PFP through the United Nations website – I saw a posting for a graphic designer and I applied. One month later, they answered me and we started to work together!

I was looking at the United Nations because, five years ago, I was living in Panama City and I was in touch with UNICEF. I worked with them on three projects, graphic design projects, and for me it was a great opportunity and a great experience. When I found the link to PFP, and when I read about their values, I related to it. All of these topics were very familiar to me, especially inclusion.

Are you involved with any other organizations at the moment?

Right now, just Play For Peace. I do, however, work a lot with the LBGTQ+ community here in Mexico.

I am also a teacher. Right now, I teach graphic design, art, and marketing resources at one of the universities. I am a visual artist, working as an illustrator. My work is based in Mexican traditions – skeletons, for example – and at the same time, my work is based in some social topics, like inclusion. To be more specific, I help trans women find inclusion in society through my artwork.

So you work with a lot of communities. Wonderful! And how would you say that PFP has helped your work?

I have learned a lot about the organization, and have worked with Sarah, Andres, and Imroz. In learning the philosophy and the core values, as well as all of these activities, I have become more inspired to help others. The conversations we are having in the PFP community provide a lot of opportunity for reflection: even in this conversation with you, it’s a kind of reflection, an opportunity to think about past activities. It’s good to reflect.

I love PFP and I love my work, although it does breed a mixture of frustration and happiness: frustration because it can be sad to know the real situation around discrimination and exclusion. It’s a challenge that I welcome, though, because I feel proud, and happy, to work with such great people and to help others. Discrimination is here in Mexico, and of course elsewhere, and is a very delicate topic. It can be in the family, the school, a part of our daily life. This is something that PFP is helping me change.

Can you tell me about some of the specific work you are doing with PFP?

I am a facilitator here in Mexico. We have a PFP club, with 10–12 boys. Last year, I was involved in 2 -3 graphic design projects. Over the years, my participation in PFP was focused around advertising, graphic design materials, and campaigns.

Great. Can you tell me a story involving your work with PFP that was meaningful to you?

Some time ago, Sarah and Andres came here to Mexico to give us information about the games. It was our training. This took place with all the guys here that are a part of the club. It was a great experience to play together. Sarah, Andres, and their daughter Sam were all teaching the activities. The boys and girls got connected very deeply to the activities – it was very emotional. We had the opportunity to connect with each other, and everyone shared their difficulties, their stories, their jokes. And I remember seeing all the guys and girls listening with full attention to them – Sam was a real master too! We were sharing some fruits and vegetables and drinks. It was very positive.

Why is PFP specifically important to your community?

In a workshop that I took with Imroz, I learned about non-violent communication. I think that in Mexican society, we need more education around non-violent or non-harmful communication. I think this will be very helpful. We make a lot of jokes, for example, and that can turn into bullying. I think we need more education around the power of words and how they can impact people if they come from the wrong place. When does a joke stop being a joke, for example. And the other thing is that Mexico has a lot of violence right now, in the streets, in many places, and I think that PFP can help us to have more respect for one another — to communicate peacefully.

Thanks Francisco for your thoughts, and the work that you do!