Starting a Waldorf School in Puebla, Mexico
by Lenya Bloom
It took me until college to feel like a Waldorf student. It's funny how that awareness aligned with the end of my third 7-year life cycle. I could feel my parents (SFWS pioneers Dr. Joan Caldarera and John Bloom) and Waldorf teachers nodding knowingly from afar; I didn't have to say anything—they knew when I lost my first tooth that this day would come. Other Waldorf graduates know what I'm talking about: that moment of impact in a college seminar when you realize that all modern literature is based on the archetypes that so vividly populated your early imagination and burgeoning self-awareness as a grade-schooler; and that looking at science phenomenologically is actually not a methodology but a way of life; and that every story you read or hear from news to foreign literature carries both practical information and its less tangible counterpart—spiritual significance; and that each classmate, no matter how self-aggrandizing or timid, is part of the same whole of which you, too, are but another humble element. Yet, because none of this is really new, just finally comprehensible, you just move along as usual.
But lo and behold, the dawn of professional life brings it about again: what is my impact, how can I make the system (whichever system) better, who are my colleagues, where is the love, am I happy?
This is where the wonderful skill of resilience comes into play and I have found it to be the most important element in seeking professional and individual satisfaction; move on, cross borders, cross barriers, renew yourself, and try again. In response to my deeply seeded urge to create something for people, through justice and love and toward community, destiny found me (again the knowing nods).
I live in Puebla, Mexico, a big city in an elevated valley at the foot of the active Popocatepetl volcano and the birth place of Cinco de Mayo. This is where, as a new mother, I desperately looked for a school that would complement my beliefs, uphold our family culture, break through the paradigms of classroom life, and allow my children to grow up in wonder, freedom, beauty, fearlessness, and love. My husband and I enrolled our first child in a school we found more or less acceptable. But as our child grew, it became less and less appealing, and suddenly I could deeply empathize with my parents' life work. They must have known what I finally came to understand—there is only one pedagogy that truly protects, champions, nurtures, and comprehends the timeless needs of all children anywhere in the world. I started to want a Waldorf School for Puebla, for our family.
My feelings were more complex than nostalgia for a childhood fondly remembered; there was an actual edge of desperation to my longing. Having worked with students in Mexico prior to starting a family, I already had an idea with whom my children would study and eventually work as they grew and knew that they would need the same tools I feel are indispensable in my own life, tools I attribute to my Waldorf education, such as adaptability, morality, open-mindedness, self-worth, empathy, and aesthetic appreciation. It was during this time that a group of women with a bold idea came knocking (literally), and together in 2015 we founded Escuela Raíces Waldorf Initiative.
The name of the school "Raíces" is Spanish for "roots." How symbolic it is for me! These are my roots. I was born as my parents helped found the San Francisco Waldorf School; my second daughter was born as I helped found Escuela Raíces, almost as if this initiative is sprouting from a seed dropped by a now mature plant that took root almost forty years ago. For me, the relationship seems so natural that I reached out to my alma mater (SFWS) and asked it to be our sister school in hopes of cultivating a symbiotic, cross-cultural, cross-border, cross-language relationship that could bring our collective student bodies closer together, at least in spirit and awareness as a salve for each country's future.
Our nursery programs now send one another handmade gifts twice a year. Our third graders are international pen pals. And during the first semester of this school year, we received recent SFWHS graduate Sofia Salusso as a volunteer in our kindergarten during a portion of her gap year.
Our school community now has almost 110 students from nursery to 4th grade. This means that 80 families in Puebla and Cholula are working together, studying together, raising one another up through applied love and generosity—a microcosm of the world we want our children to recreate every day of their adult life. When I sit in social assembly with all these pioneers, I again feel how among them the dawning creeps in, and I see what it means to be a Waldorf student in the world.
In support of Escuela Raíces in Cholula, Puebla, donations are accepted through their school fund at RSF Social Finance or through their Go Fund Me Campus Fundraising effort. Lenya's school also welcomes visitors from abroad. She can be contacted directly with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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