“When I started being a father, I wasn’t ready. Things are great now but I struggled with substance abuse for a long time. I have three older children and I wasn’t very present with them. I’m fifty-one now and this is my last chance. So I’m trying to do my best with this one. He’s my little baby. Thankfully I’m good friends with his mother so I’m able to see him every day. But I’ve never lived with him. I don’t wake him up in the morning or help him get ready for school. I hear my other friends talking about these things and I just hate it. It makes me feel so guilty. But I’m doing my best. It’s not the best. But it’s my best.” (São Paulo, Brazil)
“I’ve been doing construction since I was fifteen. I like what I do and I do what I like. Every night when I’m heading home, I always look back to see what I’ve built. It gives me a great sense of joy. A few years ago I built a children’s park not far from here, and when they finally opened the gates, and all the children came running in, I started to cry.” (São Paulo, Brazil)
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“He didn’t begin speaking until the age of seven. He used to hide everywhere. I’d scream for him but he wouldn’t respond to anything. Once when he was three years old, one of his uncles came into the house wearing a baseball cap to the side. He started screaming and I couldn’t calm him. I couldn’t even get him to look me in the eye. But eventually I tried pulling the cap to the front, and he fell completely silent. I brought him back to his room to calm down. And when i walked in a few minutes later, he had built an amazing castle out of playing cards.” (Cordoba, Argentina)
“I was raised in a non-religious family, but certain experiences in life have caused me to connect with something that I can’t explain. Those experiences are like my paintings. The more I try to describe them, the more they lose their meaning." (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
“I grew up in a rural town. I was the only girl in the family. Being a girl back then represented a lot of ‘no’s.’ I wanted to study English, the answer was ‘no.’ I wanted to play guitar, the answer was ‘no.’ I wanted to date a boy, the answer was ‘no.’ I felt like there was a barrier separating me from life. The only thing my family wanted for me was to graduate high school, get married, become a teacher, and spend every Sunday with them. So I stayed. And I got pregnant at twenty-five. But my child died during birth. I felt completely drowned. I don’t even remember the passing of time. I lost an entire year of my life. But I eventually reached a moment where I knew that my only chance was to make a major change. And I finally left that town.” (Rosario, Argentina)
“My brother shot himself last November. He always viewed himself as my superior. He’d never come to my door when he visited. He’d always wait in the car for me to come out. He had more money, more lovers, more everything. But he was always searching for more. He was never satisfied. My brother was a character. He was a successful character, but he was a character. And that character ended up eating him.” (Cordoba, Argentina)
“He proposed to me twenty times over the past forty years, but I kept saying ‘no.’ We were doing just fine without the paper. But our kids are more conservative than us. It was the opposite of normal—we were getting pressured from below. We’re on our honeymoon now.” (Bariloche, Argentina)
“Last December my wife lost her job, and now we’re struggling to get to the end of every month. Around the 20th, we always realize there’s no money left. Half of my paycheck goes to rent. And we’re still in debt from our wedding. We can’t afford to go out anymore. Our diets have changed. Now it seems like money is all we talk about: what bills to pay, what to keep, what to leave out. She thinks I spend on the wrong things. I think she spends on the wrong things. So we end up arguing. But I have faith we will pass this test. Both of us came from difficult backgrounds. She was adopted. My mother abandoned me when I was young. We both know what it means to struggle, and that’s why we chose to be together. I came to this city from a small town because I was looking for happiness. And I found my happiness in her. So we’re going to figure this out.” (Rosario, Argentina)
“I water my lawn every morning and birds come to get worms out of the wet ground. If I ever miss a day, the ground will be too hard, and the birds will sit in the yard and call out because their babies are hungry. That’s how I’ve felt my whole life. Like a bird calling out for food. Thirty years ago I went on strike in this same square. We weren’t getting paychecks. There was no money for bills or food. At the time my sons were one, eight, and nine. So we decided to go camping. I’d go fishing on the lake every night and catch two trout. That was enough to feed the four of us. We did it out of necessity but it was beautiful. My sons are in their thirties now. All of them have flown away. But they remember those times with happiness.” (San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina)
“She wasn’t naming things like other children her age. She wasn’t pointing at things. She would never respond when we tried to correct her. Often small things would upset her, and we’d try to comfort her, but nothing worked. All I wanted to do was tell her that I loved her and everything would be ‘ok.’ But she would push away if I tried to hug or kiss her. She was my little girl but I couldn’t even hold her. All I ever did was worry about her. We go to a therapist twice a week now, and things are getting better. Everything began to change a few months ago. She pulled me by the hand one morning to show me what she found. And sometimes she looks at me and listens. She’s the first one to wake up in the morning, and she’ll come to the side of the bed, and ask to lie next to us. And she even loves to get hugs and kisses.” (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
“There were early signs. I used to have this feeling that I could manipulate the future. I got lucky at casinos, and I thought it was because I had the power to control events. I was a biology teacher back then. I was married with four kids. I read three books per week. I was only getting a few hours of sleep every night. Then one morning on the bus I had a break from reality. I was speaking to a friend, and I started to understand her in a completely different way. And the things I understood were evil. It was like my entire mental structure had changed. I began to frighten people. I lost all filters. I would say all of the strange things that I was thinking. People thought I was on drugs. I lost my job. My wife went to her mother’s place with the kids. I ended up sleeping on the streets. It took me years to realize I had schizophrenia. I was put in a psychiatric ward for two months. Now I’m taking three different medications. I’m reading books again. I’ve got some self-esteem back. I’m building a relationship with my kids. But I’m still fighting it. It’s always there. It doesn’t come and go. It’s a continuous way of looking at the world that I must keep pushing back against.” (Cordoba, Argentina)
“I’m the link between him and the rest of the world. It can be an exhausting role. When things go well, I feel an increased sense of responsibility. It felt like the audience was clapping for both of us when he graduated from primary school. But I also feel an increased sense of responsibility when things go wrong. He has difficulties in crowds of people. A few years ago he got very nervous at the supermarket, and he pushed a young girl. Her father got very angry and started screaming at me. Part of me felt guilty for what happened. But part of me wished that more people understood what I go through. We haven’t been to a supermarket since that incident. The best moments for me are when he’s able to link to the world without me. Last Thursday we were visiting another girl with Downs Syndrome. And she was having a bad day. There was very little communication. So he tried to give her a box of dominos as a gift. But she refused. So he tried again. But she refused again. They went back and forth like this for a while, until the girl started to view it as a game, and she started to smile. Then he gave her a hug. A real hug with feeling. He made a connection. And it was his idea. Not mine.” (Rosario, Argentina)
"I hate being a kid because my video games are too hard." (Cordoba, Argentina)
“She lost her back legs when she got hit by a car. She’d already been returned to the shelter twice already. She’s a lot of work. It’s almost like having a child. You need to be very patient. You always need to change her diaper. It’s very hard to find a babysitter. But I’ve had her for 1.5 years now and I can’t imagine life without her. Everyone loves Lucy. And Lucy loves everyone. She can’t wag her tail, so I was worried that I’d never know if she was happy. But she tells me with her eyes.” (Rosario, Argentina)
“I met him five years ago. He answered an advertisement that I posted for cleaning services. His place was a mess. He was living like a hermit. He was a hypochondriac. His wife passed away in 2007, so he was just sitting around on the computer and waiting to die. Now we are like family. I visit him every day. We have over 5,000 pictures together. We go shopping. We go on walks. He even cooks now. He has given me a purpose. All of his accomplishments make me proud. Sometimes I feel like I’ve created a monster! He’s become a completely different person.“ (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
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