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Drumming in Mexican Prisons

by Luix Saldaña

When I first started to toy with the idea of holding facilitated drumcircles in Mexican prisons, I was a beginner facilitator and had a vague notion of the possible positive impact on the inmates; furthermore I was a bit apprehensive about their receptiveness and their first reaction to my coming. There was also an additional concern... the security of my gear, I was told numerous times by guards and even by several inmates to be very careful and keep a constant watch, especially over the small percussion.

But truly I never imagined that it was going to be so effective and so enriching for them as well as for myself, basically, prisons had been my main training ground, and still when I want to try something new and absolutely alien, that’s the place where I feel most free and more comfortable to experiment. “They are so open, so eager to learn, so free and absolutely hungry for the drum-medicine”.

One of the many things I have learned and developed with them and which they absolutely love is the guided imagery.... a soft and slow heart beat and there we go out of prison to the beach, to the mountains, to a family gathering or to a journey to the stars: I have named this section "The Great Escape". Together we have gone from open laughter to heartfelt tears and from deep trance to dance cadence.

As for the inmates, I have served around 13,000 people, a few thousand of those from high security facilities and without fail (passing the initial and natural mistrust) the general response to the drumcircles has been one of cooperation, self delivery and deep gratitude, and up to this day I have never lost a single instrument and I am always warmly welcomed and genuinely appreciated. In general these people are deeply grateful for the medicine that group drumming brings to their lives.

In the intro speech I explain my motives and goals regarding my work with them, and that’s been the key on setting a general mood of good will, camaraderie and bonding.
As the project is been planed with a long term vision, is very demanding, personal resources are not sufficient and financial institutional help is non existent, I have launched a fundraising campaign to help out with expenses and the acquisition of more drums and percussions to be able to better serve this population.

And so… slowly but surely more drums are manifesting themselves and the drumcircles in Mexican prisons keep swelling.

For the drums will make us all free, as we might learn that no one can imprison our souls.

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