Breaking down barriers to communication

We are both from Beasain, Gipuzkoa. I, Lourdes, was born first. Because nobody knew what I had, we visited many clinics. Five years later, aita and ama decided to have another child. A little brother who would help them with me as he got older. However, when Mentxu arrived... hell's bells! We were almost alike! They had hoped for a solution and they had an even bigger problem. Now we would both go from clinic to clinic although everything was in vain. They never healed, cured or rehabilitated anyone there.

As we grew older it became clearer to us: the difficulties didn't lie within us but rather with the society we lived in, its workings, design aim, planning and creation for an inexistent "normality" that nevertheless excluded and marginalised us for the mere fact that we were different, denying us the condition of human beings and ignoring our most elemental rights. That is why we knew from a young age that survival, autonomy and social inclusion where going to be the prime objective to overcome and that without communication it would be impossible.

So, the creation, development, evolution and sorting out of different ways of communicating accentuated our lives, the passing of time and the conquest of our own spaces. Neuroplasticity in its pure state.

Despite everything, we never saw or lived our lives as a drama, but rather like a school, a never ending chain of opportunities, where only those who attain happiness graduate. Although no primary or secondary school wanted to accept us, we had to study very hard, until Mentxu obtained her doctorate in Psychology with honours. For me the basics were sufficient: read the alphabet and the 4 mathematical operations that ama had shown us both at home, without any more teaching abilities than a smack to the head to quickly smarten up.

Torrents of creativity and effort to plot ourselves a destiny; always brandishing an ample sense of humour, not as a defence mechanism but rather as an exhibition of mental and moral strength to face everything that was put in our path. We worked hard in many things until we retired. Modern psychology calls all this Resilience.

Until our great invention came, the "Arrieta method". We registered and patented it. We already had a valid, coded and verbal form although nothing phonetic; purely visual, to communicate with each other. A system based on optical writing. Now the account of the routine and the description of the intangible flow, acquiring a new dimension. Mentxu could translate the rest of what I wanted, felt and thought with absolute accuracy. It was hard to obtain an authentic certificate of origin!

Evidently, without a stimulus we wouldn't have been able to conquer or develop our own language. In other words, our greatest challenge is and has always been overcoming our own limitations, unlike the rest who are born with an established language, a gift. An essential tool to survive and socialise, allowing them from their first babblings to establish their distinguishing traits. We were also born with the ability to communicate, but unlike the majority, without that established, regulated, normalised language and without the most minimum possibility for anyone to teach us one, or even understand us; without speech, means or codes. Each step we took was fundamental in the learning, and consolidation, of different languages and ways of communicating which we literally had to experiment with, refine, reject and reinvent to escape the silence, isolation, and incommunication. Reasserting ourselves as human beings capable of surviving, integrating and demonstrating our usefulness. We literally had to remould our brains, testing the operation of new neural connections, living, day by day, the evolution of our emotions, thoughts and physical actions. So many changes and muddling in the most absolute silence. Create a language; such a basic and elemental instrument, inherent to every culture, signified the culmination of a long gestation process for both. It was not a spontaneous act for two little ones to learn to speak. For us it was a great feat, epic.

We almost always do what we want, living each instant to the very end. We have become what are, being daring in each predicament, without any weapons or strategies other than mutual understanding, with DNA which taught us to overcome death itself.

Death, for us, is not a fact of life. Living it to the fullest is.

El método Arrieta is not our biography or what it is we had to live through. Neither does it recreate any story of survival, perseverance or ability to fight. Do not wait to see a typical documentary. It is simply the portrait of a moment in our lives, when we met Jorge Gil, director of the documentary, and he decided to follow our routine activities and life by pure and simple observation, the most effective tool to unveil and take in the most of our souls in the day to day.

Lourdes and Mentxu Arrieta

Film: El método Arrieta

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  • Donostiako Udala. Ayuntamiento de San Sebastián
  • San Sebastián: ciudad de la cultura
  • AIETE: Casa de la Paz y los Derechos Humanos