Ay vida mia,
no solo el fuego entre nosotros arde
sino toda la vida,
la simle historia,
el simple amor,
de una mujer y un hombre
parecidos a todas.

Ah my life,
it is not only the fire that burns between us
but all of life,
the simple story,
the simple love
of a woman and a man
like everyone.

-Pablo Neruda

Spanish Language Programming

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Dichos y poemas recuperan memorias de pacientes de Alzheimer

Building on programming begun in Santa Fe, New Mexico the APP has partnered with the Latino Geriatric Center,in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on a pilot project to create a curriculum of Spanish language programing to better serve people living with dementia whose first language is Spanish.

We are exploring the use of dichos or folk sayings that are passed mouth to ear, from one generation to the next. They serve as advice, or warnings, and are often funny. Similar in Haiku in length and in their passing on of wisdom, we have found a high level of response in people living with dementia. This hour long session which was led by Nelva Olin, the Adult Day Care, Program Coordinator. She began by using the APP technique of call and response. The session leader says a line of the dicho and has the group repeat after her. It is key to say the lines with enthusiasm and clarity and to get the group to match your level of energy.

Pan es pan, queso es queso
no hay amor sino hay un beso.

Program Director, Al Castor remembered hearing that particular dicho as a child and used as a rhyme that kids would jump rope to. Once the group was warmed up by saying the dicho and laughing at the words, Nelva, continued by asking each person to talk about their first kiss. This led to an enthusiastic response from each of the 12 participants. It seems each person has a story about their first kiss. The stories and the laughter were contagious.

Responses included one woman who said, "We never kissed, only held hands," which the group agreed was boring. Another women graphically pointed out where the boy had kissed her check, her lips and then drew a line at her neck and saying adamantly that, "he could not kiss me below here." Several said they had married the first person to kiss them. One talked about how he would wait by the river for his girl friend to come to get water for her family and they would kiss then.

Some talked about how food was scarce and that while cheese and bread were hard to come by their mother's kisses kept them full. You can see here that some of those lines made it into the poem below. In general each person would describe their first kiss and then they would use the structure of the dicho to add an image to the poem. By using a video camera of the sessions in the future we hope to increase our ability to have more direct dictation of the stories.

Bread is bread
Cheese is cheese
There is no love
Unless you kiss me.

No affection or kisses.
When I was a child,
I would ask my parents for bread and cheese.
They could not give it to me.
But they could give me love.

My first boyfriend, we only held hands.

Love is greater than bread and cheese.
When I went to the store,
there was no bread or cheese.
But I found a girl to kiss.

I would wait down by the river,
my girlfriend would come to get water for her family,
then we would kiss.

Girls don't kiss me.
They reject me.
No one ever loved me.
Only my mother loved me a bit.
My mother said, "I'll give you bread and cheese,
and if you don't eat these
I won't kiss you."

This means that if you have a boyfriend or a girlfriend
and you don't kiss them
you won't get bread either.

I told him,
you can kiss me here.
(she points to her cheek)
You can kiss me here.
(she points to her lips)
But you don't kiss me below here.
(She draws a line across her chin)

When you are a teenager
At 14, 15, or 16 you dream a lot
But at 18 you already know
to say yes or no,
then you can eat your dessert.

As Nelva asked each person to describe their first kiss she would once again have the person say the dicho using the call and response technique. The group would join in saying the words. This kept the energy high and by the end of the session a few participants were having a high level of recall of the words from the dicho . It was clear from this exercise that using the dicho as a starting point and theme to then tap into the participants life stories is an efficient and easily reproduced model. Other examples to explore would be dichos on marriage, good deeds, and friends, to name a few.

For the second half of the session we passed out tomatoes and Nelva read the opening lines from Neruda's Ode to Tomatoes. The group wrote a second poem about tomatoes and summer. The prompt Nelva used was to ask each person their thoughts on tomatoes and summer. This was less successful than the first half and it was determined that the Neruda poem was not as strong a match for the group, do to among other things their education level and the unfamiliarity with poetry in general and Neruda in particular.

A major difference was we no longer were proceeding asking person their thoughts with a group recitation of the lines of the poem. The difference in energy level and amount of laughter may also be contributable to the fact that first kisses are just much more stimulating than tomatoes. It did help to have the prop of the tomatoes and each person would hold and look at their tomato while responding to Nelva's prompt. Overall although the energy level has not as high the people remained engaged and created a interesting poem, that took some unexpected twists.


The sun will damage it,
or it will be smashed.
But it is refreshing in salad.

Tomato is good for the prostate.
Crushed with chili makes a good soup.
It presents half the year.
Abundant in the summer.

Half year when it is time to plant
And there are plenty of vegetables
the juice represents the people's happiness.

Tomato remember...
Last night I went by your house.
Your dogs followed me
They scared me so...
I wet my pants.

Just because I'm old
They think I don't know about love.
But I'm like the morning glory
always flowering and exploring.

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