At the school, there are several Latin American and Spanish teachers, who teach about 100 Syrian students between 18 and 45 years old.
The students have only stopped going to the academy when the war was felt in the city center, an area that has not been affected by violence as much as the suburbs of Damascus or other regions of the country.
“When we saw that the situation was serious, we suspended the classes (…) I always keep in touch with my students via WhatsApp”, explains the teacher.
The Peruvian recalls that, once, a mortar shell landed in the area where the academy was located. For this kind of reasons the academy has been moving its location in the past years. Luckily, no one ever got hurt.
Rojas points out that there have been “numerous attacks” in the capital during the past years, but the Hispanic Center always tried to have its headquarters “in areas where there were not too much risk”.
The school has also faced logistical problems due to the “economic sanctions” imposed on the government of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.
“We have difficulties to get the textbooks that we use in the classes and to buy them online,” she explains.
Language, culture and coexistence
Despite all this, the teacher feels proud and ensures that her center contributes to the dissemination of Spanish, as well as the “culture and gastronomy” of Spanish-speaking countries.
Furthermore, the academy is a space of coexistence, where students of different religions share their traditions.
“We celebrated Christmas, where Muslim students and Christians sang Christmas carols, and we also celebrated Ramadan and Aid (feast of the lamb), and that’s very beautiful,” Rojas said in reference to the most prominent festivities in Islam.
Centro Hipánico de Damasco seventh anniversary
Next April 12, students and teachers will celebrate the seventh anniversary of the academy. For this reason, students have prepared a folk dance, a theatre performance and, of course, a party, as Syrians “love Latin dances like salsa or bachata “.
The school has never been able to celebrate its anniversary the same day of its opening because the date is the samen than the date of the beginning of the popular revolt in Syria, on March 15, and that makes it more risky to carry out any activity.
“In the month of March, Damascus tends to experience attacks, which is why we usually cellebrate our anniversary in the month of April,” explains the teacher.
However, this 2019, when it is eight years since the beginning of the revolution that degraded into a bloody war, in Damascus “there have been no attacks and everything is much quieter” than in previous anniversaries, when violence was at the doorstep From the capital.
The conflict has not discouraged Rojas or made her give up her mission to teach Spanish in Syria and she has never wanted to leave the country: she says that she feels at home there and that people are “very kind, honest and sincere”.
In addition, she relativizes the risk of living in a country at war. “If it’s your turn, it’s your turn, here or wherever,” she adds.