Spanish French

Episode 49: Jaime, el artista (Jaime, The Artist)

By Duolingo on Thu 06 February 2020

A Spanish fashion designer works hard to give her autistic son every opportunity—then discovers that he has a special talent and makes him her business partner.

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Transcript

Martina: When Jaime Martínez Alonso was 5 years old, he used to ride his tricycle for hours up and down a long hallway at his parents' house in Madrid. His mother, Soledad, noticed that Jaime would stop to draw on a piece of cardboard that was resting on the handlebars.

Soledad: Mientras dibujaba, Jaime cantaba la canción del Rey león.

Martina: El rey león is The Lion King. After he was done with that particular drawing, Jaime would start riding his tricycle up and down the corridor again, until the next time he decided to stop and draw.

Soledad: Jaime dibujaba cebras, trenes, jirafas, dinosaurios… Él pasaba horas en el triciclo y también dibujando.

Martina: And Jaime didn't just draw all over his piece of cardboard. He would draw all over the walls of the long hallway, too!

Soledad: Yo creo que muchos padres se enojan por estas cosas, pero nosotros no.

Martina: That's because Jaime has autism and talking doesn't come easily to him. When his parents realized that drawing on the wall could be a way for him to communicate, they didn't just accept it. They encouraged it.

Soledad: Nosotros decidimos transformar la pared en una pizarra para Jaime. Él podía dibujar ahí y así comunicarse con nosotros y con el mundo.

Martina: Soledad and her husband, Javier, were happy to give Jaime a life-sized canvas. It was a small price to pay for what they were afraid he'd have to endure as a grown up. What they didn't know then, is that Jaime's art would one day become the key to his self-sufficiency.

Bienvenidos and welcome to the Duolingo Spanish Podcast—I'm Martina Castro. Every episode, we bring you fascinating true stories, to help you improve your Spanish listening, and gain new perspectives on the world.

The storyteller will be using intermediate Spanish and I'll be chiming in for context in English. If you miss something, you can always skip back and listen again. We also offer full transcripts at podcast.duolingo.com.

And a special note on the Spanish accent: the Z and the soft C are pronounced with a "TH" sound. So “zapatos” would be pronounced "thapatos", or "canción" would be "canthión."

Martina: Soledad Alonso, who goes by Sole, knew Jaime was different, ever since he was 1 year old.

Soledad: Jaime no me miraba a los ojos. Cuando yo lo llamaba, él no me respondía. Al principio, pensábamos que era sordo.

Martina: Sole thought Jaime might be deaf, or sordo. She took him to every doctor she could think of. But they all said the same thing: there wasn't anything wrong with him.

Soledad: El pediatra dijo que Jaime era un niño normal. El neurólogo dijo que no le pasaba nada. No era sordo, pero tenía dos años y todavía no había empezado a hablar.

Martina: Sole thought it was strange that Jaime wasn't talking yet because her older son had started saying a few words by the same age. Jaime also had other traits that made Sole realize he wasn't like his brother.

Soledad: Cuando él jugaba con su coche de juguete, lo ponía boca abajo y miraba las ruedas muy de cerca. A veces, Jaime caminaba sobre los dedos de sus pies o se quedaba mirando a la pared. Otras veces, movía los brazos como un pájaro.

Martina: Sole was anxious to know why Jaime was different. Her husband Javier thought she was exaggerating—but Sole was sure of her gut instinct on this. So one day, she stayed home from work to spend time with Jaime, and try to understand him.

Soledad: Primero, traté de darle de comer. Yo le dije: "¡Abre la boca que aquí viene el avión!", pero Jaime ni siquiera me miró.

Martina: Jaime would only look at Sole when she waved her arms in front of him. She had to exaggerate her facial expressions, and he still barely paid attention to her.

Soledad: Después de tratar con la comida, fuimos a jugar al cuarto de Jaime. La película El rey león había salido ese año. ¡A Jaime le encantaba! También le gustaba jugar con plastilina, así que hice un pequeño Pumba de plastilina, pero a Jaime no le importó.

Martina: While Sole was sculpting a Pumba out of clay for him, Jaime turned his back to her, and started rolling some clay on the floor.

Soledad: Yo estaba desesperada porque no podía conectarme con mi hijo. Me sentía frustrada, así que decidí llevarlo al parque.

Martina: El Retiro is a big park in Madrid near Sole's neighborhood. It takes about 20 minutes to walk from one end of it to the other.

Soledad: Jaime empezó a caminar por el parque y se iba muy lejos de donde yo estaba. Cuando lo llamaba, él no me prestaba atención. Yo corría hacia donde estaba él, pero él se escapaba.

Martina: Sole wasn't able to connect with Jaime that day. She returned home defeated, and insisted to her husband that they take Jaime to a psychologist.

Soledad: Fuimos a ver a muchos psicólogos hasta llegar al Hospital Infantil Universitario Niño Jesús. Una de las pocas psiquiatras infantiles de Madrid vio a Jaime e inmediatamente nos dijo: "Él tiene autismo".

Martina: “He has autism,” she told them. Javier was upset by this diagnosis, but Sole was relieved. It meant she wasn't imagining things, and it also meant they could learn how to help Jaime navigate the world.

Soledad: Yo le dije a Javier: "Ahora podemos estudiar el tema y aprender a vivir con esto". Yo acepté el diagnóstico muy rápidamente y eso ayudó mucho a Javier.

Martina: The psychiatrist told them that in some cases people with autism show a specific kind of ability or deep interest in topics like astronomy, music, or cooking.

Soledad: Cuando Jaime tenía cuatro años, descubrimos que su habilidad era el arte. Javier es arquitecto y yo soy diseñadora de moda. Cuando estamos en casa, nos sentamos en el salón a hablar y a dibujar en nuestros cuadernos.

Martina: Jaime liked to join his parents in their study when they were drawing. He wanted them to draw things for him. Usually, he asked for a train.

Soledad: Un día, yo le dije a Jaime: "Dibuja tú el tren". Él tomó uno de mis dibujos del tren y lo empezó a copiar en un pedazo de papel.

Martina: Sole thought Jaime's train was much better than hers.

Soledad: El dibujo de Jaime no era muy delicado, pero era mucho más dinámico y expresivo que el mío.

Martina: The wheels on Jaime's train had an extreme level of detail that Sole would never have thought to include. And they were huge—out of proportion with the rest of the train. She wondered why, but she knew this was not as important as getting a peek into Jaime's mind, through his drawings.

Soledad: Finalmente, pudimos compartir algo: el dibujo. Yo empecé a entender un poco más a Jaime. Las cosas que yo consideraba relevantes, no lo eran para él y viceversa. Por ejemplo, las ruedas del tren que él dibujó con tanto detalle.

Martina: From that moment on, Jaime started drawing all the time. He would draw quickly and with confidence. He didn't like using colored pencils because sharpening them wasn't comfortable for him. But he loved crayons and tempera, a method of painting with colors that are mixed with egg and water.

Soledad: Jaime dibujaba todo el tiempo y siempre le regalaban crayones y pinturas de dedo para sus cumpleaños. Todo se le acababa rápido porque él siempre estaba dibujando, hasta cuando manejaba su triciclo por el pasillo.

Martina: Javier, Jaime's father, had started accepting his son's autism. When he saw how happy it made Jaime to draw on the walls in their hallway, Javier decided to turn one of the walls into a blackboard.

Soledad: Javier y yo pintamos la pared con pintura de pizarra. En esa época, Jaime era pequeño, entonces pintamos solo el metro más bajo de la pared.

Martina: The paint was wet, so they told Jaime he had to wait until it was dry before he could draw.

Soledad: Él estaba muy emocionado. Cuando la pintura se secó, Jaime dibujó por todo el pasillo y hasta más allá.

Martina: Jaime was small but he was growing. He was going to need more space to draw.

Soledad: Entonces, Javier y yo pintamos la pared del pasillo hasta el techo, y también la del comedor, y una pared en la cocina.

Martina: The blackboard walls became a reflection of Jaime's imagination. He drew an elephant with long ears and a tall body. A T-Rex with a round head and non-scary teeth. And Jaime's favorite: the zebra.

Soledad: La cebra tenía un cuerpo un poco cuadrado. Su cuello era grueso y sus piernas eran cortas. La cebra también tenía una cara tranquila, calmada.

Martina: Even though Jaime could express himself through his drawings, he found it challenging to verbalize his wants or needs. When he was younger, this wasn't a big issue. But when he was around 12 years old, not being able to communicate verbally started to become a problem.

Soledad: Los dibujos no le salían como él quería. Él no dominaba la técnica, y no sabía cómo expresar sus sentimientos. Entonces se enojaba mucho y se hería físicamente.

Martina: Herir means to hurt. Jaime would be drawing, as usual, and suddenly, he would get up and hit his head against a wall or bite his arm. These are ways many non-verbal people with autism communicate their frustrations.

Soledad: En esa época, Jaime también empezó a tener convulsiones epilépticas.

Martina: Autism is a neurological condition, so epileptic seizures, or convulsiones epilépticas, can be quite common.

Soledad: Era una situación muy estresante. Nadie quería quedarse con él porque les daba miedo verlo tener un episodio epiléptico. Además, no podían comunicarse con él.

Martina: Jaime had been going to autism therapy groups since his diagnosis, but during this rough patch, Sole and Javier considered keeping Jaime at home.

Soledad: Nosotros vimos que la gente le tenía miedo porque no hablaba como los demás. Como dicen por ahí, “la gente le tiene miedo a lo desconocido”. Entonces, intentamos hacer ver que Jaime era gracioso. Nosotros pensamos que si hacíamos eso, el mundo iba a aceptarlo.

Martina: To help with his outbreaks, they signed him up for an art workshop for people with autism at the Museo Reina Sofía, the national museum of 20th-century art. There, he learned to manage his emotions while drawing.

Soledad: En el museo, le enseñaron a dejar de dibujar cuando se sentía frustrado. En vez de tratar y tratar de hacer el dibujo de cierta manera, le enseñaron a cambiar de actividad. Eso mejoró nuestras vidas.

Martina: The workshop helped Jaime curb the frustration he felt when his drawings didn't come out the way he wanted. And a few years later, when he was 18, something very unexpected happened there.

At the Museo Reina Sofía, Jaime recreated famous paintings in his own style. He was working on his interpretation of Salvador Dalí's Muchacha en la ventana. The painting shows a woman leaning on the window sill with her back to the viewer, looking out to the sea.

Soledad: Su interpretación fue pintarse a sí mismo como la muchacha en la ventana.

Martina: His self-portrait caught the eye of two women who were visiting the workshop that day looking for artists to work with them.

Soledad: Ellas organizan exposiciones de arte con las obras de un artista con autismo y un artista sin autismo. El objetivo es demostrar que el arte no discrimina.

Martina: Later that day, they called Sole to propose an exhibition of Jaime's art.

Soledad: Nosotros invitamos a las chicas a casa para hablar de la propuesta. Inmediatamente nos llevamos muy bien y aceptamos hacer la exposición.

Martina: The show was at a chic gallery in downtown Madrid, in a neighborhood full of independent movie theaters and artsy patrons. The gallery was filled with Jaime's drawings.

Soledad: En la galería había dibujos de todo tipo de animales: leones, jirafas, rinocerontes y hasta dinosaurios. Los animales eran coloridos, bien delineados y siempre con cara amigable.

Martina: Sole and Javier were ecstatic. Jaime was too.

Soledad: Jaime estuvo sentado solo en una esquina de la sala toda la noche, con una gran sonrisa. ¡Estaba muy feliz! No habló con nadie, pero se veía que le encantaba ver sus dibujos por toda la pared de la galería.

Martina: The exhibit was up for two weeks, but all 15 of Jaime's drawings sold within two days. At age 18, Jaime had become a successful artist. His success at the show gave Sole an idea. She decided to call up a colleague in the fashion industry.

Soledad: Yo llamé a alguien de la industria de la moda y mandé a imprimir camisetas con el diseño más popular de Jaime: la cebra.

Martina: That summer, in 2013, the family took its annual trip to Pontevedra, on the north coast of Spain. Sole decided to sell the T-shirts with Jaime's designs on the beach.

Soledad: Yo estaba cerca de mi auto y tenía las camisetas en la parte de atrás. La gente se acercaba a pedirme sus tallas y yo se las vendía mientras hablaba con una amiga.

Martina: As Jaime splashed around on the shore, Sole told her friend how worried she was about his future.

Soledad: Yo le dije a mi amiga: "Yo entiendo que, con su nivel de autismo, Jaime no puede trabajar, pero tiene que poder ganarse la vida de alguna manera".

Martina: Jaime has an older brother, Juan, and a younger sister, Isabel. Sole told her friend that she didn’t want them to have to support Jaime once she and Javier are gone.

Soledad: Ella me dijo: "Mira cómo se venden estas camisetas. Deberías usar tus contactos en la moda y crear una marca de ropa de Jaime". La idea se quedó en mi cabeza por días.

Martina: When they got back to Madrid, Sole got to work. She decided to name Jaime's clothing line Algo de Jaime. She continued working with the company that had printed the T-shirts. And she started trying to get the word out with the help of Jaime's brother and sister.

Soledad: Mi hijo Juan es informático y él ayuda con la página web. Mi hija Isabel estudia publicidad en la universidad y ayuda con el marketing.

Martina: The website AlgodeJaime.com shares a little of Jaime's story: that he has autism and that art has been his biggest connection to other people.

Soledad: Algo de Jaime muestra el trabajo de Jaime, pero mi deseo también es enseñarle a la gente lo que es vivir con autismo.

Martina: Algo de Jaime got its big break in 2017 when Sole took a chance and contacted the global retailer Zara.

Soledad: La compañía que imprime nuestras camisetas tenía un contacto en Zara. Yo les escribí y en dos días recibimos una respuesta. ¡Fue una gran sorpresa!

Martina: They got a meeting that same week, and Sole rushed to prepare for it.

Soledad: En casa tenemos muchísimas obras de Jaime. Yo estaba nerviosa porque quería escoger las mejores.

Martina: She settled on Jaime's signature zebra and a few others. But when she walked into the meeting in Zara's sleek office, she didn't even have to show the drawings.

Soledad: El diseñador de Zara me dijo: "Puedes guardar todo. Yo ya he visto los diseños de Jaime en Internet y ya sé cuáles quiero".

Martina: Sole was ecstatic that the meeting went so well. That day, Zara ordered a line of baby clothes with Jaime's designs.

Soledad: Ellos hicieron una etiqueta especial con la cebra para la línea de Jaime. También publicaron una página con la historia de Jaime.

Martina: The collaboration was sold in Madrid, Rome, Buenos Aires, New York and Tokyo. But it didn't go to Jaime's head.

Soledad: Nosotros le enseñamos sus camisetas de Zara, pero a él no le importa nada de eso.

Martina: Sole says that, aside from recognizing his designs on the merchandise, Jaime doesn't really care about Zara's big brand name, or any other kind of prestige.

Soledad: Pero sí sabe que algo bueno está pasando.

Martina: Today, when Jaime walks around his neighborhood, people say hi to him. They've seen him on Instagram, where Sole posts videos of him.

Soledad: Jaime dice algunas palabras, pero principalmente se comunica con oraciones de sus películas favoritas.

Martina: Sole thinks letting Jaime live a more public life helps people understand him. She celebrates the things that make him different—like his tendency to repeat phrases from kids' movies like Finding Nemo or The Aristocrats, Los Aristogatos.

Soledad: Lo hace tanto, que hemos empezado a vender camisetas con las frases favoritas de Jaime. Tenemos: "Papá, nos vamos a casa" de El rey león; "Bueno, hasta la semana que viene" de Buscando a Nemo, y "Un momento, no tan deprisa", de Los Aristogatos.

Martina: On Instagram, people know his phrases now. They want the T-shirts. And Sole hopes they can build enough interest and awareness to sell Algo de Jaime for a long time. Sole hopes that Jaime will be able to support himself as a fashion designer even after she and her husband are gone.

Soledad: ¿Cuál es nuestro deseo? Que el arte ayude a Jaime a comunicarse. Y también, ¿por qué no?, ver a personas de todo el mundo usando Algo de Jaime.

Martina: Soledad Alonso still lives in Madrid with Jaime and the rest of her family. You can find Jaime's favorite design—the zebra—along with the rest of his drawings at AlgodeJaime.com, you can also follow him on Instagram @algodejaime.

This story was written by Maria Murriel, a journalist living in New Orleans.

This is our last story of this season, but we'll be back with more new episodes soon! In the meantime, we'd love to know what you thought of the stories we've brought to you so far! Send us an email with your feedback at podcast@duolingo.com. And if you liked this story, please share it! You can find the audio and a transcript of each episode at podcast.duolingo.com. You can also subscribe at Apple Podcasts or your favorite listening app, so you never miss an episode.

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The Duolingo Spanish Podcast is produced by Duolingo and Adonde Media.

Our supervising editor is Catalina May. Our production managers are Mariano Pagella and Román Frontini. Our pitches editor is Grant Fuller. Our story hunter is Lucía Villavicencio and our mastering engineers and sound designers are Martín Cruz Farga and Jeanne Montalvo. I'm the executive producer, Martina Castro, ¡gracias por escuchar!