Cutting the ribbon: talking Trujillo’s new skatepark with Arissa Moreno, CJF Peru

Okay, so it wasn’t quite a ribbon, but a steel cable that was cut to celebrate the opening of Trujillo’s new skatepark this weekend. The scissors? A pair of wire cutters, taken from the same toolbox that built the park over past months, held by the same hands that mixed and moulded the concrete – the hands of locals and internationals alike.

Pictures by: Jesus Rengifo Saldaña & Sebal

La Rampa is Concrete Jungle Foundation’s latest skatepark, a safe space for young people to come and feel at home, to learn skills and to meet friends from all over the city. A place where older skaters can become role models for younger, pass the torch, and where the community that benefits from the new facility will gradually become the driving force behind uits evolution. We were there on Saturday, we saw the faces of the locals as they were unleashed on the park for the first time. It was a wild celebration. And amid all the excitement, we were lucky enough to speak with the Local Manager for CJF Peru, Arissa Moreno about how this all came to be. 

 

“La Rampa is a place to be happy, a place to be sad, ultimately a place for kids to just be – and to educate – themselves.”

Arissa, thank you for talking to us. And congratulations on the opening of the new skatepark here in Trujillo. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to do what you do?

 

Sure. I’m originally from Trujillo, where this new project is located, and I’ve been working with the community here for about three years now. But I was privileged enough to go to school in the United States. I studied anthropology and environmental studies. And then when I finished studies, I started working at a kindergarten. I discovered my passion for education and working with kids. When I came back to Peru, I wanted to find opportunities to follow that passion here. That’s when I found Otra Cosa, an NGO here where La Rampa is located. 

What was your role when you came onboard for Otra Cosa?

I became the Project Coordinator. I was supervising education classes, organizing volunteers, and making sure the kids were safe. They would ask me to think of new workshops, and then slowly that turned into community networking. I created connections locally to bring more kids into the classes. 

These were educational classes, not skateboarding classes, right? 

Yes. Back then, we didn’t have skate classes, but there was an old skatepark there. So we just lent boards to the kids who didn’t have them so they could play on the ramps. There wasn’t structure or local skaters to oversee. 

Did you skate yourself? 

I only found skateboarding through CJF. One day, Arthur, Clem and the crew from CJF came to skate with the kids and run a few workshops. It wasn’t long before we formed an alliance between Concrete Jungle Foundation and Otra Cosa. Suddenly we could create structured EduSkate classes based on true community values. Since then, skateboarding has become the center of my life. 

“My mission: growing these connections and creating safe spaces for the kids. Skateboarding allowed me to do this.”

 

How did you and Otra Cosa know that CJF were the right partners? 

I loved the way CJF approached communities. It wasn’t a group of outsiders who came in and told us the needs of our community. They took the time to create connections with local people in order to find out what people really wanted. You know, when you do these kinds of projects, you need these close ties with the parents, the kids, the whole community. When I became Local Manager for CJF Peru, that was my mission: growing these connections and creating safe spaces for the kids. Skateboarding allowed me to do this. 

EduSkate and Planting Seeds Apprenticeship are two really innovative ways to empower the local community to lead their own project. Can you tell us a bit about the philosophy behind these? 

The Planting Seeds Apprenticeship is about providing local people with the skills they need to grow the community. Woodwork, concrete work, photography. That way, we don’t depend on the skills of the international team – they transfer these skills to us, so we can manage the project in the long term. For example, when building this new La Rampa, CJF took the time to explain what we would need to do to build this skatepark, they even provided a manual. Then when we finished the skatepark, there was a really fun ceremony with beer and celebrations. We even received a full set of concrete tools from CJF, so we could create our own future spots. That’s what I’m going to do now – build DIY spots outside my house.

 

So what’s one big thing you’ll take away from the build?

We were all really privileged to have people to teach us how to build our own skatepark. Today, we can say that we finished this together. It was really amazing. You know, I’d never mixed concrete before. At the beginning I was measuring all the ingredients out, but as I got into the rhythm, I came to know it by heart, I knew when it was ready to pour just by looking. That was one of the best skills I’ve ever learned. I couldn’t have done it any other way than building this skatepark with my friends. I cherish the experience a lot. 

We will keep spreading the seeds of skateboarding around our cities. We have already met with local officials to create the new connections necessary to build more facilities, so we can have multiple education centers around the area.”

So what’s in the future for CJF Peru? 

Autonomy is important for CJF Peru, but it’s a long term goal. And it will require many steps. We still depend economically on CJF International, and we still have a lot to learn. But we hire only locals – everybody, including me, is from Trujillo. That’s a great step towards that goal. Meanwhile, we will keep spreading the seeds of skateboarding around our cities. We have already met with local officials to create the new connections necessary to build more facilities, so we can have multiple education centers around the area. 

Finally, what is La Rampa to you? 

La Rampa is for the community. It’s a place where kids can meet – it sounds simple. But many of these kids don’t have safe spaces where they can hang out and feel safe, cared for and loved. If I had had the opportunity as a kid to go to a skatepark and meet people who wanted to teach me stuff, I would have loved that. La Rampa is a place to be happy, a place to be sad, ultimately a place for kids to just be – and to educate – themselves.

The Skateroom supported CJF with 30,000$ in 2021. If you’d like to support their future projects, you can by purchasing editions from our store – we commit 10% of our revenue to CJF and our other partner projects.