A 75-year-old school in La Paz continues to prepare its students for secretarial careers — and they still teach with typewriters.
The female-only Salvatierra Commercial Academy is located in the capital city of Baja California Sur, and was founded in 1941 by former nun Josefina Llosa Garnica.
Llosa saw at the time that many young women were often idle with nothing to do. So she decided to start a school that would instruct them in all the tasks required of a secretary at the time, mainly typing and shorthand.
Llosa’s intention was to enable women to become productive members of the society of La Paz, said the school’s director José Guadalupe Gómez González.
Gómez acknowledges that computer skills are a must for modern secretaries: “we teach students how to use them from day one, along with English and accounting classes.” But old-fashioned typewriters continue to play a role.
Learning how to type, he believes, is a necessary “physical and mental process.”
“If you don’t strike a key hard, you won’t remember the placement of this or that key. You need to learn the correct position of your hands, and if this isn’t done physically, it won’t do,” said Gómez.
Gómez has found that many secondary school graduates have major deficiencies in basic skills such as mathematics and spelling, which are reinforced by the school before moving on to things like letter writing.
“We struggle more with the girls now because with new technologies such as the internet, WhatsApp and Facebook, they get used to using appalling spelling . . . we really struggle.”
Gómez says professional secretaries continue to be needed in government and the private sector. “Wherever there’s an office, there’ll be a secretary, because she is to an office what a mother is to a home: when a mother leaves her home, you can’t find anything. The same happens with a secretary, a professional that undertakes the most important tasks in an office.”
For the Salvatierra Commercial Academy, training low-income women and enabling them to get a job is part of the motivation that keeps them going. “We’re working with a doubly unprotected segment of society: women who also have scarce resources.”
The opportunities for the students of the academy are plain to see. Among the graduates are state deputies and mayors, along with countless secretaries at all levels, and even the wives of former state governors and mayors, said Gómez.
Ninety-one classes of students have graduated from the school during its 75 years.