After many months of being “incomunicada” for lack of internet
service, at last! It appears as if I can connect with you again.
To make a long and boring story short: I had millions of internet
problems that concluded with the change of service hoping that
technology will allow me to remain in touch with dear friends all over the world who have been in great doubts of what on earth is happening with me here in Perquin?
Well… I am very, very well! Sunday morning in Perquin and this is one of the first Sundays in a long, long time that I am able to stay home and write, and reflect. I try to maintain Sunday as a NO WORKING DAY but not always I manage to respect that. As the saying goes: “Watch what you are hoping for”
All that I had imagined or expected before coming about Perquin in
this year of 2005 was insufficient in regards of what it really has
been happening. It has been a sort of macro production of art with the total support and participation of the whole community, children, youth and adults, campesinos, people who work in local NGOs, people who work for the Mayor’s Office, people who come from far away communities. Some of the participants of our classes walk over 9 kms in order to attend our classes and workshops. This to say, the effect of art in this community continues to be HUGE! It continues to be much
larger and far more pivotal that I had ever expected and far more
welcome that I could have ever predicted.
The arrival of 10 students from the California College of the Arts who stayed here from June 12 to July 2 was significant. The young
students/ artists interacted with the community beautifully. They
organized and carried out projects using their skills and expertise in many different techniques including painting, environmental sculpture, puppets, printmaking, photography, life drawing and mural painting.
Their visit was a confirmation that the structure that the School of
Art and Open Studio of Perquin proposes is a great success! The
school proposes the following : to invite artists who may come to
Perquin to share their expertise, their talents and visions to create
collaboratively. This is to say: the artists that come to Perquin will
act as “Artists in Residence”. This means that the artists are
expected to be flexible and attentive to the community’s needs and
desires. The invited “Artist in Residence” will strategize and
accommodate her/his knowledge and skills in accordance to the proposal that the community may have. In that way, the workshops and art experiences created from this structure will involve the life, history and demands of Perquin.
As a side note, I should add that when the date arrived of July 2 and the students were supposed to depart back to the US, they did not! They decided unanimously to change their tickets, to pay the extra fees and to come back to Perquin! All at their own expenses, because the Summer Abroad course that CCA had sponsored ended on July 2. If this is not an endorsement that this structure of sharing art works, I wonder what would be! The short version of this CCA group is that they all stayed much longer than expected beacus ethey have been deeply moved by the experience. All the students have been deeply touched by how their art has been welcome and celebrated, how much
their efforts have meant to the community. Even now, August 7, 2005, there are still two students who seem to have no intentions to depart! Quite incredible and such an inspirational story, I think.
We had already seen the enormous impact of the visit of our dear
artist friend from Argentina, Ines Talón who during the month of May created and conducted workshops in weaving and textiles to an eager and incredibly motivated group of 24 women. As a result of Ines’s effect, I can say that, for instance, Rosa del Carmen, who was a participant of the workshops, is now teaching what she learned to a group of 30 women in her community of Arambala. So, the seed that was planted by one artist is rapidly disseminated and expanded into many more projects. For the celebrations of the Winter Festival, the women from CEBES with whom Ines worked created textiles, pillows, bags, shawls, etc. All these beauties will be sold as crafts original from Perquin.
Added to that, we have conducted and created a printmaking project in which 5 women: Vilma, Angelita, Eufemia, Emérita and Lola created linoleum cuts based on the textiles that they had created in the textile workshops. The prints will be sold as art and not as crafts. This was decided by the women themselves! In this brief example it is condensed a lot of what happens with art in Perquin. Each project generates many others in ways that no one can anticipate. People are determined, able and ready to welcome art. That is the very reason for which each and all art project ends up being multifaceted.
And it is like that with all projects! The environmental project, the
photography project, the painting project, the mural project, the
video project! Penelope Price was here showing her presenting her film and the experience was monumental. I am still trying to process all that happened, all that took place that evening. We all emerged transformed.
Besides presenting the film, Penelope conducted a “video workshop”. Wonderful pieces came out of that workshop! And, as it always happens, one wonders: how can it be possible for people who never had done any art previous to the workshops going from never to have done art to create fabulous pieces of art! And in this particular workshop there was the extra challenge of the technical equipment. Needless to say, none of the participants of the workshop had ever even seen a video camera! I have been teaching art in different universities for the last two decades and I have never witnessed people learning so fast as the people of Perquin. Not only do they learn! They incorporate what they learn and they transform the knowledge, they innovate, they
do new things with the material they had just received. It is
incredibly and deeply inspiring!
The film that Penelope brought was the one she created in relationship to my artwork and about El Mozote. Some of you have seen this film already: ” Artists of Resistance” ( please visit
!http://www.azmac.org/festival.data/Components/f_artistresist.jpg” width=”230” height=”202” alt=”film still” />!
This time the movie was presented in Spanish and it was presented at the house of CEBES, a large room of the communal house of the Activist Church of the North of Morazan. The place was absolutely full. There were so many people that some had to be turned away for lack of space. People were standing at the very edges of the room, people sharing
chairs, people on the floor. Everyone followed the movie with
undivided attention. Even small children were immersed in the
narration of the film. When the movie was over and the time of
reflections and questions took place, people would stand up and talk about their dead relatives, families and friends. People talked about their memories regarding El Mozote. There were several people in the audience, ex-combatants who shared with us that they had been assigned to burry the victims of El Mozote. They had entered the massacre place only days after the killing and they had been assigned by the FMLN to burry the dead. They had not talked about this for many years. People cried. People thanked us. People told us that they appreciated that “people from outside”, “internacionales” would want to remember all this tragedy, all this sadness, while it appears that Salvadorans want
to forget. Certainly, Salvadoran authorities and governments want to forget.
Rufina Amaya Marquez, the only survivor of the massacre at El Mozote was in the audience. She did not stop crying through the film, leaving Penelope and I deeply mortified because we did not want to inflict pain on Rufina. At the end of the screening, Rufina talked. She thanked us for being the carriers of the history of El Mozote through art. She said that the movie was heartbreaking, but in part was so, because it was so very beautiful and one could not be close to the beauty of the movie. That made it stronger. It had more “effect”. She said that it was not like other documentaries that she had seen about El Mozote
where the facts were given with a sense of human distance. This film made everyone participant of the tragedy.
Mia Vercousser, music director of the Grupo Morazán, crying, told us that she though it immense to be able to talk about so much cruelty with such tenderness.
Heart, sentiment, spirit…can not absorb so much. I am still trying to process what happened then and there. I told Penelope that we will be very old ladies and we would still remember this event as a paradigm. I continue to be marveled and thankful to art for allowing human experiences of this sort to be transited through the gentleness and beauty that art can generate. And, in this context of Morazán, where the memories of massacres are so recent, where the losses are so enormous and where inconceivable violence is part of the lives of everyone, to have been able to present the film, and to have been
received it so well, so dearly, constitutes without any doubt one of
the most important moments of my life as an artist.
That is why there are no Sundays nor holydays! Art continues to be a vortex where creativity meets the life of the people of Perquin, the joy of creating together, the commitment o the participants, because it is a fact that everyone comes to our class with the implicit commitment to teach others what they learn here! Paulo Freire would have been very happy ! In addition to all this, we have the beauty of the landscape, the demands of the people do “do the art/ hacer el arte” as they say and our happiness to be able to share that which we know, that which we can and to witness everyone’s happiness while we share art with a community that embraces art and creativity as a major
aspect of their life and interests.
It is the beginning of August and I can tell you that I have worked a lot!!!!! A lot more than when I am in Argentina or in the US. I arrive home with only one neuron left, with batteries only enough as to eat something light and to crush on the bed. I apologize to everyone for not having written more frequently to all of you. Together with the internet technical problems that I have been having in addition to the fact of always being so tired made communication less effervescent than normally is between all of you and myself.
I am tired but happy. I am tired but thankful to life and
circumstances that all this is happening in this isolated part of the
world, in the mountains of Morazán.
To everyone, I send love, hugs, kisses, good memories!
Do write to me and tell me what you all are doing, how everyone is?
I hug you dearly!