It is Christmas day in this December of 2006. As last year, I find myself writing the last report about Perquin, from this overcrowded, fantastic, multilayered city of Buenos Aires where I came to spend the holidays with family and friends.
I arrived to Argentina on December 16. Only ten days passed since I left El Salvador, the beloved community of Perquin, where the air turns purple the contours of the mountains and the sky, the storms and the millions of stars at night, leaves me speechless and never fails to move me.
I miss Perquin dearly.
Ten days in Buenos Aires find me still with difficulties on how to write this report, this “conversation”. The multiplicity of events and the overwhelming episodes of the last few intense months make me feel that I do not know where or how to start. As always, at a point like this, I wish I were a poet! Not being one, I convoke Roberto Juarroz, an Argentina poet, unfairly unknown outside Argentina, but revered here for his innovative metric and his austere poetics.
He says: “ A net of gazing eyes, keeps the world united, it does not allow it to fall”. This is, for me, the essence of Perquin in the last two years and certainly in the last few months. It has been a large net of gazing and trusting eyes, willing to create a new liaison through the creation of collaborative art projects. Hopefully, through this trust and determination, we may contribute even if in a small and humble way to sustain, to support, to allow the world not to fall.
If I were to identify what has been the most important aspect of my last two years in Perquin, I would say that is the constant awareness that I am part of a large group of people working together. All what I do, happens in part, because I am a link in a much longer and stronger chain of efforts of which, mine, is as important as the effort of everyone else’s. The School of Art and Open Studio of Perquin, edifices its presence on a vast net of people and gazing eyes wanting and demanding that the world would become a better place for every one.
It has been a wonderful gift against solitude.
I attended mass the Sunday before I left Perquin. I frequently do that, not so much for religious fervor as for the fact that Rogelio performs mass and I am interested in what he says. Rogelio Ponseele is a legend in El Salvador, a Belgium priest who accompanied the FMLN during the 12 years of war. These days Rogelio is the “párroco”/ sort of spiritual leader of Perquin and the North of Morazán and someone capable to sort out in his sermons local and international politics, sociology, economy, power and mysticism.
On December 10, the following day to the 25th anniversary of the massacre at El Mozote, Rogelio spoke about the role of art in the difficult journey of memory. He spoke about the murals at El Mozote as a collective act of remembrance. He identified art as the praxis to resist injustice and the commitment to retaliate brutality with beauty and hope.
After the sermon, Rogelio invited me to speak to the audience of the church. Facing the people from the altar, I firstly thanked Rogelio for having, always, given such a protagonic role to art in our community. Looking at many dear friends in that church (people who have become dear friends over the last two years) I said that all that was accomplished in art had happened because we all worked at it.
Everything that is worth living for, in fact, is only possible through community and collaborative action. Art is one aspect, one thread of a large tapestry of social, economic, political and cultural structure.
In my life outside Perquin, I had held to the same belief system. But, seldom I could produce the evidence of being accompanied by so many people. Rather, I felt over the years as a “salmon” ( sort to speak) always against the troubled waters of a river trying to overcome obstacles.
In the good days, it feels as a “challenge”. In days not so festive, it feels like an overwhelming task to do everything alone. Or in solitude.
In any case, to be in Morazán in the last two years as part of the School of Art and Open Studio of Perquin has reaffirmed the collective effort as possible, advisable and quite uncomplicated, actually.
What a relief…
December 9, 2006, 25th Anniversary of the massacre at El Mozote
The co-celebrated mass was scheduled for 10 am. It was the central point of the celebration on that Saturday morning of the 25th anniversary of the massacre at El Mozote.
For the last two days previous to the celebration, people from all over the world arrived to Perquin to attend this memorial, this unique gathering on behalf of the tragedy that occurred in 1981 and the honoring of Rufina Amaya Márquez as the sole survivors of the massacre as well as the recognition to many other people who, like herself, managed to speak the truth for a quarter century.
At 9 am I arrived to El Mozote. Interminable lines of people who came from all over El Salvador were marching to El Llano/ the central plaza of the community. In front of the church a stage had been built to host the events of the day. It was difficult to approach towards the church for I was stopped constantly by people wanting to greet me: friends and neighbors from Perquin and other communities, friends who work in human rights agencies in El Salvador and abroad, artists, people who take classes in our school of art, parents of our art students, people who I met many years before while working in the exhumations, national and international journalists, national and international photographers, people who came to document what this day was going to become.
The “net” of gazing eyes was coming together.
The children of El Mozote were on stage at 9 am, under the guidance of Sister Anna Griffin. They were singing a repertoire bringing in their small and innocent voices all the voices of the murdered children of El Mozote. It was unavoidable not to make that connection for the age of the singing children, and the number of them on stage resembled, uncannily, the group and age of the children who perished in that same location on December of 1981.
It did no go unnoticed. People were moved and I could hear comments about how amazing it was to have singing children of El Mozote, today! One of the children in the first row onstage, Miguelito, an adorable 10 years old boy who was very active in our art projects, waved at me and smiled in recognition. His gesture was subtle: a kind look in his eyes and a tiny hand saying “hello” to me standing in the audience.
Miguelito brought me back to the present, less painful than the memories of the massacre, and made me want to honor the dead by honoring life. This was what was so wonderful about El Mozote! We are all still here and we are remembering the dead by providing evidence of our collective existence.
We have forgotten nothing but we are all here to celebrate the life we still have, the love we are capable to share, the dreams and visions that we want to make happen as a militancy of hope.
Twelve priests, old and young, performed the co-celebrated mass including the Archbishop of San Miguel. His presence was of relevance. In the last 24 years the conservative church of El Salvador not only had not supported the yearly celebrations at El Mozote, they, in fact, have denied that the massacre ever took place. This recalcitrant position of one segment of the Salvadoran church is a direct consequence of the fracture that occurs between the right wing ideology with adherence to the conservative party of ARENA and the church of the left or, as it is still called for reasons more of tradition than facts, ‘the church of the guerrilla’.
To have the Archbishop of San Miguel in this 25th anniversary legitimized the event. To his credit, it should be said that he really “tried”. And it also should be clarified that it was noticeable that he “was trying”, meaning: there was a strange cadence of dishonesty in his voice. It was only when Rogelio read the “manifesto” created by CEBES that we all felt again that we were listening to what it was important. Yes, indeed, reconciliation can be talked about but never at the risk of overruling a process of trail, justice and punishment to whoever is responsible. In the case of El Mozote, the ones who are responsible are identified, are indicted and are currently benefited with a law of amnesty that should have never been granted. The international Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica is currently reviewing the legal case of El Mozote.
Endurable peace will never be achieved if the past is not remembered with a sense of responsibility. And that sense of responsibility can only occur through the practice of justice.
The “offering/ la ofrenda” is,in a catholic mass, a metaphor of earthly gains, created or achieved by human power and effort . It is being presented in honor and thanks to the God who is revered.
The offering that Rufina carried in this ceremony was a small rubber boot that belonged to a dead child, found at the massacre place of the building of the Convent at El Mozote. Rufina was carrying the small treasure on a tiny red mantle. She was circumspect while bringing it forward to the main altar. I lack capacity to even imagine what her thoughts could have been at the moment. I can only think that she recited the names of her four dead children as a litany of love: Cristino, Marta, Lilian, Maria Isabel.
Behind Rufina, the children who had been singing on stage lined up with kites constructed specially for this occasion: structures of thin wood and painted phrases of hope, wishes and names of the children of El Mozote . Later, they made the kites flight over el Cerro de la Cruz, the Hill of the Cross, where still scattered human remains can be found. It is in that hill where the young pubescent girls and the young women of El Mozote were taken by the Atlacatl Battalion. It was there where they were raped, killed and, ultimately, burned.
As a paradox of tragedy, it was the burning of their young and innocent bodies that alerted people in other communities. While taking testimony in 1992, people repeatedly described the smelling of “burnt meat” coming from El Mozote. They knew that something terrible had happened there. Many people decided to escape, to hide. The tragic lament of the burning flesh was an alarm that saved the lives of many other campesinos in the near by villages of La Joya, Jocote Amarillo, Cerro Pando, Los Toriles and Ranchería.
The children flew their kites from Cerro de la Cruz on this December 9th of 2006.
Lunch time was orderly. The 8,000 tamales went fast! together with the thousands of pupusas, pasteles and empanadas that the women of El Mozote prepared in advance for this day.
The afternoon, and still under the blazing sun of December, was scheduled in the program with four presentations or “witnesses”:
• Maria Julia Hernández, Director of Tutela Legal, the Human Rights agency under which Rufina first gave testimony of the massacre at El Mozote. Maria Julia spoke about the history of the legal case, about the long and tenacious effort towards justice. Maria Julia named the names of the military personal responsible of this massacre. They, with names and last names were identified and are identifiable. It is only through a questionable legal manipulation that Salvadoran president Cristiani granted them amnesty in 1993 instead of following the recommended venue of trail and punishment. Maria Julia presented as evidence that the case of El Mozote is now being reviewed by the International Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica, initiating in this way, a paradigmatic case. Tutela Legal refuses to accept the granted amnesty, demanding that the international court of law would re-open the case. This step of taking the case outside El Salvador is the result of meticulous, unstoppable and constant effort of a group of Salvadoran lawyers that will not cease until justice can be applied to the case of El Mozote. This monumental effort is a precedent for the new prospect of law in our troubled continent.
• “Santiago”, Carlos Henríquez Consalvi, the voice of “Radio Venceremos” during the armed conflict (1980-1992) and since then, the creator of the Museo de la Palabra y la Imágen/ Museum of Words and Images, a remarkable space with a unique collection of footage of the war, documentaries, photography, and of course, the totality of the daily programs of “Radio Venceremos” aired during the 12 years of the civil war. Santiago was one of the first to arrive to El Mozote after the massacre. What he remembers is unrepeatable for words cannot summarize the horror. Santiago described the community of El Mozote as prosperous. His voice could not hide emotion and anger when remembering what he saw when he entered El Mozote days after the carnage. He photographed empty streets, vacant houses, a silent hamlet: a testimony of the absence of the people who had once promenade the village.
• Rufina Amaya Márquez: The only survivor of the massacre stood in from of all of us and declared that this time, she was not going to give testimony for it was clear to her, that everyone present who made the effort to come from so many parts of the world, already knew the story and already believed that what she said was true. Rufina was calm, and spoke about not being afraid. This was a talisman earned after so much suffering. Listening to Rufina, one cannot stop wondering how? just how could have been possible that she was unnoticed by so many armed men whose mission was to exterminate everyone. Rufina talked about the “gran gritazón”/ “the wild screaming” of the last women in the last group to be taken out of the houses to be killed. She said that it is for that sound of pain that the soldiers did not notice her. The rivers of blood were coming from the houses, the women were screaming for their lives and Rufina was hiding behind a bush. All this happened for all of us, on this day, 25 years after, to come together to demand: “El Mozote, Nunca Más” / “El Mozote/ Never Again”
• The last presenter was Claudia Bernard. When the programming was taking shape I was asked to address the audience in this segment. I was not comfortable doing it amongst this remarkable group of speakers. I did not think it was my place to be in the same place as Rufina, Maria Julia and Santiago. I was asked to inaugurate officially the murals painted on the church of El Mozote and I was willing to that, but in another segment of the celebration. Padre Rogelio told me that the murals represent the collective memory of everyone in the region. Furthermore, the three other presenters were to speak about the tragedy. The murals constituted a hopeful ending to this segment and for that reason I was to speak. I did present the murals from its origin, the collective and collaborative process, shared by the community of El Mozote . Each and all steps from the start to the end were a reflection of the willingness of the community inhabiting El Mozote today. They were created to remember and trust the future, for both aspects are represented in the large tapestry of colorful images narrating the past, present and future of the people of El Mozote.
“Una red de mirada mantiene unido al mundo, no lo deja caerse/ a net of gazing eyes, keeps the world united, it does not allow it to fall”.
From the stage, I looked at this incalculably large audience listening to me speak about the murals collectively created. It occurred to me, that happiness could not be more perfect or more relevant than that instant of recognition that we made the murals possible because we trusted that could be done. To succumb to deception and sorrow is unimaginably more difficult than to exercise trust. If we could remember this often, perhaps we would not allow the world to fall.
The Grupo Morazán , musicians under the guidance of Mia Vercruysser, The Grupo de Danza de Morazán, directed by Noé y Ruth Martinez and the TNT Theatre Company from Chalatenango, performed together. As artists of such varied disciplines, they were able to create a homogeneous, poetic presentation where all the artists were very young, ages 12 to 22. The audience was speechless listening to the young actors recite the “Poema de Amor/ Love Poem” by Roque Dalton, or represent the song “El Mozote” created by Grupo Morazán. The young dancers, interwoven amongst the musicians and the actors, danced to the cadence of live music.
It was beautiful! It was moving! It was reaffirming! art can and always will be a remarkable option, a practice of creation over the tragedy of destruction. The young artists, the musicians, the dancers, all too young to have witnessed El Mozote are, nonetheless, Salvadorans of today committed to remember that which must never be forgotten. They make art about it. They perform with the awareness of the catastrophe that El Mozote implies for El Salvador and the rest of us, for everyone who transits as partakers or witnesses, the history of Latin America.
It would be imprudent to believe that art can remedy tragedy.
It would be precarious to suggest that art may remedy armed conflicts.
I am utterly convinced, however, that art will always officiate as a tool for mediation. The mural at El Mozote, the way in which it was conceived, created and protected lovingly by the community became a paradigm of diplomacy. In a torn apart community, the mural represents a coming to an agreement. No one has shown hostility in accepting the mural as a visual narration of the history of the place and the collective hopes of the community.
The net of gazing eyes…..
The Venezuelan group “Los Guaraguaus” accepted to come to El Mozote. For many of us, their presence was like a time tunnel to our youth singing songs of protest, mixing poetry with demands, verses with ideology. Who would not remember that famous:
“Escuchenme! Yo quiero tener una rosa en mi mano, pero si no se puede tendre un fusil”/ “ Listen to me, I want to hold a rose in my hand, but if it is not possible, I will hold a weapon”.
I consider myself lucky: I have never held and still do not hold a weapon. I do carry roses and colors and miracles with the tenderness of art and the militancy of community.
The celebration of the 25th anniversary of the massacre at El Mozote concluded with the lightening of candles in front of the monument where the human remains are buried and where the square wooden plaques name the victims, and at the newly inaugurated part of the South wall mural of the church. Humble ceramic tails have the names of the dead children of El Mozote etched to bring their existence through the tunnel of time and history to our present. This simple and monumental act of remembrance collects the names of the children found at the Convent building but also of the children known to have been living at El Mozote at the time of the massacre. Over 400 names and their young ages, starting with “three days” of age and no older that 12, hammer a mandate in our consciousness: “El Mozote, Nuna Más/ El Mozote: Never Again.”
The children of today paid homage to the dead ones. They pronounced names and touched the etched letters as if they were caressing the past. The candles, unnoticed at first, became approachable stars when night started settling at El Mozote.
I evoked the children found at the exhumation. I embraced them in the landscape of memory.
I wept, not knowing exactly if it was for sorrow, or joy, or thankfulness, or an overwhelming set of new sentiments I could not identify nor define.
I had the awareness however, that the 25th anniversary of the massacre at El Mozote on this December 9th of 2006 would mark a day in which we witnessed something intricate, powerful and long lasting. It would take a lifetime to absorb, to comprehend. It would, very likely, choreograph the journey of our souls from now on.
The Building of a Clinic at El Mozote:
During my visit at Mary Baldwin College in Virginia in September, I met John Glick who introduced himself as a doctor and a clown. John is part of the doctors/ clowns working with Patch Adams, a visionary doctor who believes in humor as part of the process of recovery. He created a foundation that takes doctors/ clowns all over the world including war zones and refugee camps.
In Morazán, a group of clowns/ doctors/ architects and builders built a clinic last year in a remote community called “Rancho Quemado”.
John asked me in our first encounter: “Do you want us to build you a school of art in Perquin?” Well!!!! Yes! But… how? on what land?? Needless to say, I have no earth even to fill a flower-pot! It is impossible to think about acquiring land where to build a school of art. I suggested that if they were willing to build again in Morazan, they should consider building a clinic at El Mozote.
Currently, there is no clinic, health center or dispensary in El Mozote. The closest health location is in Perquin, and if anyone has something a little more complicated than a cold or a digestive inconvenience, the patient needs to be transported to San Francisco Gotera. This is not a short, easy or cheap journey. To be ill in El Mozote proves the poverty, isolation and difficulties of the community.
I told John, who later told Patch, that while painting the mural on the church at El Mozote, while having the town meetings to identify the hopes, visions and needs of the community, everyone! children, youth, adults and the elderly, wanted a clinic.
In early November two architects arrived to Perquin: Dave Sellers and Jim Adamson. Wonderful, committed architects who having been in Morazan before were arriving now to talk to the people investigating the possible building of a clinic at El Mozote.
Sister Anna Griffin who has been a remarkable, tireless diplomat in that community, made possible that everyone would meet and converse about the project. There is, in fact, available donated land adjacent to the already existing “community center”/ “centro comunitario” on which to build.
Dave Sellers and Jim Adamson, measuring tape in hands, created the first sketches of a clinic that would be built as an extension of the existing structure of the community center.
From a distant, I saw Dave and Jim in front of the mural examining the details of the mural. There, where the “dream image” of the clinic faces a well light main square, there are children playing, musicians, and singers. Dave and Jim looked at this image ready to translate the dream of a community into a reality for everyone.
Dave, Jim and a group of builders and volunteers are arriving to start the building of the clinic at El Mozote in early March 2007.
Dreams do come true after all! A building for our School of Art is part of the conversations. We thank, dearly, to those who are willing and capable to change forever the life of the people at El Mozote.
Martita, is Marta Maritza Amaya, Rufina’s daughter born many years after the massacre. Martita is 19 years old today and she just completed her first year of medical school.
There is a group of people who are actively helping Martita to pay for her studies at the Evangelic University, a private and very well regarded academic center to study medicine in El Salvador. It is not cheap, but the people who are helping Martita in this project are convinced that there is no better way to invest gift money than in the education of this committed and wonderful young woman.
Michael Barger, Jeff Fahl, Ivan Vázquez and myself are determined to keep on supporting Martita and we are delighted to have received the confirmation of other friends and, even people who we do not know but who are “friends of friends” and who want to partake in what we call the “Martita Project”
Martita has concluded her first year of medical school glowingly! With a “B+” average and a lot of extra work done on her part to match up the expected academic level. She transited high school in a very small, poor and limited school in Jocoaitique. This fact placed her in a disadvantageous position to start medical school. Martita took extra courses and extra curricula lab practices in order to catch up with the very high standards of the university she attends.
Martita came to Perquin the following day to the celebration at El Mozote, on Sunday, December 10th, bringing me her grades and a letter thanking the four people who had been helping her. She was proud, so happy about her first year in medical school! She is deeply appreciative of the help she is receiving and she confirms that, in return, she will come back to Morazan to work there as a doctor.
Martita asked me: “Is it true that El Mozote will have a clinic?”
I told her that I thought that was true. That very generous people are coming in March to start the clinic.
Martita smiled shiningly and said: “Perfect! That will be the place where I will work! I think my mother will be happy about this”
Rufina told me the last time I saw her, the Thursday I left Morazan before coming to Argentina: “What it is being done for Martita is being done to me as well, and for that, I thank you.”
Some thoughts/ images that I cannot even start to place in order or describe. As my dear friend Moira Roth says, this belongs to the realm of a “complex joy”:
Rufina holds the tiny boot of a murdered child
It is an offering,
a testimony to her witnessing
25th years ago
a horror unimaginably present
in the memories piercing her vulnerable body
her strong soul.
Martita, a glowing child of this same woman
who lost everyone and everything.
Martita returns to El Mozote as a doctor,
She comes back to her brothers and sisters
killed by the thunder of violence and swollen by earth.
She will heal the children
She will assist illness
She wants to remedy pain
Her mother looks from afar and smiles.
Last Exhibition of the Year at the School of Art and Open Studio of Perquin
The last exhibition of the year opened on December 7 having two themes:
The children artist’s works addressed: “Masks, Me and Us”/ “ Máscaras/ Yo y Nosotros”, a full-scale investigation on the way they see themselves and others.
The young and adult artists investigated “perspective”. In the same way they had investigated the urban landscape, now they painted the intimate environment of their homes.
The paintings are beautiful! They are insightful, plenty of information of the life captured in the represented rooms. Details are carefully rendered.
A Judge from San Fernando who visited the exhibition the day it opened remarked:
“These paintings, this art! makes me feel proud and makes me feel as a better person for looking at them! It is so “incredible” that all this was made by our people”.
“Incredible” may not be the best word. These are the evidences of the people from Morazán, indeed, able and capable to do this and so much more! I do understand his astonishment, however, for Morazan is identified as the poorest region in El Salvador, the most deprived, the less assisted, the place where everyone wants or needs to live from in order to survive. Morazan is a casualty of the war and a grotesque victim of the catastrophe of the post war.
So, it is remarkable and, indeed, quite “incredible”, that such beautiful art is created amidst devastation. Less known about this region, is the talent and commitment of the people, the way in which they have embraced art.
It is in their gifted hands where the miracle sparks.
The last exhibition of 2006 was a celebration and reaffirmation of the work we all have done as part of the School of Art and Open Studio of Perquin and we are happy and thankful for everyone’s effort.
Funding continues to be a struggle but angels are working for us!
We have received confirmation from
•San Carlos Foundation
•Potrero Nuevo Fund
These foundations have expressed their wish to support the School of Art and Open Studio of Perquin with the same funding that they granted us last year.
THANK YOU !!!!!!!!!!!
THANK YOU !!!!!!! on behalf of all of us!
In addition to this, I want to report a main and critical advancement in the funding prospect for 2007:
The Mayor of Perquin, José Rosa Argueta, has committed himself and the Mayor’s Office to pay the salary of one of our paid local instructors.
This is of enormous relevance: Firstly, because it creates the precedence of a local partnership between the School of Art and the local political agencies. Secondly, because it reaffirms, politically, the respect that this current Mayor has for the school and his willingness to directly partake in it, despite different political ideologies.
The School of Art and Open Studio of Perquin was born under the sponsorship of a Mayor and a Mayor’s Office from the FMLN. On March 12th, 2006, this changed and the Mayor and the office he represents is of the opposite political party, ARENA.
Initially, rumors about the destroying of the work we did last year, managed to worry us all. At the end of the year, we are happy to announce that no alteration or destruction of the work created last year was carried on.
In fact, as described above, the ARENA Alcaldía (Mayor’s Office) has absorbed the salary of one of the local art instructors.
Art, again, manages to be a tool for diplomacy.
We still are in the search of three other salaries.
“Murmullos/ Whispers” is the name of an installation I created to be part of the exhibition “Luciérnagas de El Mozote/ Fire flights at El Mozote”, which opened at the Museo de la Palabra y la Imágen/ Museum of Words and Images on November 30th in San Salvador.
The exhibition has a documentary component: photographs taken few days after the massacre had occurred. The majority of these photographs were taken by Santiago. The negatives were smuggled to Nicaragua where they have been for many years and retrieved for the first time in decades, for the 25th anniversary of the massacre at El Mozote.
The images are chilling. There are few that show the tragic, almost undistinguishable reference of humans. Those are horrific and unbearable to look at.
The ones that moved me the most are the images showing the community of El Mozote at the time of the massacre. People have talked to me often about the economic independence that El Mozote had early in the 80’s, due to the cultivation of mescal plants and the production of mescal thread and rope/ “pita de henequen”. Before plastic rope arrived to the region, the mescal rope served for everything from knitting hammocks to create beds, to anything that would involved carrying weight, collect animals, protect crops, etc. Thus, the economic splendor of this fabricated production.
The houses were well built and many had iron doors, a sign of great prosperity.
The church, the campanile and the convent seen from above, from the Hill of the Cross, where the virgins were raped and executed during the massacre, was exactly the way the buildings are represented today in the mural we painted at the church. Seeing these pictures, I realized how imprinted the image of the original buildings were etched in the memory of the people who have lived at El Mozote until 1981 and who came to paint with us this year, who came to help us rebuilt in shapes and colors, the community as it was.
The images of this exhibition depict silence. The same silence that people described to me while taking testimony in 1992. The agonizing silence of death in a place where no one had survived.
A white dress hangs on wire in the way women expand their garments to dry. This dress is vacant, is soiled with matter that can be seen as earth. Or blood. Or both.
A white dress that introduces the visitors to the installation.
“Murmullos/ Whispers” is a close and dark environment in which five white garments treated with paraffin appear to be inhabited. They are rotund as if worn by non-seen forces. A mother’s dress, a man’s shirt, two girls dresses and a small boy’s shirt.
A family, as so many living families at El Mozote in 1981.
A video is projected on the garments composed, exclusively, in sound and images with collected footage from Perquin and El Mozote today. Children, landscape, vernacular sound, light (interior and exterior), brutal storms that become the metaphor of a brutality not of nature but of men.
A girl dressed in white moves, gently, from one garment to the other until she finds a place from where she looks directly to the viewer, with no reproach but with questioning eyes. She is Julisa, Rufina’s great grand-daughter. Her mother is Fidelia’s daughter. Fidelia is an older daughter of Rufina’s who, at the time of the massacre, had already formed her own family and was living in La Tejera, 2 kms North from El Mozote.
Julisa looks at us from the motion of the projected video in astonishment of this accident of time and geography that have tinted the life and death of her family.
As the viewer’s eyes adjust to the sound and narrative of the images projected on the whiteness of the garments, a new source of sound invades the scene discretely: these are young voices, children voices.
These are the voices of the living children of Morazan naming the massacred children of El Mozote.
Their whispers are a supplication, a plea for none of us to forget them.
What to say to conclude this report and with it, this year of 2006????
These last two years in Perquin have been of intense happiness for me. I am deeply thankful to each and all the people who are my friends, colleagues, neighbors, students of the art classes, collaborators of the art projects, all the people who conform the communities of Perquin and the North of Morazan.
These last two years have confirmed to me that everything that is worth doing is better done in collaboration with others, in trust of others, in the recognition of the power and beauty of others.
These last two years have been an antidote to the brutality that a torn apart world forces upon our solitudes. My life in Perquin in adjacency to the School of Art and Open Studio and to everyone who is part of this in so many different capacities have given me the strength to go on imagining a future less painful than our past.
No one, ever, deserves poverty and isolation.
No one should be left unassisted when in need.
No one should be a lonely beholder of tragic memories.
If we are alert enough as to detect how to contribute, even if in a small way, to remedy someone’s misery and it is in our power to do that, we ought to try.
We, simply, ought to try.
All was taken away from you: white dresses,
Wings, even existence.
Yet I believe you,
There, where the world is turned inside out,
a heavy fabric embroidered with stars and beasts,
you stroll, inspecting the trustworthy seams.
Short is your stay here:
now and then at a matinal hour, if the sky is clear
in a melody repeated by a bird,
or in the smell of apples at the close of day
when the light makes the orchards magic.
They say somebody has invented you
but to me this does not sound convincing
for humans invented themselves as well.
The voice- no doubt is a valid proof,
as it can belong only to radiant creatures,
weightless and winged ( after all, why not?),
girdled with the lightning.
I have heard that voice many a time when asleep
and, what is strange, I understood more or less
an order or an appeal in an unearthly tongue:
day draws near
do what you can.
Czeslaw Milosz, Berkeley, 1969
So many people inspired me in Perquin and the North of Morazán! They helped me rebuild my own trust, my own forgotten (for a while) practice in seeing the best in most instances, and when the best is not possible for the horror overrules sanity, they have shown me what to do with anger and frustration: We remember together and commit ourselves to never forgetting and do as much as we can to avoid future tragedy.
That is the “curricula” in our beloved School of Art and Open Studio of Perquin, we create together, collectively and collaboratively, we love our children, we laugh a lot and we trust that we will continue to do beautiful art in 2007.
To so many dear friends outside Perquin THANK YOU !!!!! for your on going support to me! The emails, phone calls, constant attention to what I “am up to” in El Salvador.
Thank you !!!! to the ones who came to visit us, and to the ones who came to share their art and talents with us.
Thank you !!!! to the ones who may do that in the future,
A peaceful, wonderful end of 2006 and a glowing, creative and transforming 2007!!!!!!!!!!!
I am sending my love and appreciation to each and all of you!