El Mozote is a small town in El Salvador, and the site of the deadliest massacre in recorded Latin American history. On November 11th, 1981, 988 people, mostly children, were murdered. This atrocity was carried out by the Salvadoran army, trained in North Carolina and funded by the US government. For nearly 30 years, the Salvadoran government denied that this massacre had happened; the victims’ bodies and names lost between the terrain’s red clay and mango trees.
When trauma occurs, the act of telling stories becomes an important tool of both remembrance and resistance. Tu nombre entre nuestras Lenguas, was a ceremony for those who were lost at El Mozote. By bearing witness to a history unknown to most, participants contributed to a shared ritual that acknowledges the long history of the United States’ implication in the affairs of other nations, displacing families and directly contributing to the refugee crisis.
Tu nombre entre nuestras lenguas was a performance, video, installation made at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati. It was a one to one intimate ritual. Participants first watched and listened to Rufina’s Amaya testimony. Later, they entered a room full of mangoes and buckets of red clay where they were asked to read the name of one of the victims out loud. After reading the name, they were offered to take a bite of a mango that I sliced in front of them. While the sweetness of the mango was still in their mouth, they were asked to repeat the name of the person murdered.
Finally, I marked them with the red clay, and I told them that this was their history as well and to take the name with them.
Photographs credit: Rhee Lightner and Lorena Molina