Friday, May 16, 2014

Healing art for a wounded Perquin

By: Nancy Sabas

Local women showing their weaving project ¨Women in the bible¨

The department of Morazán in the Northeast side of El Salvador hides in it a small and picturesque town: Perquin. It is certainly a vivid and colorful ¨pueblito¨ surrounded by stunning mountains that would make any new visitor wonder how such a lovely place could have ever been called the ¨guerrilla capital¨ during the time of conflict in the 1980´s and been drug into a turbulent past of war, death and displacements.

The Ecclesial Based Communities of El Salvador (CEBES) - an MCC partner in Perquin, puts strong efforts in Historical memory projects that seek to raise awareness of this rough past as to not allow events like these to happen again. CEBES is also involved in women´s bible studies focused on gender equality, trauma healing and community development, among other areas.

CEBES has succeeded in finding a link that builds a relationship between their historical memory and their trauma healing efforts: Music and Arts.

Students from the Rosthern Junior Collegiate have been able to visit CEBES for two years consecutively through their program ALSO and MCC´s Connecting Peoples. In both of these occasions, a lively dinner-concert welcomed them. The band ¨Tiempos de cambio¨ and the Perquin Parish choir were able to transmit through music the vibrant and powerful spirit of a resilient community that had to face atrocities and injustices, and advocates untiringly up to this day. The visitor group from RJC also perfomed some special songs to sing to the community and to show their gratitude and respect. Last year, RJC raised funds to support the purchasing of a conga drum set for the community.

In 2013, participants of the Perquin parish choir and the band, collaborated in recording the MCC Alberta CD, Even in the Smallest Places that seeks to raise funds to support people living with HIV/AIDS, children orphaned by the disease, teaching prevention and addressing the poverty and injustices that perpetuate the spread of the disease. The CD, released in October 2013, features a song written by Daisy from CEBES, which is a call to show love and acceptance to people living with HIV/AIDS.

Among the different projects that CEBES runs, weaving workshops are one of them. Local women are encouraged to reflect their feelings and thoughts in their weavings about the armed conflict, to keep the historical memory alive and their importance as women, as they are taught in their bible studies oriented to gender equality. This not only serve as a tool to develop their creativity and talents, but also represents a source of income by selling their embroidery art projects.

CEBES also was involved in mural painting projects to keep historical memory alive. The CEBES building is brightly decorated with murals that honor the lives of the martyrs who died during the civil war. ¨The last supper in Morazán¨ mural in CEBES recreates Jesus´ last supper in a Perquin´s rural setting and replaces the bible figures with local martyrs wearing their traditional peasant clothes. Some of the people portrayed in the mural are:
  *Archbishop of San Salvador, Monseñor Oscar Romero
  * The only survivor of the massacre at neighboring community El Mozote, Rufina Amaya
  * The martyred Bishop of Guatemala, Monseñor Gerardi
  * American civil rights martyr, Martin Luther King Jr.
· * Sister of Providence, Hermana Silvia Troncoso
· * Indigenous rebellion leader, Anastasio Aquino
· * San Salvador martyr, Father Octavio Ortiz,

Certainly, art has proved to be a healing balm and CEBES knows it.


¨Art has accomplished in Perquin what politics have never been able to.¨
-Carmen Elena Hernandez, CEBES´coordinator.

Carmen Elena Hernandez, CEBES´ coordinator explains the ¨Last Supper in Morazán¨ mural to the MCC Material Resources Learning tour group. Photo taken by Stanley Toews.


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