Tuesday, June 19, 2012

El Salvador II

Rosa, one of the interviewed women, photographed for the project Mujeres de la Guerra
Mujeres de la Guerra, Historias de El Salvador (Women of the War, Stories of El Salvador) is an inspiring project by Lyn McCracken and Tedde Simon, which documents the lives, stories, and work of twenty-eight women leaders in El Salvador. Through a documentary film, photography exhibits in both the US and El Salvador, and a photo essay book, they hope to provide these women with the opportunity to tell their inspiring stories and share their hope, wisdom, and dedication with the world as these women now work for peace and justice in El Salvador, which in many cases began with the repression and injustice caused by the Salvadoran civil war. On their public funding site, Lyn and Tedde talk about the women they interviewed:

"The Salvadoran Civil War (1980-1992) claimed the lives of over 75,000 innocent civilians. An additional 8,000 Salvadorans disappeared. Many thousands of families were forced to abandon their homes and flee from horrific violence, the majority of which was carried out by US-backed military and death squads. 
Before the war, these very young women saw the need to organize with their communities in defense of their rights. As the repression and violence worsened, some women helped their communities and families to flee, to refugee camps or the remote mountains. Others joined the insurgent guerilla forces, as cooks, as medics, in radio communications, in press and propaganda, and taking up arms to fight for their rights. 
The women tell stories about losing their homes, their family members, the scorched earth campaigns – losing crops, livestock, food and livelihood – the massacres, the repression. Fleeing with their children into the mountains, suffering from hunger, fear and tropical storms. 
Their stories are painful, hard to hear.
At the same time, the war was a school for many of them, a place where they learned to read, write, and find their voice. Today, these women organize their communities to create opportunities for everyone, to work for access to basic rights, to empower women and teach young people. Their courage, resilience, and perseverance, their hope in a better tomorrow, their ability to “seguir adelante,” continue forward in even the darkest of times, are deeply inspiring."

One of these women, Maria Yolanda Garcia Vigil, and her story is featured on the Voices from El Salvador blog, which directed our attention to this project in the first place. The story Yolanda tells is unbelievably brutal at times:
"My grandmother was hung. They hung my grandma. And they shot her. She was buried by my mom, more or less, on the spot. And my mom, too. They found her with eight kids in a house. My mom was tied up, all her teeth were broken from being kicked, she was blindfolded and beaten. They tried to kill her by beating her."

While Yolanda shares her story and her memories, it also becomes clear that her focus in doing so is the future and the improvement of the situation for women in El Salvador but also on a global level:

"These are real things, these aren’t things from a movie, but things that we have lived. And things that haven’t been easy. Our struggle has been of a lot of sacrifice, of blood, of so many martyrs that have given their lives in this history. We will construct our future together. The problems that we face in our country aren’t just here; the crisis is on the global level. And everywhere, even in the United States, there are people that are organized and fighting against injustice."

You can read Yolanda's complete story here. Please also watch this fantastic teaser for the documentary film and help Lyn and Tedde reach their goal if you are so inclined.

Also very moving in their simplicity and tenderness are the songs from the time of the war sung by Marina, which Lyn and Tedde captured for the project. In this song, Marina sings about a mother who has to tell her four children that their father is dead. “He fought for the people that he loved,” she tells them. Listen to the entire song, and others sung by Marina on vimeo.

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