From November 17-24, 2014, cultural geographer, dancer, and Salvadoran émigré, Luz Mena, and I returned to El Salvador for our second trip developing Forgiveness Project: El Salvador, now known as, ANDARES! Join us in our journey of art and discovery!
Day One – Monday
After a night of no sleep for all of our preparations, Luz and I arrived in San Salvador in the afternoon. We were met by Bart, a family friend, who drove us first to Gabriela Mena’s home (Luz’s mom) where we picked up a supply of food for the week and then on to our Air B’nB on Calle Madre.
Our first evening ended very early for me—a delicious repast of guacamole and fresh corn tortillas, checking emails, studying our translation-transcriptions of all of our interviews from our June visit, and then off to bed for me. Luz enjoyed a visit with her sister, nieces, and newborn grand-neice before retiring as well.
Day Two – Tuesday
Our first morning was devoted to more preparations, reaching out to collaborators, videographer, translator, etc. I am studying hard to recall our first visit, to cull the most salient aspects of those first meetings and conversations, and to sharpen my own focus as we attempt to dig deeper. We still are far from knowing exactly what the scope of this project will be.
I am holding out hope that the one collaborator from whom we have not heard, will appear—Roberto Quezada. Meanwhile, there is still much to do with our other participants—Mauricio, Ennio, Patricia, Roberto, and Godofredo. This evening, we have the honor of visiting Mauricio and Ennio at Mauricio’s home, where we will get to see the collection of antique, indigenous flutes, hear music, break bread, and discuss where to go next. (more to come)
Mauricio picked us up in his truck to take us to his home in. First, he wanted to give us a heads up about their new band member, Rene Muñez. René is a world class pianist and composer who was also on the front lines of the guerilla movement in the revolution. He has seen it all and suffered greatly. Mauricio wanted to warn us that he would be a bit rough around the edges and that although he wanted to participate with us, he would want a lot more clarity than the others have been willing to ride with. We talked about the necessity for some open ended-ness, precisely because I, as the Artistic Director, was not on the front lines. Therefore, I would work to be as clear as possible about the parameters of the work, but that conceptually, I would be absolutely working with the material that theses collaborators come forward with. We stressed the importance of more continuous communications, which are difficult across the miles.
Meanwhile, I am keenly aware of how that very distance that had been worrisome over the last 4 months had completely dissolved as we met, embraced warmly, and fell instantly into conversation as though we had never parted this past June.
Ennio joined us on our way to Mauricio’s home. Soon after, Rene appeared. This handsome young man bore no resemblance to the image I had been prepared for. He was warm and kind and keenly intelligent. Clearly a serious artist, he wanted to express how the content of our work was a very concrete reality for him on a daily basis, and that he wanted to know that we would give clear parameters for the work they, as a band, would be generating. It was a rich conversation, to which he had much to contribute.
We watched the promotional video that they had put together for their band, Mezoamerica. Their specialty is the pre-hispanic flutes, made by indigenous Mayan-Lenca people of El Salvador. These flutes are so precious that they will need special governmental approval to take them out of the country.
I also showed them footage of my choreography from Unsing the Song, a piece I made as another international collaboration on genocide, in 2006. Then, we had the extreme honor and pleasure of hearing Mauricio and Ennio play us music from the flutes, as well as their drums, which they pulled from some corner of their modest apartment. Absolutely mesmerizing and heart opening sound.
We returned home moved, inspired, and deep into the next stages of formulating this project.