Lorena Molina's Tu nombre entre nuestras lenguas recounts the deadliest massacre recorded in Latin American history. On Nov. 11, 1981, nearly 1,000 people — mostly children — were murdered in the village of El Mozote at the hands of the Salvadoran army, who were trained and funded by the United States. The Salvadoran government denied this injustice for nearly 40 years.
Molina's work is grounded in remembrance of the lost. The performance comes in two sections. In the first half, you walk into a nondescript room with only a red milk crate in its center. A button triggers a video of a rural village, which is projected on the wall. Wind bristles the branches of trees and grass swishes softly. A dirt road leads to what appears to be a church, peeking just above the horizon. The occasional chicken meanders in and out of the viewer's field of vision.
Visuals aside, the scene's narration is what drew me in. A woman shares her personal story of the massacre — of the children, family and friends she lost, the atrocities she witnessed and the devastation that not only she but the entire community felt.
The performance rotates every 15 minutes, making it more solitary. For me, it seemed as if the woman was just off the screen laying out her story. In that sense, the first half carried a sense of vulnerability. In the same breath, it commanded my full attention.
Once the video faded, I walked to an adjacent room. In the middle sat the artist, Molina, who also sat on a crate. (Born in El Salvador, she is now Cincinnati-based.) Ripened mangoes and bowls filled with softened clay were scattered across the floor. Though there was no set path, I made my way to the seat facing the artist. A large stack of paper sat next to us; each page contained a victim's name. Per her guidance, I read the name aloud — and then repeated it — before taking a moment of silence. To complete the ceremony, Molina handed me a sliced piece of mango and marked both of my wrists with clay. Each gesture asked me to deepen my understanding of the lost. Upon exiting, the clay still drying on my wrists, I carried their names with me.
Lorena Molina's Tu nombre entre nuestras lenguas is part of the Contemporary Art Center's inaugural This Time Tomorrow festival. For more information/dates, visit thistimetmrw.com. For our preview story on the festival, click here.