El Salvador: The Chalatenango Project



In 2010, Joel partnered with his longtime friend and community organizer Erika Murcia and her rural community of San Antonio Los Ranchos in the department of Chalatenango, El Salvador. Through public art, they told the fascinating history of the village’s suffering and exodus during the bloody Salvadoran civil war of the 1980′s and their inspirational return to reconstruct their community and their lives. This region of El Salvador faced scorched-earth attacks by the military and right-wing death squads (who, incidentally, were trained and financially backed by the Reagan administration) that left thousands dead and villages reduced to rubble. After spending years in horrible conditions in a refugee camp across the border in Honduras, the community decided to return to rebuild their homes and lives despite the fact that the war was still raging. Local children and adults studied and discussed their history and participated in the painting of the mural, including a poetic retelling of the story by Erika’s mother. The project culminated in a festive inauguration that included a theatrical performance by the students. Through the arts, the youth of the village learned of their parents’ resilience and survival in the face of unimaginable oppression and violence.

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