Between Revolution and War

These pictures, taken between 1982 and 1990 documenting the conflict in El Salvador, formed a one man show currently on tour in El Salvador and Guatemala, organized by Fundacion Latitudes, San Salvador. Below is the English version of show’s opening text panel.

In 1984 photographer Mike Goldwater and writer Jenny Pearce travelled to El Salvador’s northern province of Chalatenango to record the history of the peasant movement in the region and the role of campesinos in the Salvadorean revolution.

This exhibition shows the work Mike produced during that trip and other assignments El Salvador. His visual images track the tense relationship between the revolutionary aspirations of people for a new El Salvador and the demands and misery of waging war.

It was in Chalatenango that Mike and Jenny saw those aspirations translated into action. The peasants were developing what they called Poder Popular Local. Organising themselves, in some cases for the first time, they held literacy classes under trees, dispensed what little supplies of medicines they had in the popular clinics, and took decisions on which rested the survival of their communities.

In mid 2000s, members of the community of Arcatao in Chalatenango, established their own Museum of Historical Memory. This photographic exhibition is part of a process of reconstructing a history of the conflict together with those involved in building the Museum.

In early 2014, members of the Museum took an album of Mike’s photos of the people of Chalatenango around the villages of Eastern Chalatenango and began conversations around the memories they evoked. At public meetings in Chalatenango, the photos were again used to provoke conversations about memory, history and voice.

These conversations are a re-encounter between the communities of Chalatenango and the author and photographer; at one level they are a means of returning the oral history and visual images. At another level, they are an encounter between external and internal standpoints of history.

This exhibition of photos is an element in a social process, in which the photos have been used to generate discussion around which history and whose history is told. The photos take the story of the Salvadorean civil war forward to moments of military tension and armed repression in the course of the 1980s; they give visual testimony of just a few of the many participants – and victims.

The images from Chalatenango of 1984 recall the self-determination that the war was fought for and the role that many rural and urban Salvadoreans played in the struggle for a different kind of society.