Lorena Molina

Lorena Molina

Work from The Reconciliation Garden.

The Reconciliation Garden is currently on view as part of The Regional at the Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati, OH and will be travelling to the Kemper Museum of Art. The images are from a recent installation at The Welcome Project.

The project also provides viewers the opportunity to donate to the The Coffee Farmers Reconciliation Fund which will hopefully help fund coffee plantation recovery, restoration of 5,000 timber trees, improvement of drinking water supply, improvement of marketing of coffee, scholarships for coffee farmers to study @renacersv among other things.

“At the height of the coffee production in El Salvador, 95% of the country’s income came from coffee crops, yet the land was owned by less than 1% of the population. This resulted in vast land ownership and economic inequalities, especially for those working the coffee fields. Any protest by coffee farmers was met with harsh and deadly force from the government and coffee farm owners. This suppression of protest led civilians to
form a guerilla that resulted in a civil war, which lasted 12 years because the US helped fund it.

The war was fought in small towns, on farms, in forests and jungles and the combat was surrounded by banana plants, coffee plants, mangoes, and palm trees. Reconciliation Garden brings these plants into the gallery to serve as a place for meditation, conversation, and acknowledgement of the history of the US in El Salvador. The exhibition specifically highlights, how our actions that we might take for granted in our daily routines, such as coffee, are loaded with histories of exploitation, genocide, and imperialism. It also questions preconceived ideas about freedom and safety and the price paid for these ideas.

Notably, my practice has taught me that art can provide a space for witnessing and acknowledging difficult histories that we might not be aware of that we’re part of. In order for true reconciliation to happen, we must acknowledge the pain caused in the past, the present, and the pain that we will continue to cause in the future if amends are not made. Pain that whether we like it or not, we are complicit and continue to benefit from it.

Participants in the exhibition are first asked to make a cup of coffee, grown, and picked by coffee farmers in El Salvador and roasted in El Salvador as well.

While they drink their coffee- they watch a short video by Carlos Corado that features Emilio Valenzuela, a coffee farmer in El Salvador. After watching the video, they listen to a 7 mins guided meditation while they drink the coffee in the garden.

After the participants are done with the meditation- they have access to a workbook that includes history and timeline of events about coffee in El Salvador in relation to the civil war, battle over land, and US involvement. It also includes information and history about the coffee farms and organizations we worked with for this project.
The workbook also provides a space for them to answer some of the questions in the meditation.

There’s a wall on the gallery where participants are asked to collectively reflect and respond to the question “How do we make amends for the action of this country?”

This project is possible thanks to a Truth and Reconciliation grant by ArtsWave, with support from the City of Cincinnati, Duke Energy, Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Fifth Third Bank and the Arts Vibrancy Recovery Fund. And thanks to the collaboration and input from the following coffee farms and activist organizations: Cooperativa El Espino, Cooperativa San Isidro, Cafe Juayua, Renacer, and Fecoracen . As well as the studio and research support from Becca Moskowitz, Hailey Fulford, Katherine Taylor, Elan Schwartz, Emmaline Carter and Vicky Lee.” – Lorena Molina

Photographs and video by Carlos Corado and Lorena Molina.

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