Pax Tecum Filomena

January 16, 2007 marked the 15th anniversary of the 1992 Chapultepec Peace Accords that would bring an end to El Salvador’s 12-year civil war. This past summer, I had the privilege of listening to the personal stories of my fellow Salvadorans as they shared their family photos with me. Little did I know that I would be confronted so poignantly with a part of my own history, and that traveling for the first time in my life to the town of Perquín, the former headquarters of the FMLN (Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front), would haunt me with such unexpected images.

An intense war zone during the war, the last time I had been anywhere near the Eastern part of the country was when I was 15, a few years before I left El Salvador to come to the United States. But Carolina’s husband said we would go on a pilgrimage, and he was right. Seeing our cousin Janet’s picture (a.k.a. Filomena) amongst the fallen heroes and martyrs at the Museo de la Revolución thrust me into a charged psychological space where past and present merged, opening the wounds of traumas not completely healed.

May peace be with you.

Exhibited at the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego, CA, in Tell me a Story: Narrative Photography Now, 2007.

Guest curator: Merry Foresta.

"One does care, however, about Muriel Hasbun's trip to her native El Salvador, simply because she conveys a clear and poignant autobiographical vignette. (She now lives and works in Washington, D.C.) Her work takes the form of projected images and a voice-over narrative. She goes there to collect stories of fellow Salvadorans, but quite by accident comes upon a picture of her cousin Janet in the Museo de la Revolucion. It turns out Janet, now dead, became a famed revolutionary named Filomena.
The audio conveys how Janet was, in her pre-revolutionary days, a beauty queen while Muriel was growing up. The artist conjures up a memory of her cousin in a red velvet dress and the fleeting pictures include a detail of just such a dress as well as of castings from teeth, presumably of those who died in the civil war that engulfed her nation.
Here image and story intersect, with the effect of the pictures heightened by Hasbun's words – and vice versa. One feels as if she needs to tell this story to live, which makes the viewer feel compelled to look and, in her case, listen." --Robert L. Pincus, The San Diego Union-Tribute, 2007.