Voices of Peace
West By Northwest.org
Summer 2002

Some may disagree with the brief , simplified summary of the popular movements in Central America but no one can deny the role of the United States military and the regional tragedy unleashed on people who simply tried to exercise basic human rights. Now a pair of North American peace activists who witnessed and documented the life of the average person caught in the terrors of war
promise to return. What will they find? --Editor

We Shall Return!

A Project to Document

Living with the Consequences of U. S. Policy
The Central America Photo/Testimony Project

Text by Pam Fitzpatrick

Photos by Paul Dix

Two little boys on horseback, Nicaragua, near Rio Blanco, 1985. Photo by Paul Dix

In the 1980's, popular movements in Central America attempted to democratize their societies and direct a larger portion of each country's resources, in the form of food, housing, health care, and education, toward the well being of the poor majority. At the same time the U.S. government, under the banner of peace, freedom, and democracy, sponsored wars that blocked local efforts for change. Over a decade later, the poor of Central America continue to experience the effects of these wars and struggle for basic subsistence with little hope that their children will have schools, health care, or even the necessary nutrition.

During the 1980's most of the U.S. mainstream press either distorted or ignored the events in these countries and repeatedly failed to report U.S. complicity in the violence. With the end of the wars in the early 1990's, U.S. press coverage trailed off into a devastating silence with little or no coverage of the bitter legacies of war or the continuing struggles against violence and poverty. Countries that had been changing from a crop exportation focus to food sufficiency are again focusing on exportation to service debts under pressure from the U.S. dominated World Bank and International Monetary Fund. There is inadequate access to potable water, health care, education, physical safety, and transportation. Worst of all, children are again facing hunger. The people of Central America have a clear understanding of the U.S. involvement in these adverse changes. Do the people of the United States?

Paul Dix and I are planning to return to Central America this fall to take a small step in the process of helping the people of the US hear the voices of the people of Central America. Paul worked in Nicaragua from 1985 to 1990 with Witness for Peace, documenting with his camera the atrocities directed at civilians by the U.S. supported contras. He lived and traveled in the conflict zones, twice was caught in the middle of combat, and twice helped locate Witness for Peace volunteers who had been kidnapped by the contras and he participated in their release. During the 1980's Paul also traveled to El Salvador and spent a week in the guerrilla-controlled zone of Morazan. Another week was spent visiting the UNHCR camps in Honduras that were set up for Nicaraguan refugees. He accompanied and documented the first group of Guatemalans to return to their homeland after living for years in UNHCR camps in Chiapas and later, as part of an international protection program, accompanied a Guatemalan family for several weeks.

During his years in Central America Paul compiled a compelling collection of photographs and testimonies. He is in a unique position to continue the stories of these individuals and communities photographed and interviewed over a decade ago. We plan to reconnect with people he photographed in the 1980's and again record their experiences through testimonies and photographs. We will expand the documentation by including new contacts. This longitudinal documentation of the extended effects of U.S. policy on the daily lives of real people is an essential step in developing world policies that can foster healing and a redirection toward understanding and tolerance.

We will begin the project by traveling for three to four months throughout Nicaragua. We'll then return to the United States, process the gathered material, and share information through slides shows, exhibits, and articles. During this time we hope to raise the money to be able to return to Central America for a second four month period to focus on Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. We'll also need to travel in the U.S. to meet with Central Americans who were forced to flee their countries in the 1980's.

Our long term goal is the production of a coffee-table book of images that will stand on their own as a collection of "moments of truth" that mirror the shameful results of decades of U.S. intervention along with the enduring spirit of the victims. In addition, some of the photographs will be accompanied by quotes, poems, and children's drawings that directly pertain to the images. This supplement to the photographs will add to an intimate and starkly personal view of the people who are living with the consequences of U.S. policies while continuing to struggle with strength and determination for a better life for their children and their communities.

Our budget for this first four month segment of work is $14,216. We recently received $4,000 from the Lyman Fund (a private foundation with Quaker roots). In addition, Eugene Friends Meeting (2274 Onyx Street, Eugene, Oregon 97403) and Bozeman Friends Meeting (P.O. Box 714, Bozeman, Montana 59715) have opened donation funds. This means people can make tax deductible donations to the Meeting and request that the money go into a fund for our work. We would be very appreciative of any help with the expenses!

¡Volveremos! With your help, we shall return.

If you would like to learn more about this project, please contact <

¡Volveremos! fotos

Pam Fitzpatrick worked in the Sanctuary movement in the early 1980s and was director of the North Pacific Witness for Peace office from 1985 to 1993.

Paul Dix has been a professional photographer for 30 years.

© Spencer Creek Press, West By Northwest 2000-2002 All Rights Reserved unless otherwise noted.

The opinions expressed by the authors are not necessarily the opinions of the publisher and/or sponsors.



West by Northwest
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PO Box 51251
Eugene OR 97405

West By Northwest

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