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In summer of 1983, my family and I left Peru. That experience left me with an ache in my heart that never healed. My family left because we owned a newspaper that was expropriated by the guerrilla communist movement in Peru, Shining Path. As you can imagine, the consequence of losing your means by violent action are immediate, terrible, and somewhat indescribable. We did not have any economic support beyond the newspaper and our security was in question, so my family left Peru to look for work overseas.
Leaving your country for any other reason than because you want to is very hard.
Since then, I have thought of our departure from Peru as more of an exile. After so many years abroad, I feel I was so lucky to stay alive, have a family and develop my career. But when I return to Peru, I feel a gap in my heart.
Using this experience, I have worked to explore this feeling of belonging (or not belonging, as it were), using my body as a blank canvas to be transformed and camouflaged into a new image that reveals itself only after careful observation. It became a performance act.
My work addresses issues of migration, belonging, "the other," and adjustment. I use my body as an object of ritual; the backgrounds I blend into relates to and refers to the places I've lived; and the fact of being almost invisible in these images references the long process of adaptation as an immigrant.
Migration in Latin America is one of the region's biggest issues affecting economic opportunities, national growth, identity, and culture. Immigrants make up 10 percent of the greater Costa Rican population. Men and women frequently migrate within Latin America or to the United States or Spain, sending back remittances to their home country to support their family. In other instances, families in conflict countries such as Nicaragua or Colombia migrate to escape violence or natural disaster or to search for more stable economic opportunities.
To learn more about Cecilia Paredes' work, visit ceciliaparedes.com.