Today I visited “MUTE” a museum in Santa Tecla that was previously a prison. It is now transformed into a place that seeks to create a culture of peace and offers education about human rights. The space is not as big as I had imagined a prison would be, and though there are a few gloomy reminders of what it once was, overrall, it’s a welcoming environment.
I remember reading about El Faro’s exposition “Presos de la Violencia”, Prisoners of the Violence, and thinking that I didn’t want to see it. I was worried it would be too sad and harsh for me (I’m quite sensitive in some ways). I forgot about it, and though technically the show ended in May, it was still on display at MUTE today. I’m actually glad I saw it. It had photos showing Salvadoreñans living in overcrowded prisons, people’s wounds from bullets and knives, people with mental illness and health problems, and more. The photos that struck me most were from a women’s prison in Ilopango. The place was designed to hold 400 prisoners and currently holds 1,731 women!
As a visitor, it’s easy to live in a sort of bubble. If you follow certain routes, go to the malls, and spend a lot of time at home, you can almost tune out the problems. Crime, violence, poverty, overcrowded prisons, environmental ruin are all problems we have in the U.S., but here, they are magnified.
I have purposely kept this blog positive and upbeat. There is plenty of information out there about all the things that trouble El Salvador and I’m the kind of person who likes to focus on the good. My husband and I are now half way through our time abroad and I thought it might be worth expressing that it IS hard here. It’s confusing too. I don’t always know what to do with the hard feelings when they come up. We each have our own way of dealing with what we see and experience in life, and sometimes one can’t help but feel discouraged and helpless.
I feel very grateful for my time in El Salvador. I acknowledge and see the hard things this country has to face and I give thanks that despite those things, there is still so much beauty to be found. Transforming a prison into an art museum, a place that feeds its citizens souls, is very clever and quite positive. And I’d like to imagine that those women living in the overcrowded prison are able to find a little bit of joy in their connections with each other and their hope for freedom.
MUTE’s website: http://www.mutesv.org/
More photos and a video about MUTE with English subtitles: http://www.elsalvador.travel/museo-tecleno-mute/
Mas información sobre Presos de la Violencia: http://www.elfaro.net/es/201205/guiacultural/8515/