Panel at U.Va. to Discuss Lessons from El Salvador for Current Times

September 04, 2008

Aug. 27, 2008 — In a world where conflict and violence are all too commonplace, the women of El Salvador have much to teach others.

Having survived a horrendous civil war in the 1970s and '80s, the women have persevered and made positive, sustainable change for improving daily life in the 21st century.

The University of Virginia Women's Center will present a panel discussion, "We Have to Dream While Awake: Courage and Change in El Salvador," Sept. 9 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Newcomb Hall Art Gallery. The panel is being held in conjunction with the exhibit of the same name, which features images by local photographer Peggy Harrison and accompanying text from interviews by Sharon Davie, director of the Women's Center.

Davie and Harrison traveled to El Salvador in 2006 to meet with female activists for social justice, and Davie returned the following year with U.Va. students for a study-abroad course.

The exhibit will be on display in the Newcomb Hall Art Gallery until Sept. 17, and then will travel around the area to English classes for Spanish-speaking students and community venues. The exhibit includes photos of women in CoMadres — the Committee of Mothers of the Disappeared — and of youth in a group dedicated to sex education.

"It also offers glimpses into other worlds — the unflinching eyes of a young girl who is a former gang member, the portrait of a former guerrilla who is clearly never at rest, images of the day-to-day life of women, men and children in the rural community of Ciudadela Guillermo Ungo who are poor, but immensely rich in spirit," Davie said.

The panel will explore ethics, history, culture and current movements toward change in El Salvador. "These issues relate not only to El Salvador, but also to Central and South America, and to a larger set of choices that face our nation," she said.

Along with Davie, panelists will include U.Va. Latin American historian Herbert "Tico" Braun; U.Va. sociologist Rae Blumberg; Roberta Culbertson, director of the Violence and Survival Program of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, and Salvadoran sociologist and human rights activist Linda Hemby. Translation in Spanish and English will be provided. A discussion and reception will follow panelists' comments.

The traveling exhibit and panel are made possible with support from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, the U.Va. Office of Diversity and Equity, the Parents Program and the nonprofit AKC Fund.

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 -- Anne Bromley