© 2015 Tessie Barrera-Scharaga. Website designed by Gabrielle Scharaga

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Tactics of Survival

Mixed-media installation incorporating found objects, fabric, paper, and books.

6’Lx6’Wx10’H

2013

 

Throughout my life, books have been constant companions. Books have presented me with a multitude of adventures, answered my questions, provided a refuge in adversity, and delivered me safe and sound after losing myself in them completely. 

 

When I returned to the US at sixteen, my books helped me forget, for at least a few hours at a time, that I felt insecure, awkward, and lonely. Though I was born in New York I had lived abroad most of my life. Returning to New York to further my education meant re-learning a language I had forgotten and adjusting to a culture and society I knew nothing about, I was an immigrant in my own country. My family had stayed back in El Salvador, my mother’s country of origin, where I had attended the local schools. Away from family, friends, and the things I knew and loved, there were two books that could conjure up at a moment’s notice, everything that I missed: Salarrue’s Cuentos de Barro and Alfredo Espino’s Jicaras Tristes.

 

Many Salvadoran children from my generation learned to read in these books and it was to them that I turned when the loneliness was more that I could bear. Immersing myself in these books helped me maneuver the challenges of being on my own and alone.

 

This installation honors two Salvadoran men of letters: Salvador Salazar Arrué and Alfredo Espino. They captured without pair the beauty of El Salvador and the warmth of its people. I feel that to their beloved books I owe my survival.