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Celdas (Prison Cells)


My ongoing photographic project "Celdas" (Prison Cells) seeks to address the experience of alienation, fear and displacement hondurans experience as a consequence of the unspeakable violence that has taken over much of the Central American region. The experience is perpetuated as a result of current immigration policy and political rhetoric that seeks to dehumanize central american immigrants in the United States.


The research-based tableaus, which I construct throughout the U.S. and then document on 120 film with an image as the final form, are counter-narratives to the direct representations of violence in the media. The nomadic aspect of my practice helps me to better understand and effectively convey the psychological trauma that individuals fleeing the violence experience when they arrive to the U.S.

An important aspect of my work is the tension between cultural assimilation and the persistence of cultural identity and memory. The presence of specific objects such as CD’s, flowers or candles solicit an intimacy with the most private aspects of the lived experience (1). By bringing natural elements such as tree leaves, sand or found materials from the area into my constructed stages I recall the individual’s capacity of make-do.

Through magical realism, the vernacular spaces blur the line bewteen fiction and reality and introduce a dimension of pathos as they recall the need for sanctuary while alluding to coping mechanisms. To further the sense of poignancy, the play-scapes or scenes are informed by actual violent crimes, memorializing some of the victims caught up in the endless cycle. The convergence of crime site elements with the domestic space suggest the inevitability of violence's reach.

The juxtaposition of Catholic and Maya iconography evokes the legacy of Spanish colonialism while also reminding us that the history of violence in Central American societies has deep historic roots that predate the Conquest.




1.  Excerpt from Counter-Archives from the narco-City Catalogue, The Other Side of Fear: Alma Leiva's Prison Cells,Tatiana Reinoza, 2015.


Fuera de la Celda (Outside the Prison cell), is the documentary part of the Celdas series. These images function as a glimpse into the reality outside the "security" of the home. The security measures adopted by citizens are evident in the way in which they build their houses. Although necessary for their safety, such measures inevitably end up alienating the individual. The Photographs were taken in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, right after the 2009 military coup. 

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