Art Center Exhibition Highlights World Hunger Relief MissionFeb. 16, 2011
Photograph courtesy of Mark Menjivar.
Neil Rowe Miller is the Executive Director at the World Hunger Relief Farm in Waco, and it was through him that Mark Menjivar learned about the small farming community in Valley Nuevo that would become the focus of a documentary photography project.
In the 1980's, a bloody civil war raged in El Salvador, forcing the 172 families living in Valley Nuevo to flee for their lives to refugee camps in Honduras. However the deplorable conditions of the refugee camps convinced the people of Valley Nuevo to return to El Salvador before the end of the war, despite risking their lives.
Menjivar lived with his family in El Salvador as a boy during the civil war in 1988 - 1990. He and his family moved to the United States where he grew up and later went to college at Baylor University. Although he studied Social Work, his travels in Central America are what turned him on to photography. And it was through photography he had an opportunity to return to El Salvador.
Menjivar's work tells the story of Valley Nuevo through portraiture and landscape photography. His portraits run the gamut of generations in the agrarian community, however, Menjivar also explores the concept of his own life through his subject Israel.
For a brief time Menjivar and Israel may have shared similar experiences in their youth while living in El Salvador. But, the portrait of Israel today, a photo of young man in his twenties, shows a face with an abysmal gaze, and weather-worn skin already showing a bit of age in a fissured brow.
These young men and women are the focus of the World Hunger Relief Farm initiative in Valley Nuevo. While the community was able to obtain nearly 500 acres of their own land to farm, there was minimal economic opportunity in growing staple crops like beans and corn.
Menjivar plans to continue his Valley Nuevo project by focusing on the community's youth studying in San Salvador. His current project is on display at the Art Center Waco from now until March 20, 2011.
On Friday, there will be a fundraiser at the Art Center to raise awareness for World Hunger Relief's cause in the Valley Nuevo community. More information on Valley Nuevo, The Art Center Waco, and Mark Menjivar at KWBU.org. For KWBU news, I'm Jacqueline Deavenport.