barquitos de papel | paper boats, 2006-present.

barquitos de papel is an interactive mixed media and video installation piece conceived as part of the Fulbright workshops and first shown at the Centro Cutural de España in San Salvador during the project in 2006. Continuing to draw from the autobiographical as a point of departure, the video shows images of the last week of my father’s life as he and I made paper boats together, while also alluding to the role of lens-based media in the telling of our family’s stories of migration. Additionally, the installation beckons to the public and workshop participants to add their own paper boats to the space, inscribed with their own families’ stories of migration. Hence the birth of the barquitos de papel collective archive, a growing repository of audio, video and historical documents and a space for dialogue about identity and place. 


When my father was sick, I felt the need to talk with him about many things, including some that were not so easily broached. Before leaving for El Salvador on what became one of my last visits before his death, I found a little blue paper boat that he had made for my son. The side of the boat advertised the miracle of antioxidants. But we all knew that neither antioxidants nor any other treatment would save his life.

That’s how the idea came to me: we would make paper boats with documents that marked our lives and the history of our family. We would remember births, weddings, deaths, and migrations, along with houses and land still owned or already sold, in El Salvador or even in Bethlehem. Together we reminisced, and while we deciphered stamps and dates on the documents before us, we also managed to speak about his wishes after he’d no longer be with us.