These living faces are still here, discredited by a nation hiding behind the curtain of nationalism. 3,000 posters, 12 faces, and one action are reflected in silenced portraits. Beyond the loss of belonging to a place bound by borders or the dignity of possessing a passport, these images show the reality for people trapped between physical and conceptual barriers, positioned between misery and precariousness. This is life for African, Haitian, and Cuban migrants stuck at the northern border of Costa Rica.
In 2015 and the current year, there has been a growing problem with migration through Costa Rica. South and Central America have become corridors to “the American Dream." Because of socio-political and economic factors in each of their regions, emigrants from Africa, Cuba, and Haiti are the protagonists of this scenario. After leaving Brazil, they managed to cross an entire continent, only to find themselves stranded in Costa Rican territory. Countries such as Nicaragua, Panama, and Colombia have taken preventive measures and closed their borders to the transit of these peoples. Nicaragua has gone so far as to condemn humanitarian aid as a form of human trafficking.
Rostros Vivos came into being in spite of the propaganda of the 2016 Nicaraguan elections in order to expose those other living faces that occupy a very different socio-political context and ,as a result, brutally neglect the human rights of the vulnerable people—men, women, and children alike—who live day to day in dire uncertainty.
We do not know much with certainty except that they are caught by the lines of a map. In these twelve photographs, juxtaposed against the emblematic hat of Augusto César Sandino, are the faces of those subjected to utter anonymity.
In collaboration with the artist Julia Murillo, the artist Habacuc traveled to the northern border to capture the plight of these people living in limbo, not know if they will ever be able to continue on their long and arduous journey through this passage to a better life.
Rostros Vivos, which could only take place a few days before the presidential elections in Nicaragua, is disclosing the discrepancy between the original radical ideas of the Sandinista National Liberation Front that are still used and cited in speeches of the political elite, but are in reality nothing more than empty words echoing a political strategy.
An inability to communicate is, for the living, the closest thing to death. In the case of these migrants, whatever they say, nobody seems to listen. In light of the elections, perhaps these photographs will not last long on the streets and are fated to be just another layer beneath the city and in the collective imagination, buried under the propaganda that turns our eyes and disconnects us completely from our own humanity.
Thoughts by Erno Hilarion
The exhibition of Guillermo Vargas Habacuc in Despacio in San José, Costa Rica opens its doors to the public from November 18th to December 17th, 2016.
Portraits made in collaboration with Julia Murillo