Skin of Memory (1999)
Suzanne Lacy and Pilar Riaño-Alcalá

Barrio Antioquia is a community in the middle of Medellin, Columbia with a rich, varied, and sometimes tragic history that includes loss, stigmatization, and violence as a common experience for several generations. In spite of this history and an economy often dependent upon illegal activities, residents of its 2000 households have a strong sense of pride in a resilient and expressive culture with deep familial connections. Built on the community and scholarly work of Riaño and other historians, political scientists, activists and educators, the project focused on the uses of memory workshops to prevent forms of localized violence. A paid team of mostly young people interviewed over a third of the families to collect objects loaded with personal memories for display in a temporary “Museo arqueologico del Barrio Antioquia.” The museum was created by Lacy, Riano, architect Vicky Rameriz, designer Raul Cabra, and local artisans in a bus by adding row upon row of aluminum and glass shelves lit by tiny bulbs. The display contained 500 objects including Donald Duck figurines, American dollar bills, gold plated silverware from a former drug dealer, wedding pictures, identification cards, and even the pictures and clothes of family members killed in shoot-outs. Residents who came to the bus wrote letters addressed to unknown neighbors that expressed wishes for the future of the barrio, and were later delivered to residents in a jubilant procession. For ten days, the bus was stationed throughout different quarters of the Barrio to ensure that all could see it safely without having to cross into hostile areas. Three hundred people a day visited; it was subject of national television programs when it moved for a week to downtown Medellin, at residents’ requests, to represent their community in a more positive light. 

With Raul Cabra, Vicky Rameriz, and Mauricio Hoyes. Produced by Corporacion Region, Comfanelco, Corporacion Suisse, and Educame, Medellin, Colombia.