Domestic Authority: Through images of the bodies and lives of the market women of one small town, I have been exploring the informal economy and ripple effects of a legacy of conflict, immigration, survival and violence for women throughout El Salvador.
At the center of millions of mundane transactions, the apron, or delantal, exists somewhere between the fanny pack and the fluff of the sexy-maid archetype. It is an artifact of domesticity and subservience wrapped around the most vulnerable zone of the body. Layers of lace and ribbon highlight rolling hips and full bellies while concealing hidden pockets laden with cash, cellphones, receipts and accounting notes. It is both armor and advertising as the women ply homemade sweets, stack vegetables, or pat out tortillas and call to clients, “¡Diga, Papá! ¡Que Quieres, Mamá?,” enticing them to buy. They are at once sensual, maternal, and commanding.
Market Forces: Each delantal hints at the life of the woman who wears it: worn and plain; festooned with layers of satin ribbon; ironed to starched rigidity; or limp with filth. In each case the delantal belies the hustle and precariousness of daily life. The World Bank asserts that the earning power of women within El Salvador’s economy has steadily improved, and with it the standard of living for lower-income families. Though hard to find signs that life is any easier, it is evident that these women are lifelines for whole clans. Indeed, estimates suggest that women’s earnings have buffered the poorest of the poor against the impact of the 2008 downturn and the resulting drop in remittances from abroad and earnings by men.
Delantal shares the same root as adelante, meaning “forward.” These women look constantly forward. Motion keeps them viable. While this project was sparked by a love for the textures and vibrance of the delantales, it has continued as an exploration of loss and survival, connecting viscerally to notions of beauty, repression, sexuality, survival and vulnerability.