Artist Germán Andino’s depiction of gang violence in Central America comes to U-M
A graphic novel that tells the history of gang violence in Central America will come to life in “#NoHumanIsAlien: An exhibition of Germán Andino’s ‘The Habit of Silence.'”
Presented by the University of Michigan Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, the exhibition is on view now through April 6 at U-M’s Mason Hall.
The artwork is based on a set of interviews that Andino, a Honduran journalist and artist, conducted over the last five years with young people in various neighborhoods in San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa, the cities where he was born and raised.
The result of those interviews is a graphic depiction of the history of gang violence in Central America, which will be displayed in a large-scale, 100 meter-long mural format for the first time.
Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof, associate professor of history, American culture and Latino studies, and curator of #NoHumanIsAlien, says the work provides important insight into the crisis unfolding in Central America and will spark conversation over the crisis in relation to U.S. immigration and foreign aid policies.
“The exhibition surfaces the ways that our immigration policies depend on a deeper silence about the interconnectedness of human communities—especially the interconnections between violence in Central America and actions taken by the government of the United States,” he said.
“For example, an accompanying text by Andino, ‘Prehistory of its invisible borders,’ describes the arrival of first gang members in his neighborhood that were deported from Los Angeles as part of a U.S. policy to remove ‘criminal aliens’ at the end of prison terms.”
Hoffnung-Garskof said the idea for the exhibition was borne out of conversations with journalist Alberto Arce, a current Knight Wallace fellow at U-M. Arce, a long-time collaborator of Andino’s, is author of the recently released “Blood Barrios: Dispatches from the World’s Deadliest Streets,” which is illustrated by Andino. Arce is a winner of the English PEN Award and also a character in “The Habit of Silence.”
“What’s interesting about Germán is that he doesn’t consider himself to be an artist. He considers himself to be a reporter who draws, which is actually a debate that is happening in modern journalism right now,” Arce said.
“There are certain things that words and videos and photos cannot show, especially when you’re reporting on gangs, where there’s a lot of violence and not a lot of access—not to mention the fact that graphic depiction is also a very useful tool when you’re reporting on things that happened in the past.”
As part of the exhibition’s programming, Hoffnung-Garskof, Arce and Andino will lead a workshop for regional K-12 educators on the subject of gang violence and contemporary immigration debates. The workshop, to be facilitated by Alana Rodriguez, academic program specialist at the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, will also feature a presentation on immigration enforcement in Washtenaw Country by William Lopez, postdoctoral scholar at the National Center for Institutional Diversity and U-M School of Public Health, and a session on teaching the politics of migration with images of members of U-M’s Rackham Interdisciplinary Workshop on Migration and Displacement.
After its run at U-M, #NoHumanIsAlien is expected to travel to the Honduran Museum for National Identity in later this year.
Lead sponsor is the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Support is provided by the Department of History, Department of American Culture, Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies, Latina/o Studies Program, Arts at Michigan, La Casa, Migration and Displacement Interdisciplinary Workshop, and Transnational Comics Studies Workshop. Andino’s visit and the K-12 workshop were funded in part by a Title VI National Resource Center Grant from the U.S. Department of Education.