|A pink life jacket floating on the Caribbean Sea. With this image the Dominican-born artist Scherezade Garcia begins her video about the liquid border that separates the Dominican Republic from Puerto Rico, a border which is crossed, or attempted crossed, each year by hundreds of Dominicans in search for a better life—sometimes their salvation—in other lands. The main idea for the project "Sabana de la Mar – Salvation Action" was conceived by Scherezade and the Dominican curator Alanna Lockward in 2002. Touched by the tragic news reports and stories about the frequent accidents happening on this migratory route, the two Dominicans decided to create a salvation action. In August 2003, Scherezade organized the action in the town of Sabana de la Mar, one of the most important departure points for Dominican migrants heading for Puerto Rico. The fundamental questions guiding the conceptualization of the projects were: What is salvation? And if salvation is understood as leaving one's own country in small boats (yolas) risking one's life, why don't people use life jackets? The project consisted of collecting testimonies from persons affected by this migration, and inscribing their testimonies and images associated with the experience of failure on the surface of life jackets. The fabrication of the life jackets was also part of the action.
The video ends where it begins: An empty life jacket is floating on the coast of Sabana de la Mar. A woman finds the life jacket. She approaches it and touches it. Maybe she knew the person who was searching for salvation. Maybe it was her son, her husband, or her father. With an almost invisible gesture the woman returns the life jacket to the sea, as if she is resigned to the fact that the sea retrieved its offering. On the road to salvation, not everyone is saved.
The theme of salvation has been a recurring theme in Scherezade's work from before the Salvation action in Sabana de la Mar. It first appeared in the series of drawings titled "Histories of salvation" (1999), and afterwards in the mixed media projects titled "Endless Love I and II" (1999-2000). These pieces, like Sabana de la Mar, references the history of Caribbean migrations in which the borders are made not of land but of water. In what follows we present Scherezade's video "Sabana de la Mar – Salvation Action", the photographic documentation of the project by William Vazquez, and an interview with Scherezade conducted by Ulla Berg where the artist elaborates about the experience of creating this project.