Mark Vallen is a Los Angeles based figurative painter who advocates a new social realism for the 21st century. He founded and maintains the popular Art For A Change web log, dedicated to an examination of art and its intersection with politics.
In 1989 I created the pencil drawing We're Making A Killing In Central America (first image) depicting two of the many thousands of innocent civilians tortured and murdered in Central America during the bloody conflicts of the 1980s...
There had been an upsurge of extra-judicial killings in Central America during the late 1970s, when government forces and right-wing death squads in Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador began annihilating opposition groups and individuals by way of kidnapping and assassination. My drawing was indirectly inspired by the November 16, 1989, murder of six Jesuit priests carried out by the Salvadoran army. The priests, who included the rector and vice rector of El Salvador’s esteemed Central American University, were taken from their beds in an early morning army raid on a home in the capital of San Salvador. They were brutally tortured and then shot in the head. The priest’s housekeeper and her 15-year-old daughter were also viciously murdered by the soldiers.
I was so outraged by this bloody crime that I was moved to create my drawing that same year — the work’s title alluding to U.S. government complicity in arming, training, and financing the very soldiers responsible for slaughtering the innocents. But rather than depicting a well known case, I wanted to memorialize the anonymous masses who had fallen victim to the para-military death squads. We may never know the names of all the victims of state sponsored torture and murder in Central America — but we can work to assure that justice will at last find their killers.
images © Mark Vallen