eunicia before and after

The first time I saw Eunicia, in San Salvador in 1988, she was performing a dance about the lives of women, in an earthquake-ravaged auditorium of the National University. Birds were flying about under the ceiling, in and out through the broken windows.

The dancers had no makeup, no costumes, and the music they danced to echoed from a cheap cassette recorder. It filled the empty space:

Se va la vida, compañera
como la mugre en el agujero

Life goes by like dirty water down a drain. Eunicia and the dancers brought forth lifetimes of women’s endless work, hope, despair, frustration, endurance. It was simple and shatteringly powerful. Outside, students chanted for justice. The country’s civil war was in its ninth year.

The last time I saw Eunicia was in the lobby of the Sheraton Hotel in Escalón, an exclusive hilltop neighborhood in the city. The civil war was over. The guerrillas were disarmed, in exchange for promises that had been given to the poor, but change had not come. And yet a new era was beginning in El Salvador. Eunicia was dressed in an extravagant purple evening gown, her face a mask of pancake makeup and eye shadow. She was pacing the gleaming corridor anxiously and waiting impatiently for an advertising shoot to begin.