On the surface, the film El Lugar Más Pequeño directed by Tatiana Huezo tells the story of a small village and what led to it being wiped off the official map of El Salvador by the war's end. But in a deeper sense, the film allows for the telling of a story of a community who through memory and their deep affection for the land has risen, rebuilt, and reinvented themselves and their village through the existence of multiple temporalities.
In the film El Lugar Más Pequeño, directed by Tatiana Huezo, the residents of Cinquera, a municipality in the Cabañas department of El Salvador, tell stories from their lives during and after the Salvadoran Civil War. On the surface, the film tells the story of a small village and what led to it being wiped off the official map of El Salvador by the war's end. But in a more profound sense, the film allows for the telling of a story about a community who through memory and their deep affection for the land has risen, rebuilt, and reinvented themselves and their village. The past and present are held in focus together throughout the film which allows for the residents who are survivors of the war to tell the stories of their journey back home at the end of the war only to find that it no longer existed. I will be arguing that the existence of multiple temporalities is representative in the film as the residents of Cinquera work to rebuild their lives in the wake of loss and destruction.
If there were a way to describe Cinquera and its residents it would be rhizomatic. As Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari describe in A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, rhizomes exist in a way where they grow continuously with no particular direction. There is no beginning and no end, just simply existing continuously in the middle or in a constant state of becoming, which allows rhizomes to carry a principle of multiplicity. Deleuze and Guattari state, “The point is that a rhizome or multiplicity never allows itself to be overcoded, never has available a supplementary dimension over and above its number of lines, that is, over and above the multiplicity of numbers attached to those lines” (Deleuze and Guattari 9). Deleuze and Guattari further explain how a rhizome may become shattered or broken on any given spot but will eventually spring and begin to grow on one of its old lines or new lines.
This is exhibited throughout the film but specifically at the beginning of El Lugar Más Pequeño as residents of Cinquera recall what it was like to return home following the end of the Civil War in hopes of repopulating. Doña Elba, a resident of Cinquera recounts how all that was left of Cinquera following the Civil War was a church bell tower, bits of walls, and the fragmented bones and remaining clothing of the villagers who were not able to flee or find refuge. It is to say that the village of Cinquera is itself a rhizome. Despite a large portion of its inhabitants being savagely massacred at the hands of the state and the village being brutally bombed beyond recognition, parts of the village remained. What remained allowed for those who fled during the war to have something to recognize once they returned. Cinquera prior, during, and now after the war has been in a continuous state of becoming.
"Despite a large portion of its inhabitants being savagely massacred at the hands of the state and the village being brutally bombed beyond recognition, parts of the village remained. What remained allowed for those who fled during the war to have something to recognize once they returned."
Before the war, the inhabitants of Cinquera had received the reputation of being subversive by the state. According to another resident of Cinquera, Don Pablo, this was due in part to a new young parish priest who came to the village and radically changed the residents' way of thought by facilitating the understanding of ways in which they were being oppressed by both the state and the church. Don Pablo expresses how he and the fellow residents have held slaves to poverty and religion simultaneously by explaining how previous priests had preached the importance of the rich to the poor: “Where would you be if there were no rich people? Where would you work? Without the massive coffee plantations, we would live in terrible poverty!” How Cinquera and its inhabitants became conscious during the onset of the war is an example of how it was in the process of becoming. Even when Cinquera was left abandoned to be swallowed by nature and returned to the thick rainforest, it was in the process of becoming like a rhizome–it would again change and be transformed by those who returned and resettled. Cinquera today continues to be a rhizome as Don Pablo expresses in the film. His biggest fear is his village returning to how it used to be in a “backward” way of thinking, implying that consciousness and becoming are a fundamental part of life in the village.
Being labeled as subversive, understanding the combined oppressive forces of the state and church that inflicted on them and their village, as well as being forced to live outside the defined lines of their village allows for the understanding of Cinquera and its residents as nomadic war machines. Deleuze and Guattari explain that the war machine is an extension of nomadic people who resist state control, as well as a force that does not have a defined essence but rather is always a reaction to the state and a point of transition. The authors state, “It would seem that the war machine is projected into an abstract knowledge formally different from the one that doubles the State apparatus” (Deleuze and Guattari, 362). To be a war machine is to exist outside of the rigid and striated spaces and definitions the state has put in place and instead question the classic image of reason and logic and enter a smooth space of non-definition.
"Being labeled as subversive, understanding the combined oppressive forces of the state and church that inflicted on them and their village, as well as being forced to live outside the defined lines of their village allows for the understanding of Cinquera and its residents as nomadic war machines."
In the case of Cinquera and its residents, they became war machines in response to the state's oppression., But through state violence, residents became nomadic as a means to survive. The authors explain, “It is precisely when the war machine has reached the point that it has no other object but war, it is when it substitutes destruction for mutation, that it frees the most catastrophic charge” (Deleuze and Guattari 230). This metamorphosis or change is what happened to the village of Cinquera as well as the residents who fled their village in hopes of survival and eventual repopulation. The village of Cinquera undergoing metamorphosis throughout the years of its abandonment and eventual resettlement is an example of how it is a war machine.
Because Cinquera was erased from the official map of El Salvador due to bombings, raids, and state-sponsored violence, the village and its residents also existed within a smooth space, no longer defined border. The villagers also transformed by questioning and undermining the normalizing power of the state as well as by fleeing during the war and seeking refuge in the mountains, a smooth space existing outside the confines of statism. It is also important to note that the residents of Cinquera who did not live to see the end of the Civil War were also powerful war machines. Most of those who died were murdered by the state for resisting oppression and capture and many became literal war machines and took up arms in an attempt at deterritorialization.
One of the most integral parts of the film is the first-hand accounts of deplorable human rights abuses experienced by the residents of Cinquera at the hands of the state. There was not a single person in the village who had not been affected by a cataclysmic event that led to loss and tragedy. In the book, A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None, Kathryn Yusoff states how the proximity of Black and Brown people to harm and be violent is forged by inhuman proximity organized by language and historical geographies of extraction enforced by imperial global geographies and what that entails during the era of the humans. She explains how Black and Brown peoples’ proximity to harm and violence stems from colonization–, where the bodies of the colonized people were transformed into objects or property, losing their autonomy and personhood.
"She explains how Black and Brown peoples’ proximity to harm and violence stems from colonization–, where the bodies of the colonized people were transformed into objects or property, losing their autonomy and personhood."
The author states, “Geology is a relation of power and continues to constitute racialized relations of power, in its incarnation in the Anthropocene and its material manifestations in mining, petrochemical sites, and corridors, and their toxic legacies all over the world that resolutely cuts exposure among color lines'' (Yusoff 10) The idea of Blackness as well as the displacement and eradication of indigenous people have been coded and defined through geology as it is not only a signifier for extraction but that of the human and inhuman.
for the rest of the analysis, see the document linked below.
"The Tiniest Place.", directed by Tatiana Huezo, Icarus Films, 2012. Alexander Street, https://video.alexanderstreet.com/watch/the-tiniest-place.
Koehler, Robert. The Tiniest Place/El Lugar Mas Pequeno. Variety, vol. 422, no. 9, 2011, p. 19 "The Tiniest Place." Herizons, vol. 27, no. 3, Winter 2014, p. 46+. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints,
link.gale.com/apps/doc/A361848075/OVIC?u=csunorthridge&sid=OVIC&xid=5152f988. Accessed 18 May 2021.
Cabezas Vargas, Andrea, and González de Canales Carcereny, Júlia. Central American Cinematographic Aesthetics and Their Role in International Film Festivals. Studies in Spanish & Latin American Cinemas, vol. 15, no. 2, 2018, pp. 163–186.
Braidotti, Rosi. The Posthuman. Polity Press, 2013.
Wiggin, Bethany, et al. Timescales: Thinking across Ecological Temporalities. University of Minnesota Press, 2020. Ch. 14 pp. 181-192.
Coccia, Emanuele. Plants Know. Purple Magazine, 2018.
Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. London: Continuum, 2004. Print.
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