Landscape, Identity, and Healing


Federico Cuatlacuatl reflects on the landscape around Weimar and Buchenwald

Landscape in Weimar

Bringing my own real lived experiences and background from an indigenous community in central Mexico, I was deeply moved by our visit to the Buchenwald Memorial near Weimar. In Mexico, we have many sites of atrocities, and we have cultural mechanisms to cope with loss, trauma, and healing practices. In my community, we embrace death as a gesture of humility and love for what is the cycle of life but also as a means to keep those who have passed away closer to our hearts and ‘alive’. We have festivities all year-round commemorating and showing love for our loved ones who have passed away. Festivities with music, traditional local foods, prayers, and spiritual rituals. We don’t have as much of a culture with memorial sites or architectural structures to commemorate historical moments. Our memorials are woven into our daily traditions, focusing on unity and healing. This is what kept going through my mind as I experienced our tour of Buchenwald and our follow-up conversation with the director Prof. Jens-Christian Wagner. I kept wondering how a country can possibly develop healing practices with such massive atrocities in its history. Who needs to heal and what do these healing processes look like for this history-specific place? Whose job is it to provide the laborious process of building the infrastructural foundation in German culture to heal?

As an artist, these are basic but very powerful questions to be making towards any society. Recognizing that art is such a moving force politically and socially, we must continue to move forward with radical love and how art can guide us. Experiencing Buchenwald in person inevitably was seen through my artistic lens, observing how the landscape and land might be allowed to heal and allow creative spirits to lead some of these endeavors. I also wondered how this conversation might unfold with survivors and descendants of the survivors when asked about what a spiritual and emotional reparation might look like as a healing process for them and Germany. These are vital conversations to keep alive and I couldn’t help but notice the land underneath me was still in urgent need of addressing how it has been in pain from such an aggressive violence imposed on it.

Landscape builds identities and our identities build our surrounding landscapes, the way we show love for our lands defines our spiritual health and symbiosis to our lands. Buchenwald left me wondering how these lands might be allowed to heal as a reciprocal process with its people. It seems inevitable for an artistic and cultural force to open up these possibilities and provide the potential for envisioning futures where these healing practices might find their own place.