Location: Bartos Screening Room
Dir. Margot Benacerraf. 1959, 90 mins. 35mm. In Spanish with English subtitles. On the coast of the Araya Peninsula, in Venezuela, the sun beats down on the sea, sand, and men below. Salt is the central resource of this land where nothing grows, and a community exists by extracting it manually day and night. The process, breathtakingly captured here on black-and-white celluloid and described in vivid detail by an offscreen narrator, unfolds through a series of arduous and unforgiving traditions. After the salt is harvested from the ocean and dried, men rake and pile it into high pyramids, while women weigh it into sacks. Observing this remarkable sequence of steps, there is a stark contrast between the lapping edge of the sea, the vulnerability of human skin, and the sharp crystal of salt. The physical gestures involved in the salineros’ way of life assume a spiritual precision—the community sustains itself on these actions and resources alone, and they have been unchanged for centuries.