Faceless Dolls: The What, Why, and How – Karla Bonilla

Hello everyone! Happy Latino Conservation Week! In case you don’t know, Latino Conservation Week (LCW) is an initiative of the Hispanic Access Foundation which highlights and encourages the Latino community’s involvement in conservation. This year, LCW will take place from July 17- July 25. With this blog post, I’m making my own small contribution to LCW. Firstly, I just want to start off by saying that conservation includes protecting both natural and cultural resources. This is because the significance attached to a place, animal, or structure adds to the rationale behind why it should be protected. When reflecting on my own sites (Salem Maritime and Saugus Iron Works NHS), I can definitely see this showcased in my work this summer.

Through my internship, I’ve gotten the chance to collaborate with the North Shore Community Development Coalition (NSCDC), a local nonprofit based in the El Punto neighborhood of Salem, MA. I’ve mentioned them in a previous blog post, but just to refresh your memory, they are a nonprofit dedicated to providing affordable housing, creating personal and professional development workshops, and advocating for low-income (and predominantly Latinx) communities they serve. NSCDC also uses art to beautify the neighborhoods they operate in by commissioning artists to create vibrant, meaningful murals that spur conversation. 

View of the “El Campesino” mural by Ruben Ubiera. Photo courtesy of the Punto Urban Art Museum.

Over the course of this year and next, NSCDC will be creating enlarged sculptures of Faceless Dolls, a handicraft from the Dominican Republic. These dolls will be more than just beautiful fixtures of public art, they will be a celebration of the creativity and heritage of El Punto residents (who are predominantly Dominican). Residents of the El Punto neighborhood will be invited to create their own small faceless dolls, and have the chance of having their own dolls be chosen to become a large sculpture! 

My own Faceless Doll. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Thakkar/NPS

Furthermore, an exhibit on faceless Dolls including photos of residents’ dolls will be hosted next summer at the National Park Service Regional Visitor Center in Salem. Visitors to the center will be invited to create their own dolls and learn more about the El Punto neighborhood. You may be thinking: “well this is great, but what does it have to do with the National Park Service?” Well, NSCDC is a community partner of Salem Maritime National Historic Site. Salem Maritime values its relationship with NSCDC because it helps the site become more accessible to nearby El Punto residents. Interns at Salem Maritime NHS are tasked with collaborating with NSCDC on projects because the NPS wants to celebrate Salem in its entirety, which includes El Punto! Salem has a rich, multidimensional history (it’s not just witches and trade) and has so many stories to tell. As Salem evolves, so does our interpretation of its past and present. It is thus our hope that this Faceless Dolls project will help break down barriers between the National Park Service and Salem’s Latinx residents, and make conservation more welcoming and accessible to all.

Salem Maritime National Historic Site

Once again, happy Latino Conservation week!

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