Las Horas de Belén. A Book of Hours (1999), an across-the-border collaborative performance piece, focuses on the violence against women in colonial Mexico, especially the incarceration of women in Belen, a charitable ‘home’/prison founded in 1683 for unwed mothers and other socially marginalized women. The collaboration took shape over a period of two years. The collaborators include Ruth Malechech, director of New York-based Mabou Mines, Jesusa Rodríguez, Mexican director, actor, writer, and feminist activist, and her partner, Argentine-born singer-composer Liliana Felipe, visual artist Julie Archer, and poet Catherine Sasanov who, at the time, was writing poems inspired by the history of Mexico City and the circumstances of the founding of Belén. Sasanov´s poetry became the base of the script (consisting of song lyrics, projected writings, and minimal dialogue). Debuting in the 1999 Festival del Centro Histórico in March at the Claustro of Sor Juana in Mexico City, it then opened at P.S. 122 in New York City in May, 1999, and has since played in various U.S. cities and returned to Mexico. While working on the piece, the women were deeply affected by reports of unsolved rapes and murders of hundreds of young women working in the maquila factories in U.S.-Mexico border towns. Official indifference to the this violence echoed the stories the artists were uncovering about the women in Belén.
Photo credits for Horas de Belen, Julie Archer