Panel 1

The signs of the path: the historical violence


Humberto Ak’abal

Let the door of the sun be opened,

Let the gate of the moon be opened.

Let there be light in the sky,

Let there be light on the earth,

Let there be light in the soul;

Let the light give no way

to the darkness,

so that we do not lose the sign

of our path.

The internal armed conflict, which lasted more than 30 years in Guatemala, continues to be a current issue since its consequences on the social structure are still present. Two hundred thousand  absences caused in a premature and violent manner constitute the apex of a history marked by racism and, with it, marked inequality. Massacres, displacements and a series of human rights violations resulted in one of the country’s darkest periods.


The contexts of war were extended with the military dictatorships in Latin American countries since the 1950s, in the context of the Cold War, orchestrated by the United States as part of its justified intervention in the fight against communism in the region and all that resembled it. The systematic violation of human rights for political-economic purposes directed by the U.S. continues to take place in areas of Europe, Oceania, Asia and Africa. Violence in these war contexts continues to plague the world.


This panel will examine these issues from a cultural perspective. The papers will evaluate aesthetic manifestations as a means to open new means of expression and demonstrate how art and culture often create spaces for debates that would otherwise not be possible.


Panama, the Canal Republic: Keys to Understanding a Country with a Canal in the Middle

Gladys Turner Bosso


The Central American region has suffered systemic violence as it has become part of the global economy; our countries have a common history of areas occupied by colonial projects and transnational commercial emporiums. Panama is no exception. The so-called banana republics (with economies based on agrarian exploitation), as well as Panama, a canal republic (oriented to the tertiary, commercial and transitional sector), have been defined for the rest of the world, by their position in this ecumenical mechanism. Their histories have been characterized by constant meddling on the part of the US and other powers and, mostly, with the approval of the internal complicities of local groups which deeply entrenched economic interests.


In Panama, artists have reflected on the constant interference of the US in the country’s internal affairs. So far in the 21st century, there have been a series of exhibitions that raise awareness on these issues, and quickly review the contents of the works in each: 8th Panama Art Biennial (2008), Republica Canalera (2014), 1964: Arte, política, Panamá (2014), Palo encebao (2017), Completamente artificial (2018), Latin American Roaming Art (2017-2018), Una invasión en 4 tiempos (2019-2020) and El 20 y su contexto (2019-2020). As Luis Camnitzer has said, “art is a field of knowledge where problems are posed and solved; it is the place where one can speculate on issues and relationships that are not possible in other areas of knowledge.” Artists and curators have collaborated to showcase the relations of power, hegemony and foreign interference in the course of the country.


Mirror of contradictions: A View of Guatemala through the Quinto-Lojo Collection

Hugo Quinto


This presentation invites us to look into Guatemala´s history as a place where continuous cultural development dates back 3,500 years: one of the six cradles of civilization in the world and home to the Maya, the Americas’ highly sophisticated pre-Hispanic culture. Yet, despite its cultural greatness, Guatemala also shares great problems and struggles. Twenty-three linguistic groups coexist in a small territory, which have been historically categorized into two large groups: indigenous and non-indigenous – índios and ladinos– a division that has turned Guatemala into a society that fuels racism, that divides  the country and that brutalizes its people.


The systemic violence, stemming from the history of colonialism has shaped Guatemala into a society marked by conflict.


Through the lenses of the Quinto-Lojo art collection, Hugo Quinto provides an insight into artistic expressions that aim to reflect Guatemala’s cultural context, which is as rich as it is complex.