Panel 2

Paradise shared out: the structural inequalities



Humberto Ak’abal


Here it was paradise.

corn, wheat, beans,

there was no forbidden fruit,

the snakes were mute.

Jelik Ch’umil and Kowilaj Chee

made love on the grass

and covered themselves with the sky.


the snakes spoke:

They forbade the fruits

and divided Paradise

among themselves.


Economic and social inequality is a structural problem in Guatemala. A current assessment, but one that can be explained historically with a process that begins with the so-called colonial era, settles in the liberal constitution and is maintained in the democratic transition state. Historically, indigenous communities have been the most affected groups struck by discrimination and segregation in a sustained manner. The strong corruption that attacks the state apparatus today ­–an issue that affects Latin American countries in general–  makes inequality an installed problem that needs to be addressed.


Transnational studies have shown that the world is geographically defined by inequality. Hierarchy keeps the South subjected to the interests and power exercised by the countries of the North. A history of colonization has perpetuated the logic of economic dependency, maintaining the unequal distribution and exploitation of material and human resources of the most vulnerable societies.


This panel will explore data and the one that reflects inequality and problems of representation in the art world and the market, stands out. At the same time, it will address historical moments of segregation in the cultural scene and the influence of the colonizing gaze in the establishment of stereotypes and non-dominant cultural representations.



The Book of Time at the 5th Paiz International Culture Festival 

María Jacinta Xón Riquiac

Guatemala, Maya-k’iche’


It was 1999. The 5th Paiz International Culture  Festival inspired glamour and civilization. The Compagnie Tour de Babel, composed of young French –anti-system in those years–  artists staged a play called The Book of Time, based on the contents of the Popol Vuh, “an interpretation of the symbology and magic of the sacred book of the K’iche'” (according to the event’s brochure). It was presented on Saturday, February 13, 1999, in the Ruins of San Jerónimo,  in La Antigua Guatemala, and on Monday, February 15, in the same venue. Why is it revealing to reflect on this Festival and the play The Book of Time?


Because in that Festival, for the first time, four indigenous women participated and wore their Kakchikel and K’iche’ costumes on stage. They spoke in K’iche’ during the play and in front of an audience considered cultured and civilized.  Remembering this event does not always bring back pleasant memories that can be called cross-cultural. After 21 years, one can find reasons for such behaviour at that moment as a racist and discriminatory experience from those involved in the event´s organization. Being 19 years old at the time did not allow me to name what I experienced at that Festival. Knowing that it was the historical result of segregation and the implicit and camouflaged civilizing idea that this is not a place for Indians or Indios, was an analytical exercise during the following years. This is now the starting point that makes it possible to examine the discourse of the Perverse Geographies Symposium.


The Long Road for African American Artists: How Museums and the Art Market Have Given Them Short Shrift

Julia Halperin



This lecture will explore the presence of African American artists in U.S. museums and the international art market over the past decade. The findings reveal that progress is much more recent—and benefits far fewer artists—than high-profile exceptions might lead one to believe.

Joint 2018 research by Artnet News and In Other Words found that between 2008 and 2018, only 2.37 percent of all acquisitions and donations and 7.6 percent of all exhibitions at 30 prominent U.S. museums have showcased work by African-American artists.


Meanwhile, work by African American artists accounted for only 1.2 percent of the global auction market in that time period. A closer look shows an unbalanced market, much smaller–both in value and volume– than the headlines may suggest. Auction sales of works by Jean-Michel Basquiat account for US$1.7 billion of the total spending of US$2.2 billion, a staggering 77 percent. Excluding Basquiat, the total combined auction value of work by African-American artists is $460.8 million, just 0.26 percent of the global auction market.


The data, along with interviews with more than 30 people, a selection of museum directors and curators, collectors, art merchants, consultants and academics, reveal how individual exceptions can distort a broader understanding of how much the landscape has changed, when it comes to representation, and how much  more work remains to be done.


Tarzan, the Green Goddess and the “Permitted Maya”: Of how the Maya, the indigenous,  what is ours and other ghosts were constructed from the ladino gaze.

Rosina Cazali Escobar



This proposal will review the different historical moments that influenced the construction, of the imaginary of the “Indian”, the Mayan and the indigenous, from the ladino point of view, in Guatemala. From a reading of the symbolic artistic production, mainly during the internal armed conflict, it will help to explain and witness how the strategic elaboration of multiculturalism happened, which sustains the politically correct idea of the “permitted Indian”. That is to say, the contrary image and representation of the “insurgent Indian”, object of marginalization, repression and insurgent forms. As the pinnacle of the peace discourses and debates on Mayan culture in the mid-1990s, this ambiguous and complex figure revived the attempts of the late Instituto Indigenista Nacional (National Indigenist Institute –1945) to study and solve the so-called “indigenous problem”.


In a parallel and complementary manner, a narrative emerged using aesthetic forms, where the sublimation of human features and textile patterns, among other signs, stimulated a ladino, specific and functional appreciation. Because it had a long tradition of indigenous representations, it easily embraced contemporary forms that were recreated through geometric shapes, glazes, scenographies and paraphernalia. However, from important projects of indigenous artists, a tabula rasa is established where critical reflections and debates about these processes that, if not addressed, only perpetuate the structural racism of Guatemalan society.