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  History is the greatest inheritance we can leave our children. It is through the study of history that our sense of identity as a group is established and passed down through generations. Understanding our past gives us the tools needed to confront present challenges, and thus have the greatest chance to secure a promising future.

  In 1523 the Spanish conquest of Guatemala officially began, and for the centuries that followed Spain purposefully disconnected their conquered subjects from their rich and ancient heritage. By doing so they made them a docile and complacent workforce that nurtured Europe's development for the next 298 years. By 1821, when Guatemala shook off the shackles of colonialism, the population was largely illiterate, uneducated, and ill prepared to handle the task of becoming a free and independent republic. Without knowing it the Guatemalan people became targets of new and more subtle forms of conquest.

Today Guatemala still struggles as its people are prey to the manipulations of corrupt governments, exploitation by foreign conglomerates, and a new form of imperialism that seeks to keep the people the docile and complacent workforce that Spain created nearly half a millennia ago. 

  Yet Guatemala sits on top of a great inheritance; one that can both educate and inspire, but most importantly can empower its people to overcome the contemporary challenges that stifle and suffocate them. It is clear that the education that was promised by the powers that be has faltered and at times completely failed. It is therefore the task of each individual to explore what they can of their own culture and heritage. Historic preservation as a practice aims to help people find points of connection with the past, by utilizing a plethora of different channels. As an artist and a preservationist I seek to merge the two, using the language of art to connect Guatemala to it's past.

  The preservation of architecture and urbanism stands out as one of the most efficient modes of connecting people with history. Every year millions of people travel thousands of kilometers to visit historic locations. Establishing a sense of place, that is tangible and immersive, makes our history feel almost as real as our present. In Guatemala national tourism is on the rise, as thousands of Guatemalas yearn to explore their homeland. Unfortunately historic places are mismanaged, and finding the stories that accompany each historic location is often impossible; the story-tellers that should be there are conspicuously missing. 

  1523 was my first solo exhibition in 2019. Comprised of 18 pieces ranging in scale, I present the historic architecture and urbanism that represent Guatemala's history from the beginning of the conquest. Based on years of research these spaces were selected for the stories they tell; stories that are not always appreciated and known, but that nevertheless are saturated in wisdom that can serve us well today. As Guatemala faces ever escalating political, social, and economic crisis I seek to reintroduce people to their own history by utilizing the language of visual art. Through an exploration of color and texture, these paintings seek to represent these moments in history as real and tangible objects. My main purpose: to connect past and present through tactile and visual means. 

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“Santiago 1773”

180cm x 180cm

Modeling paste, Gesso, Acrylic, on Canvas

2019

- Known today as Antigua Guatemala, the city of Santiago de los Caballeros was the 3rd incarnation of the Guatemalan capital. Benefiting from its notable planned urbanism, and painted all in white, this city was the epicenter of Spanish civilization in this region up until 1773 when a series of earthquakes destroyed it. The death of Santiago gave birth to Guatemala de la Asunción, but also gave us something even more valuable; Antigua, World Heritage Site. 

“La Asunción 1821”

180cm x 180cm

Modeling Paste, Gesso, Acrylic, on Canvas

2019

- After almost 300 years of Spanish oppression, 1821 marked the year in which the city of Guatemala de la Asunción went from being an administrative center under a foreign power, to being a capital in its own right. The previous capital had been destroyed by earthquakes only 48 years before. After uprooting what little was left standing, the citizenry underwent the arduous task of completely rebuilding their lives. Only one generation later and they would see the biggest social upheaval since the conquest. In that moment a divided and struggling community was able to overcome its present situation, and collectively accept the responsibility of being the cornerstone on which a nation would be built.

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“Los Altos 1840”

180cm x 180cm

Modeling Paste, Gesso, Acrylic, on Canvas

2019

- After years of political conflicts between Guatemala and the region of Quetzaltenango, in 1838 the later separated from the country and became its own independent nation. "El Estado de Los Altos" was recognized by the rest of Central America as the sixth nation of the region, and the city of Quetzaltenango (Xela) was established as its capital. However, this independence was short-lived and barely two years later Guatemala forced them back into the fold. For this reason 1840 was a grim year for the citizens of Xela who were in mourning for their failed independence.

“Iximché 1524”

75cm x 150cm

Modeling Paste, Charcoal, Gesso, Acrylic, on Canvas

2019

- Originally the capital of the Kakchikel Maya, located in what we now know as Tecpán, the city of Iximché saw the beginning of the end of the Maya kingdoms. Under its protection Pedro de Alvarado (conquistador of Central America) established a capital in the newly formed colony of Guatemala. Within this city the Spanish and the Kakchikel made an alliance of convenience as the later was at war with several neighboring groups. Believing the Spanish would help them overcome their enemies, the Kakchikel kings offered their city to the newcomers. However, Alvarado was a terrible diplomat and his relations with the Maya quickly deteriorated. Furthermore, the Maya warriors who joined in the conquering of their neighbors were witness to truly atrocious tactics of a famously blood-thirsty man. In short time the true intentions of the newcomers were shown. The Kakchikel were driven into the forests after their failed attempt to get away from their former allies. Iximché, once the second most powerful city of the Guatemalan Highlands, was devoured by fire. By 1530 the Kakchikel were officially declared as defeated. Their homes, their history, and their way of life was left as a smoldering heap of charcoal. 

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“Utatlán 1524”

125cm x 125cm

Modeling Paste, Gesso, Acrylic, on Canvas

2019

- The conquest of Guatemala is possibly one of the most complex and difficult episodes of the colonization of America. It is believed by modern historians and scholars that the massacre Alvarado conducted in the K’iche capital of Qʼumarkaj (Utatlan) was the turning point for the Spanish incursion into the region. The bloodshed was so shocking that the rest of the Maya groups were forced to accept the inevitability of Spain's victory.

“San José 1680”
102cm x 102cm

Modeling Paste, Gesso, Acrylic, on Canvas

2019

- The cathedral of San Jose was the second version of this sanctuary completed in 1680. Known as the most impressive and majestic building in colonial America of its time, the cathedral of San Jose was elevated to the rank of metropolitan cathedral, a rank it still holds today despite being predominantly a ruin. Within its tombs rest some of the most influential characters of Guatemala’s history including Pedro de Alvarado, Francisco Marroquin and Bernal Diaz del Castillo.

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“Merced 1767”

102cm x 102cm

Modeling Paste, Exterior House Paint, on Canvas

2019

- One of the most recent buildings to be constructed in Santiago de los Caballeros, La Merced was inaugurated in 1767, replacing a more ancient temple from 1583. It was due to its innovative architecture that it was able to survive the devastating earthquakes of 1773 as one of the few churches in Antigua to do so. The color yellow, that is currently applied to this temple, has become an identifying factor in Guatemalan culture. In fact this specific shade of yellow has adopted the temple's name: "Amarillo la Merced," or Merced Yellow. 

“Empresa Familiar 1894”

102cm x 102cm

Modeling Paste, Gesso, Acrylic, on Canvas

2019

- In a seismic region it is never easy to conserve our history, so when history's destruction is caused by our own hand it is ever the more tragic. The demolition of the Aycinena Palace was a terrible loss. Today all that remains, of what was undoubtedly one of the most emblematic and impressive residences of the Guatemalan Republic, is the "Pasaje Aycinena Commercial Center." In 1776, when the people of Santiago were forced to relocate to the new capital city of Guatemala de la Asunción, the Aycinena family owned a significant quantity of mules they used for transporting goods. A deal was made between the city and the Juan Fermín de Aycinena to transport all objects of value, including building materials that were salvaged, from the destroyed city to the new one nearly 40 kilometers away. As a reward for the Aycinena family’s aid in moving an entire city, the family was gifted a large lot right on the new city’s central square. From there the Aycinena family built a major business empire founded on the production of indigo, known for its vivid blue hues and used for dying fabrics. Even though the majority of this building was lost to us in 1973 (days before being designated for preservation), what little remains is still a staunch example of the entrepreneurial spirit of the Guatemalan people.

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“El Grande 1702”

130cm x 80cm
Modeling Paste, Gesso, Acrylic, on Canvas

2019

- San Francisco el Grande (the Large), whose very name identifies it as the largest sanctuary in the city, is the home of Guatemala’s first official saint; Saint Hermano Pedro. The temple has been rebuilt and is now a fundamental component of Antigua’s identity. This space has been elevated to the rank of Archdiocesan Sanctuary and to this day it still fulfills its function as an epicenter for Catholic faith for over 300 years. 

“Capuchinas 1736”

121.5cm x 76cm
Modeling Paste, Gesso, Acrylic, on Canvas

2019

- Originally a school for girls that was rehabilitated as a convent for the Capuchin nuns, this space began its story in 1736 as one of the most distinguished works of the architect Diego de Porres. This place is still a unique location, and one of the features that most distinguishes it is the circular dormitory.

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“Nación 1943”

91.5cm x 122cm

Modeling Paste, Gesso, Acrylic, on Canvas

2019

- The Green Palace, or National Palace, presents itself and an emblematic symbol of the Guatemalan Republic. Through the use of monumental neoclassical architecture this place attempts to inspire its people and help us see the majestic potential of our nation. As a symbol of the nation it carries the weight of a complex, difficult and bloody history. Today more than ever we lift our eyes towards its embellished facade in hopes of seeing a new generation of leaders who will help us correct our past mistakes, and wipe off the blood that stains its green walls. 

At the center of an unprecedented corruption crisis, the Guatemalan government has been identified as a sham democracy that exists to continue the rule of the powers that be. With more and more scandals unfolding, the genocide, the suppression, and the atrocities that were born within the halls of the National Palace become evident. With the increasing dissatisfaction growing within the populace, the function of this building has shifted; no longer a symbol of democracy and the rule of law, the National Palace is now viewed as a symbol of Guatemala's enslavement under private industry, drug cartels, and the corrupt military. 

Painted to resemble Jade, the precious stone of the Maya people, I present it here, stripped away of its neoclassical embellishments, and almost resembling a Mayan mask. I wonder if in time this building will serve its original function; the just governance of all Guatemalan peoples.

“Justicia 1650”

61cm x 90cm
Modeling Paste, Gesso, Acrylic, on Canvas

2019

- On the corner of Santa Clara street and the street of the University in Antigua Guatemala one finds the old residence of judge Don Carlos Vásquez de Coronado y Ulloa. Of what was his house little remains, but it still speaks to us of a chapter of Antigua’s history that is easily forgotten: "the period of abandonment." The house is known for its irregular wall thickness, which is a clear example of adaptive reuse as the old walls were originally meant to support a much larger structure. When the house was rebuilt the original walls did not need to be so thick, and it was cheaper to rebuild them thinner. Today the irregular walls have become a beloved feature of Antigua's architecture, however, very few realize that this was not born as a stylistic choice; but rather as a form of adapting and growing out of tragedy.

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“Educación 1763”

76.5cm x 76.5cm
Modeling Paste, Gesso, Acrylic, on Canvas

2019

- The University of San Carlos of Guatemala (USAC), established in 1676 by king Charles II of Spain, has fulfilled its mission for 343 years. Founded under the motto “Id y enseñad a todos” (Go forth and teach everyone) this establishment was the third university of the Americas and the first of Guatemala. One of its first incarnations still accompanies us today functioning as the Museum of Colonial Art. Its exquisite architecture is one of the finest examples of the Baroque Antigüeño style. 

“Popenoe 1763”

61cm x 61cm

Modeling Paste, Gesso, Acrylic, on Canvas

2019

- At the beginning of the 20th century the rapid progress of Guatemala threatened our cultural heritage including Antigua. However, it was greatly thanks to influential citizens such as Dr. Frederick Wilson Popenoe, through his restoration of the old residence of Andres Guerra from 1763, that an example was given on how to restore and appreciate our historic places. Even though the original owner was not Popenoe, this residence is of much greater importance now as his house than it ever was in the colonial period. 

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“Leones 1650-1717”

61cm x 61cm

Modeling Paste, Gesso, Acrylic, on Canvas

2019

- Among the emblematic residences of Antigua the House of Lions stands out. Undoubtedly a luxurious residence in its day, there are many rumors on who lived in this house. While we still debate who lived there we cannot ignore the unusually elaborate entry-way. The property boasts stone details around its front door that were most likely taken from other more majestic structures and were incorporated into the house on a later date. Specifically characterized by the solomonic columns and the funny-looking lions, these later details have given the house its name; the house of the lions. 

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“Tío Nacho 1760”
61cm x 61cm

Modeling Paste, Gesso, Acrylic, on Canvas

2019

- Although this residence was drastically changed during its restoration, the house of “Uncle Nacho” was possibly one of the few residences to barely be affected by the seismic history of this region. It is believed that this house was able to remain intact from roughly 1760-1944. Uncle Nacho was the last resident of Antigua to possess and use a horse-drawn carriage of personal use, and with his passing an era for Antigua ended. 

“Camposeco 1717-1773” 

61cm x 61cm
Modeling Paste, Gesso, Acrylic, on Canvas

2019

- Among Antigua’s historic homes we see this small house on Camposeco alley. This property has long been in a state of abandonment as it was, up until recent times, the victim of a difficult legal battle for ownership. In hopes that the current owners have restored and conserved its notable character, here we remember it in its ruined state, during which it still conserved its dignity and character. 

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- Around the corner from the Plaza of Saint Sebastian one finds a true example of Guatemalan enginuity. Santiago de los Caballeros (Antigua) was overpopulated in its hay-day. Due to this many residences occupied a small footprint on the street, but expanded far into the city block. These homes are quite mysterious as from the street one never knows how many gardens and patios expand inwards. 

“Sebastián 1717-1773”

45cm x 91cm
Modeling Paste, Gesso, Acrylic, on Canvas

2019