I exhibited a suite of four black and white drawings at Man’s Inhumanity to Man: Journey out of Darkness, an exhibition that took place at the Brand Library Art Gallery & Art Center in Glendale, California, from April to May, 2009. Forty four artists participated in the group show, which examined human rights violations that have occurred around the globe; the 1915 Armenian genocide, the Jewish Holocaust, repression in Central America, current atrocities in Darfur, and more.
Military death squads were responsible for torturing and murdering tens of thousands of civilians during Guatemala’s 36-year long civil war; that is what I depicted in my drawing, Meanwhile… in Guatemala. By the time the conflict ended in 1996, some 200,000 civilians had been killed. In 1999 the U.N. backed Guatemalan Commission for Historical Clarification found Guatemala’s army responsible for 93% of the atrocities and killings committed during the war. Eighty three percent of the victims were Mayan Indians.
During the 1980s I created a number of artworks that depicted civilians caught up in the wars that swept the Central American nations of Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Hundreds of thousands of people were tortured, maimed or killed during that bloody decade, and many more escaped the carnage for safety and asylum in the United States.
Children in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua were being killed by the tens of thousands in the wars of the 1980s. Infant mortality skyrocketed due to aerial bomb attacks, mortar rounds, mines, and general gunfire. The children suffered the most, it is to them that I dedicated my drawing, We Are Afraid.
The very face of Los Angeles was changed by the enormous influx of war refugees. The four drawings I presented at the Brand Library Gallery represent just a small portion of my body of work from that period.
As is often the case with history, momentous events reverberate through time. Echoes of Central America’s recent past continue to have resonance today. In the aftermath of the region’s wars a number of important disclosures have come to light. For instance, in March of this year The National Security Archives located at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., published newly declassified documents from the U.S. State Department. The Associated Press reported that the documents confirmed “The U.S. government knew that top Guatemalan officials it supported with arms and cash were behind the disappearance of thousands of people during a 36-year civil war.”
Also in March, Reuters reported that “Guatemala’s biggest mass grave may give up its secrets this year when bodies from a massacre during the 1960-1996 civil war are exhumed after decades of mystery. Around 1,000 bodies in a mass grave at the La Verbena cemetery are thought to be the victims of extra judicial killings by the army and police during some of the most violent years of the conflict.”
Sometimes facts can be hidden or obscured for many decades, if they come to light at all. But no matter the circumstances, certain artists will always document situations ignored and left unseen by mainstream society… that in part is the power of art.
Azalea Iñiguez of Telemundo T52, the Los Angeles affiliate of the second largest Spanish-language TV network in the U.S., interviewed me on her show Cambiando el Mundo (Changing the World). The segment about my works at the Brand exhibit were broadcast on May 6, 2009.
I spoke at the Brand Gallery on Saturday, April 18, as part of an artist’s public forum, the roundtable including artists Poli Marichal, Arpine Shakhbandaryan, Sophia Gasparian, Lark, and Hessam Abrishami. Man’s Inhumanity to Man ran at the Brand Library Gallery, from April 4, 2009, to May 8, 2009. The gallery is located at 1601 West Mountain Street, Glendale, California 91201-1200.