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copywrite of all material by Kenneth J. Wolverton 2006
The purpose of this report is to portray relevant historical political and social events in Guatemala and how they have affected the contemporary Mayan social context. This has led to a Mayan organization inviting the author of this report to document and facilitate an educational project with a collective of Mayan villages in the northwest highlands of Guatemala.
This report proposes a concept of “Art in Alternative Education” that can be employed in contemporary Mayan society, and how this project will be initiated, documented and ultimately published through a variety of media.
The Mayan people of Central America have been subjugated for centuries through indigenous wars and the arrival of European conquerors but they have retained much of their history, mythology and culture through the arts (“Culture”). Association Mayalan, is one contemporary collective of 10 villages who want to empower their people by incorporating art within their daily life. (Letters -1)
The Association Mayalan have invited the author of this report as an outside professional to work within several villages and produce collaborative murals as a means to visual and textual communication. In essence the murals will serve as large visual books with the purpose of introducing literacy through mixed-media applications and techniques, such as text within paintings, digital photography, video documentation and producing hard copy and online publications.
If one asked the average American where Guatemala is, the answer is not immediate. They know it is somewhere below Mexico. To be precise it is the northernmost of the Central American nations. Guatemala is the size of Tennessee. Its neighbors are Mexico on the north and west, and Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador on the east. The country consists of three main regions—the tropical area along the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, the tropical jungle in the northern lowlands and the highlands. (8)
The highlands are known as the land of eternal spring because of its cooler spring like weather. The highlands have the heaviest population and it is in this region the proposed project of art in alternative education would be initiated and centered.
· Government: Constitutional democratic republic
· Monetary unit: Quetzal
· Languages: Spanish 60%, Amerindian languages 40% (23 officially recognized Amerindian languages, including Quiche, Cakchiquel, Kekchi, Mam, Garifuna, and Xinca)
· Ethnicity/race: Mestizo (Ladino)—mixed Amerindian-Spanish ancestry—55%, Amerindian (Mayan) or predominantly Amerindian 43%, whites and others 2%
· Religions: Roman Catholic, Protestant, indigenous Mayan beliefs. (“Info”)
· UNESCO statistics. Guatemala ranks 121 on the Human Development Index globally.
· Life expectancy: 65.7
· Adult literacy of 15 and above: 69.9
· Combined gross enrolment ratio for primary, secondary and tertiary: 56
· GDP per capita in US$: 4,080 (“Data”)
Most of what may be found now about early archaeological evidence of Guatemala goes back to the Clovis Period, somewhere around twelve and ten thousand years ago. At this point in time hunter-gatherers used spear points of obsidian or volcanic glass common in the highlands. Recent excavations have shown evidence of hunting of mastodons and horses. Maize did not originate in Guatemala, but at present there are more distinct varieties of the plant than any other in the world. This would indicate the Mayas played a major role in the development of the plant. This was accompanied by the development of the arts and in particular pottery and weaving (“Info”).
The indigenous people who inhabit Guatemala now are believed to have crossed from Asia into North America over the land bridge that existed in the Bering Strait, 40,000 B.C. It is assumed Guatemala's Indians are related to North America Indians as well as the Incas of Peru and the aboriginal tribes of South America. Their physical differences are much more striking than the resemblances, yet even though there are twenty-one linguistic groups, they are relatively homogeneous in linguistic terms. Most of these languages belong to the Totonac-Mayan linguistic group, related not only to the Maya but also to other ethnic groups in modern Mexico (Culvert-28).
Relative to this report, linguistics in regard to non-Spanish speaking Mayans has been a major device in their economic and social repression. Language of course is always central to any form of education. The project that the author proposes, is near an area with the greatest linguistic diversity, around Lake Atitlan.
The Mayan economy that flourished in the highlands just before the Spanish conquest was through the cultivation of maize, beans, and squash. Maize was and continues to be the central staple of life, a crop regarded as divine in origin. Cacao beans in pre-conquest times were used as currency and traded up into northern Mexico (Culvert -29).
The Mayan ruins of Tikal are hidden deep in the rainforests of Guatemala. 1,200 years ago. Tikal was one of the major cities of the Maya civilization that stretched across much of what is now southern Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. Tikal was home to perhaps 100,000 people (“Timeline”).
Generally it is recognized as the ancient Maya culture began around 300 AD. Between 600 AD and 800 AD, the Maya flourished in the southern lowlands. Then the civilization fell into ruin, with contemporary theories of over-population, extensive warfare, revolt of the farmer/laborer class, or any number of devastating natural disasters. (“Timeline”).
The early Mayan culture had a well developed social order with great skill in architecture, sculpture, and painting. The riches of its rulers, shown in their burials, are further evidence of their ability to use political power and to coordinate an advanced system of tribute and taxation. An irony of knowledge that came to these early Mayas, who invented a calendar more accurate than any before the age of space travel, was that they were dominated by their creation. At the end of every cycle of fifty-two years they expected the world to come to an end, and so they extended their temples and held massive acts of propitiation and human sacrifice designed to avert that fate (Culvert-18).
They Mayas were the scientists of early America. They tracked a solar year of 365 days and had books with tables of eclipses. They tracked the progress of Venus. They developed mathematics, using a base number of 20, and had a concept of zero. They had a system of writing and of the many pre-Columbian civilizations; the Mayan alone developed a writing system of their language, and the only indigenous people of the Americas with a written history. The Spanish destroyed all but four of their books on parchment, yet their writings remain in stucco, stone and pottery but only have been deciphered in the past 40 years. (“Maya”)
Another irony of their brutal knowledge was that perhaps Mayas were their own worst enemies. In the ninth century, great centers like Tikal were deserted, and only a fraction of the Maya people survived to face the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century. Mayan society was intelligent but it was brutal. Humans were sacrificed to appease the gods. The elite tortured themselves-- male Maya rulers perforated their penis foreskins-- women pierced their tongues, for the gods who required human blood (“Timeline”).
The ancient Maya had a many deities whom they worshipped and offered human sacrifices. They believed their Rulers were descendants of the gods. The Maya vision of the universe is divided into multiple levels, above and below earth, positioned within the four directions of north, south, east and west. (“Maya”)
Different areas had different gods, and some were more important in one area than in another. Each location would also have it's special patron god. There was probably some sense of competitiveness between locations, where they felt that their patron god was stronger or more beneficent that others. When one area overtook another through war or politics, they would impose the worship of their favorite gods on their subjects. (“Gods”)
By the time of the Spanish conquest the Maya civilization had reverted to a culture in scattered city-states. It was this lack of cohesion that would thwart the Spaniard's attempts to conquer the Maya, (“Maya”).
Conquistador or "Conqueror" in Spanish is the term used to refer to the soldiers, explorers, and adventurers who ransacked and controlled much of the Americas under the authority of Spain from the 15th to the end of the 17th century. Many of the men were nothing more than mercenaries or soldiers of fortune; some were poor nobles looking for fortunes in the New World. The conquistadors brutalized the indigenous people while they conquered, killed or enslaved them, (“Conquistador”).
Their destruction of indigenous cultures like that of the Maya was one of the most catastrophic episodes in human history, (“Culture”
In 1523, the Spaniard Alvarado began to conquer Guatemala with only a few hundred horsemen, soldiers and Mexican allies. At one point Alvarado and his small army were against a Mayan army 30,000-strong, but the primitive arms of the Mayans were no match for cavalry and gunpowder. The mounted Spaniards devastated the Maya ranks, (“Conquest”).
Yet because of the separation of city-state culture within the Mayan culture Alvarado had been unable to conquer many individual tribes of the highlands, but Dominican priests succeeded where he had failed. The last of the highland tribes were brought under colonial control 1540. The area was given the name of Verapaz meaning true peace.
But during this initial point of conquest the Mayans resisted new religion for several reasons. First, the Spanish believed the Mayans worshiped the devil. But it was their cruelty in destroying the old religion that made the missionary work hypocritical. The idea that there was only one god was at odds with their belief in many. The destruction of their idols did not change that belief, but it was the divergence between the Franciscan and Dominican orders brought the question "If there is more than one way of worshiping the Christian god, why not admit others?" (Nelson- 27).
The Spanish conquest was a time of traumatic subjugation, yet the Mayas were also capable of brutalities, as well. But the genocidal warfare inflicted with their firearms and horses was ultimate especially by the unintentional introduction of smallpox, influenza and measles. The indigenous population was reduced by 90 percent within a century.
Although the Maya civilization was destroyed, millions of Mayan still live in modern Guatemala and parts of Mexico. Despite 500 years of repression since the Spanish conquest, many still adhere to ancient customs, (“Culture”).
With their knowledge of writing and belief in multiple gods a sacred oral mythology was eventually written in the Mayan book (or Bible) known as “Popul Vuh.”
The stories of the Popol Vuh are mythological, relating the creation of the world and the nature of existence, (Nelson-1). What is contained in the Popol Vuh is the heart of the civilization. The book was probably once a scattering of songs and stories in the oral tradition of Native America; later elaborately fitted into one body, it became an embodiment of the Mayan world-view, (Ibid-2).
According to Peter Culvert, who has written on of the most extensive books on Mayan culture, it is not known whether the Popol Vuh was actually physically rescued from the ruins of Utatlan and taken to Chichicastenango, but it was there that it was written down in Latin letters and that it was discovered in the early eighteenth century by a Dominican priest, Father Francisco Ximenez, who translated it into Spanish. In 1830 the Spanish translation was found in the library of the University of San Carlos, Guatemala, by a Viennese doctor, who published it in 1857, (Culvert- 21).
Nelson writes, “Understandably, the saints proved the most fully accepted element of Christianity: saints became the patrons of rain and the guardian spirits of the cornfields. Also, since both Spaniard and American believed in miracles, the appearance of the Virgin to the poor Indian Juan Diego was accepted by the people. Christianity had become Indian: the Virgin found herself in little altars beside potters' kilns and on the edges of fields, insuring the welding of clay and fat harvests. The new religion, as has been said, has idols behind the altars,” (Nelson-29).
What is a probable connection between the new religion and the Mayas old religion was the use of icons and sculpture. The Mayas were advanced in many ways that were comparable a civilization of Europe or Asia. But it would appear that what they have retained after being destroyed as an empire has been their mythology and their art.
There was a distinct class system in ancient Maya times. Between the ruling class and the farmer/laborer, there was educated nobility who were scribes, artists and architects. Their craftsmanship is still found and remains in works of stone, stucco, jade, bone, pottery, obsidian and flint, (“Maya”).
Guatemala has had a long and violent history of rebellion and repression, beginning with the Spanish conquest, and in turn went from one regime to another of iron-handed men.
Guatemala became a republic in 1839. From 1898 to 1920, Dictator Manuel Estrada Cabrera ran the country, and from 1931 to 1944, Gen. Jorge Ubico Castaneda served as strongman. After Ubico's overthrow in 1944 by the “October Revolutionaries,” a group of left-leaning students and professionals, liberal-democratic coalitions led by Juan José Arévalo (1945–1951) and Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán (1951–1954) instituted social and political reforms that strengthened the peasantry and urban workers at the expense of the military and big landowners like the U.S. owned United Fruit Company. With covert U.S. backing, Col. Carlos Castillo Armas led a coup in 1954, and Arbenz took refuge in Mexico, (“Info”).
The Guatemala civil war began in 1954 when the Guatemalan military led a CIA-backed coup against the administration of President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, the country's popularly elected president. During the civil war years the military levied a campaign of terrorism and genocide against these groups, most of them Mayas, in order to distribute native people’s land among plantation owners, (“Contemp”).
Human rights abuses by the Guatemalan army and government, who had the interests of powerful business leaders and landholders, caused a reaction from extreme left or communist guerrillas. They begin a war of terror in 1961 and they promised social, agrarian, and economic reforms but they were blocked. By 1967-68, rightist groups used the same terrorist tactics as the communists to attack the government and it began to implement programs to improve the lives of indigenous peasants. But while the population is more than 50 percent pure Indian; most of the remainder is of mixed Spanish and Indian descent, called Ladinos in Guatemala, (“On-war”).
In Guatemala during the colonial period intermarriage was customary for Spanish settlers. No separate stratum of European stock emerged and by the time of independence the few of pure Spanish descent were submerged by the ladino society. Ultimately ladinos became the dominant group. Indios, was a term set in primitive cultural traits, and so became a term of abuse. Indians are very poor, but to see the social problems of Guatemala as poverty is to ignore the cultural differences between the two poorest groups, Ladinos [mixed-blood] and Indians [pure-blood], (Culvert- 21).
For much of Guatemala’s history its rulers have either ignored or despised the Indian element that forms the basis of Guatemalan society while trying to supplant that culture with European cultural roots.
According to Culvert’s ethnic analysis of Guatemala, “it is hard to distinguish between race and class. To a considerable extent the two concepts are interchangeable. Regardless of ancestry, a person who wears European-style dress and shoes, speaks Spanish for preference, and adopts Spanish diet and customs will be termed a ladino. Indio is, when used by a ladino, a term suggesting rural backwardness,” (Culvert- 28).
The ladino culture differs from the Hispanic culture on which it is based and to which it aspires in that it is founded not on the culture of the Spaniards who ruled Guatemala and the rest of the Indies in colonial times but on that of the descendants of the mixed marriages between the Spaniards and the Indians. In other parts of Latin America this would be called a Mestizo culture, (Culvert- 24).
Although the Maya have endured repression and persecution in one form or another for the past 500 years, more than 6 million descendants still maintain a culture that is distinctly Maya in areas of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras (“Timeline)
Part of the Mayas ability to survive has been the chameleon ability to adapt to each passing oppressive regime or religion.
Throughout hundreds of years of outside efforts to oppress and assimilate, the Maya people have continued to hold on to their unique way of life. Modern Maya religion is a colorful hybrid of Catholicism and ancient Maya beliefs and rituals. Their ancient gods have been replaced with statues of Santos (and secret Maximóns) but the stories of these saints only remotely resemble those of their European counterparts, (“Info”).
Nelson says in his account of the sacred book Popol Vuh, “The notion of polarity is often said to be a key to understanding Mayan religion. The gods had multiple aspects and were capable of both good and evil… These gods are presented in dual form, in the "multilogic" that we find in the Christian idea of the Trinity,” (Nelson- 9).
So it has been the Mayas ability to preserve their traditional spirituality despite the arrival of Catholicism with its rituals, saints and priests. In contemporary Guatemala there are many regions and villages with their own religious and folklore rituals that are hybrids of Christianity and old Maya beliefs, (“Culture”).
In another context it is this ability which has allowed the Mayas to maintain their culture and according to Culvert, “it is natural that it should be so, since Indianess is defined precisely by the maintenance of the traditional agrarian culture complex that in fact has enabled the Indian communities to withstand the shock of the Spanish conquest and of the forced proselytization by the Church with the minimum of change to their traditional ways, (Culvert- 28).
Guatemala and Mexico are still home to Maya who continue to speak Mayan languages. Their struggle against encroaching European civilization has never really halted, although much of their culture and spirit has gone underground, (“Culture”).
Part of their ability to remain “Indian” lies in the fact they have kept their language, and yet it is a paradox that in not speaking or reading Spanish they have been excluded from the social and economic structures.
In the words of the poet-king of Texcoco, Netzahualcoyotl, "the land belongs to him who works it with his hands,"…but where the Mayan was dispossessed of land, the culture's million-sided mirror reflects this basic change in all aspects of life. The era of land-grabbing and plantation expansion during the Diaz government, in the heat of the developing world market, did much to alter traditional life and weakenreligion. The Mexican revolution meant some land reforms, but since the arrival of the Spaniards each sunrise has found less land in the hands of the Indians, and a weaker bond between earth and man, (Nelson-28).
Culvert wrote in 1985, “Even though the Mayas have been extensively influenced by European culture, many today live very much as their forefathers did. They live in oval thatched huts, grouped around a communal bathhouse, and bathe several times a day,” (Culvert- 29).
Much does not change in Guatemala as the author witnessed in 2001, and as reported in an information website. Both men and women Maya, tend to wear white clothes, the men loose trousers and shirt and the women the huipil, a loose sleeveless dress with a square neck relieved by embroidery at neck and hem. The Quiche favor bright colors, and particular combinations mark the inhabitants of an individual village—you can identify the community to which a Maya individual belongs by their dress. However because of the civil war, many men in the highlands stopped wearing the traditional traje as it could be dangerous to call attention to themselves as Maya, (“Info”).
The civil war that raged for 36 years did much to add another layer or terror not only to the Maya psyche, but in turn created a dog-eat-dog insecurity with their rivals of poverty, the Ladinos. As Culvert wrote in A Nation In Turmoil in 1985, ten years before the civil war would end,
The mestizos of the region are the heirs of a deep insecurity about their place in the world. They affect to despise the Indians as not being reasonable beings (gente de raz6n), reject their passivity, and seek power. The mestizo had to seek power just for himself and not for his group, for he was of no group and had to struggle for himself against all groups…To the mestizo the capacity to exercise power is ultimately sexual in character: A man succeeds because he is truly male (macho), possessed of sexual potency…The conflict between them and the Indian majority has become inflamed to the point of all-out civil war…the extent to which the underlying ferocity of the conflict is a product not only of ancient history but also of modern politics, (Nation pg 31).
The Ladinos were in fact as poor as the Maya, and I n some cases even more so, but they have had one distinctive advantage over the Mayas. The Ladinos speak, read and write Spanish.
Guatemala plunged into an all-out civil war in the 1960s between military governments, right-wing vigilante groups, and leftist rebels that would last 36 years, the longest civil war in Latin American history. Death squads murdered an estimated 50,000 leftists and political opponents during the 1970s. In 1977, the U.S. cut off military aid to the country because of its egregious human rights abuses. The indigenous Mayan Indians were singled out for special brutality by the right-wing [ladino] death squads, (“Info”).
One of the strongmen of the 70s Guatemalan government was Police Chief Colonel German Chupina who hired out an elite unit known as the Mobile Military Police (PMA). They served as vigilantes to private businessmen and assigned police provocateurs to inflame the local population so the regime could justify blanket repression. George Black writes in Garrison Guatemala in 1984,
Rumor had it that some members of the high command still entertained doubts about a policy of unrestrained terror, but those vestiges were removed in June 1979 when the Left took responsibility for assassinating Army Chief of Staff, Major-General David Cancinos, organizer of the death squads and a figure mentioned as likely presidential candidate in 1982. The military was united in its hard-line response…The new Secret Anti-Communist Army, a death squad repeatedly linked to Chupina's office, issued a death-list of 40 prominent opposition figures, and set about the task of exterminating them. Terror escalated to unheard-of levels. Corpses appeared at the rate of ten a day, hideously disfigured, tortured, strewn along the roadsides, in storm drains, under viaducts… desconocidos - unknown men - every Guatemalan knows the words; thousands have experienced what they mean. Those who knock on the door at dead of night and speed off in unmarked Cherokee Chief, wagons, dragging away the "communists" whose mutilated bodies will be left on public display. Pinned to them as often as not will be crude lettered notes warning others that, "This is how traitors end up."(Garrison pg - 50).
“Military repression in the 1950s and 1960s, and even in the early 1970s, appeared for a time to have checked the further development of the guerrillas,” Culvert wrote in 1985. “Today, with the army mounting a direct onslaught on the most ancient parts of the Indian highlands, guerrilla activity has been spreading rapidly in areas where it had previously been unknown. In such circumstances the very sense of community to which the Indios have been accustomed makes them excellent recruits for a full-scale revolutionary movement,” (Culvert- 33).
Little can be imagined in present day America of the brutality and barbarian nature that was generated during Guatemala’s civil war. The first death squads began as an anti-communist operation in 1960. From 1966 to 1968 the squads “bloomed like poisonous flowers” and they gave themselves names like “Ojo por Ojo (An Eye for an Eye), Rosa Ptirpura (Purple Rose), El Justiciero (The Hawk of Justice). They mutilated their victim’s faces and genitals. They boasted of their exploits in propaganda style terror communiqués. One group known as the New Anti-Communist Organization (NOA) announced that it would cut off the tongue and left hand of convicted “enemies.” Publication of death lists and victim’s photographs helped bring about a “national psychosis of terror.” In rural areas government police, private landowners and freelancers connected fascist organizations used terror in ways that made one indistinguishable from the others. Military commissioners were the local repressive apparatus. They were authorized to use machine-guns which normally only the Army used. Many farmer businessmen made themselves commissioners setting up officially sanctioned hit-squads. Often the security forces would use the death squads for their own corrupt form of racketeering, (Garrison pg - 51).
The heat of a civil war boiled over and the Kekchi Maya of Guatemala were caught between leftist guerrillas and the government, (“Maya-Now”).
Manuel Colom Argueta, secretary-general of the United Front of the Revolution (FUR) described the tactics of the death squads: “Every single murder is of a key person - people in each sector or movement who have the ability to organize the population around a cause.” It was to be his last interview: only days later, he was gunned down in the street in broad daylight. Within weeks, Democratic Socialist Party leader Alberto Fuentes Mohr was also dead, his murder agreed upon at a March 1979 meeting between senior Army officers and high-ranking representatives of the private sector. Colom Argueta's remarks were absolutely true at the time of his death. But after the killing had targeted key union, peasant and political leaders, it moved on to figures of intermediate importance, and finally degenerated into random carnage against anyone suspected of "dangerous" opinions: 311 peasant activists were killed during 1980 alone, and 400 students and faculty members of the University of San Carlos butchered over a period of four months, (Garrison- 52).
The terror of the civil war caused a mass migration and, “Tens of thousands of refugees fled to Mexico and the United States while those who remained were moved into ‘model’ villages. All men were required to enlist in civil patrols,” (“Maya-Now”).
Despite these overt connections, the military continued to depict the death squads as a spontaneous "civic response" to the Antichrist of communism, a conscious stratagem to offer seemingly independent corroboration of its own harsh rule. (14) By the late 1970s, any distinction between institutional terror - exercised by the state on behalf of the ruling class - and freelance terror from extra-legal groups of the bourgeoisie had blurred so far as to become meaningless. So had the pretence that death squad killings were the result of fictitious encounters between "extreme Left" and "extreme Right". While the armed forces valiantly held the line in the centre. The war against communism, Arana Osorio had argued - prefiguring a line that Argentinean generals would later echo - was a dirty business. Innocent people would inevitably get hurt. A 1981 Amnesty International report, entitled "Guatemala: A Government Program of Political Murder", laid to rest any remaining idea that the death squads operated independently of the top echelons of the Army and security forces by tracing its headquarters to the Guardia Presidencial, just a block from the rear of the National Palace, and its chain of command all the way to Lucas Garcia’s office, (Garrison pg - 52).
In October 1982, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) collected many testimonials of witnessed massacres that occurred in the Mayan villages and ignored or even condoned by the current regime, between March and September of that year. The following is one example of such a witnessed event
Date: April 5-8, 1982
Department: El Quiche Municipality: Ixcdn Village: La Union Witness: Unidentified
Source: Christian Solidarity Committee, San Cristobal de las Casas diocese, C Mexico.
I was there when the massacre began, in a sector called La Union. There, they kill people inside the church, a big church, and they didn't let anyone out If they ca they made them go back in - men, women, children, old people. They left them and threw three grenades. But they didn't all die and so they shot them. Four hundred there. Outside, in the marketplace, they killed even more. Those weren't counted- who knows how many? The soldiers had a plane and a helicopter and they landed. There were about 400.
Then, they went to another sector and killed the people they found. I heard the massacre begin and left the children. After that they came on April 5th to kill people and they finished on April Holy Week. They took five young girls and raped them…They killed small animals, livestock and chickens and made the girls cook They did what they wanted with the girls, but they didn't let them go. After they f eating, they killed them.
Little girls, little boys - ones that didn't think yet and didn't run - they threw the fire or the ashes or the hot water. Then they grabbed the adults, but they didn’t kill them. They put them all in the Evangelical church, tortured them and stuck needles in their eyes, bashed their heads and cut them with machete. They hung with ropes. They burned the animals. Many people were a large bathroom in the church. Many, many. They stuck them. Everybody - old men and women, young boys and girls. they killed and then they carried chairs and benches, tables, all the furnishings of the church which they make the fire, (Garrison pg - 193).
What came out of such brutality was an uprising of the indigenous Mayans, and they joined in with ladinos. Because of this occurrence communiqués came from guerrilla forces titled The People’s Revolution.
The People's Revolution. War is spreading to more parts of the country; it is deepening its mass support and increasing its offensive capacity. The exploited, oppressed and discriminated Guatemalan Indians have risen up and through their integration into the People’s Revolutionary War, together with the masses of ladino workers, have already decided, (I.) outcome of the war, (Garrison pg - 195).
Within these messages five principles of the revolt were detailed, of which the third was most significant to Mayan involvement.
(III.) The Revolution will guarantee equality between Indians and ladinos, and will end cultural oppression and discrimination. The domination by the rich is the root cause of the cultural oppression and discrimination which the Indian population suffers in Guatemala. The first step towards eliminating cultural oppression and discrimination is to enable Indians, who are an integral part of the Guatemalan people, to participate in political power. The participation of the Indian population in political power, together with the ladino population, will allow us to meet Indians' needs for land, work, salary, and health, housing and general welfare. Meeting these needs is the first condition toward achieving equality between Indians and Ladinos. The second condition toward guaranteeing this equality is respect for their culture and recognition of their rights to maintain their own identity. The development of a culture which gathers and integrates our people's historic roots is one of the great objectives of the Revolution. Indians and Ladinos in power will freely decide Guatemala's future contours, (Garrison- 196).
It is one of the paradoxes of a revolution that the “liberating” forces will always take away from the very people they propose to give a better life and so it was the ladino guerrillas demanded food and shelter from the Maya. The Mayan people reaped the consequences of their collaboration. The death squads by way of terror and retribution killed 150,000 people and disappeared another 40,000, (“Maya-Now”).
What followed in the next two decades was a power play among political and military leaders trying to grab control. But as always, it was the people at the bottom economic ladder who were left out or simply ignored, and of those it was the Maya who suffered most. Worse, than that, many of the very people who were most responsible for the criminal actions of the conflict, not only remained unpunished, but were put back in dominant positions of political power.
A succession of military juntas dominated during the civil war, until a new constitution was passed and civilian Marco Vinicio Cerezo Arévalo was elected and took office in 1986. He was followed by Jorge Serrano Elías in 1991. In 1993, Serrano moved to dissolve Congress and the Supreme Court and suspend constitutional rights, but the military deposed Serrano and allowed the inauguration of Ramiro de Leon Carpio, the former attorney general for human rights. A peace agreement was finally signed in Dec. 1996 by President Álvaro Arzú Irigoyen.
In 1999, a Guatemalan truth commission blamed the army for 93% of the atrocities and the rebels (the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unit) for 3%. The former guerrillas apologized for their crimes, and President Clinton apologized for U.S. support of the right-wing military governments. The army has not acknowledged its guilt. Alfonso Portillo Cabrera, closely associated with the former dictatorship of Efrain Rios Montt (1982–1983), became president in Jan. 2000. In Aug. 2000, Portillo apologized for the former government's human rights abuses and pledged to prosecute those responsible and compensate victims.
To stimulate the economy, Guatemala, along with El Salvador and Honduras, signed a free trade agreement with Mexico in June 2000. In Aug. 2001, plans for tax increases prompted widespread, and often violent, protests.
In July 2003, the country's highest court ruled that former coup leader and military dictator Efrain Rios Montt, responsible for a massacre of tens of thousands of civilians during the civil war, was eligible to run for president in November. The ruling conflicted with the constitution, which bans anyone who seized power in a coup from running for the presidency. But in November, Rios Montt was soundly defeated by two candidates, conservative Oscar Berger and center-leftist Alvaro Colom. In the run-off election in December, Berger was elected president, (“Info”).
From 1994 to 2004 the violent cycle goes on in Chiapas, Mexico. The Maya people are once again caught between the Zapatistas rebels and the Mexican government. Some social analysts believe fundamentalist missionaries are also responsible for “destroying the Maya culture with a more insidious, though nonviolent, strategy,” (“Maya-Now”).
So what is on to make of all of this, and how can the Mayan people ever be released from vicious cycle that has dogged their existence for centuries? There is the philosophical view that life is a struggle and some people will suffer more than others. And yet because we are sentient beings we seek a resolution at best or at least, an explanation. Nelson from his understanding of the Maya and their sacred book Popol Vuh has an astute observation.
The study of man also attempts to demonstrate that in spite of appearances, men are the same in all times and places in all important respects. Social history and anthropology are not especially concerned with the feats of kings and allow a democratic balance to learning. On the other hand, it is easy for us to fall prey to romanticism and fail to discern to what extent anthropology has been a development caused by our discontent with civilization.
Those who sense the ugliness of the industrial and commercial world often become inclined to step out of the bounds of their culture and look to the exotic world of a pygmy village or a Mayan temple for inspiration. The interestingly dressed Indian, who lives in a quaint little house with a grass roof, may be refreshing to the eye, but the Indian himself, when offered the opportunity to leave the village, often does so. He leaves for the promise of material goods and to trade farming for "a job," but also because (when manufacturing becomes part of the economy) a fair share of wealth or social status is never sifted down to the individual farmer. We envy the shoeless from a distance, while he steadily seeks to join the rat race. If in some places the Mayan lives as he always has, in others he drives an automobile to work. There is no model for us in the Mayan civilization, though there seem to be personal messages, hints at the meaning of reality and fate, and a broader picture of ourselves as human beings and social animals. The heart of most present day America remains Indian. It carries with it the world-view embodied in its ancient art and mythology, and it will not be lost for a long while. In any event, civilizations are never lost: history is a continuum, an intermingling web of peoples, built, like temples, one over the other, (Nelson- 30).
Although the wisdom of Nelson has deep spiritual relevance, that same wisdom has little impact on the reality of our contemporary world. Violence and injustice prevails on every morning newspaper headline. “In 2004, Guatemala experienced an alarmingly violent crime wave. More than 2,000 murders took place, and were blamed on crime gangs and bands of teenagers,” (“Info”).
During 36 year civil war, brutality and terror was the very heart and soul of the poverty that shrouded the Maya’s life. As William Blum writes in his chilling book, Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II,
“Anyone attempting to organize a union or other undertaking to improve the lot of the peasants, or simply suspected of being in support of the guerrillas, was subject ... unknown armed men broke into their homes and dragged them away to unknown places... their tortured or mutilated or burned bodies found buried in a mass grave, or floating in plastic bags in a lake or river, or lying beside the road, hands tied behind the back ... bodies dropped into the Pacific from airplanes…it was said, no one fished any more; too many corpses were caught in the nets ... decapitated corpses, or castrated, or pins stuck in the eyes ... a village rounded up, suspected of supplying the guerrillas with men or food or information, all adult males taken away in front of their families, never to be seen again ... or everyone massacred, the village bulldozed over to cover the traces ... seldom were the victims actual members of a guerrilla band,” (Blum- 30).
Blum documents the words of one Mayan woman who witnessed an event so evil, that one wonders how or why anyone would want to go on living in such a contaminated world. Her letter bears witness not only an event, but also to the stoic strength and will to continue that has been characteristic in the Mayan people.
My name is Rigoberta Menchú Tum. I am a representative of the “Vincente Menchú” [her father] Revolutionary Christians ... On 9 December 1979, my 16-year-old brother Patrocino was captured and tortured for several days and then taken with twenty other young men to the square in Chajul ... An officer of [President] Lucas Garcia's army of murderers ordered the prisoners to be paraded in a line. Then he started to insult and threaten the inhabitants of the village, who were forced to come out of their houses to witness the event. I was with my mother, and we saw Patrocino; he had had his tongue cut out and his toes cut off. The officer jackal made a speech. Every time he paused the soldiers beat the Indian prisoners. When he finished his ranting, the bodies of my brother and the other prisoners were swollen, bloody, and unrecognizable. It was monstrous, but they were still alive. They were thrown on the ground and drenched with gasoline. The soldiers set fire to the wretched bodies with torches and the captain laughed like a hyena and forced the inhabitants of Chajul to watch. This was his objective -- that they should be terrified and witness the punishment given to the “guerrillas,” ( Blum -34).
Blum writes that this did not happen just once as an isolated outbreak of insanity by any individual or group, but took place over and over again. Two years after Menchú’s account, on August 19, 1981 it was reported that unidentified gunmen occupied the town of San Miguel Acatan. The gunmen forced the Mayor to give them a list of all those who had contributed funds for the building of a school. He also had to select 15 from the list including three of his own children. They were forced to dig their own graves and then they were shot, (Blum- 41).
In 1990 in a town called Santiago Atitlan Guatemalan soldiers opened fire on unarmed townspeople carrying white flags. It was a peaceful protest and the people had come with their mayor to speak to the military commander about repeated harassment by his troupes. On this occasion the soldiers killed 14 and wounded 24, (Blum- 53).
Slowly the news of these criminal events came to the attention of the world press, and in 1992, Rigoberta Menchú Tum was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Finally in 1996 peace was declared on all sides, and Guatemala began a long uphill climb to not only rebuild shattered homes and lives, but also to try to find human dignity.
In 2004, that dignity still appears to be almost a fantasy. The Mayan people are still under the smothering oppression of economic racism, and though they have survived, their chances for improvement in the quality of life appear to be as distant as ever. Yet there is one hope and that lies in a quiet revolution not with guns or violence but through alternative education.
Even if the world is in constant turmoil, all humans yearn for peace and if possible some a chance to have a comfortable if not better life. What is key to that possibility is a respect for life and the belief that in the human condition, integrity exists.
In the last sentence from the People’s Revolution manifesto it states, “International cooperation is possible between nations which are different ideologically, and have different forms of government as long as there is respect for each country's right to self-determination,” (Garrison pg - 197).
It is the purpose of this report, that a new kind of “international cooperation” may be explored, and that a small measure of human integrity will be regained. The paradox of gaining integrity throughout the ages of humankind has been linked to an economic basis which automatically correlates to human development through education.
According to Culvert, “The first and most important thing about Guatemala is the fact that by all the indicators of development, Guatemala ranks toward the bottom end of the scale for the hemisphere. Average annual income for the country as a whole in 1972 was Q480, when Q1=US$1. Bearing in mind that about a third of the population, being in the rural subsistence sector, was not counted at all, this is a very low figure indeed,” (Culvert-29).
Poverty carries a blanket of deprivation in its grasp and education in all official forms is usually the first to be covered by that bleak fabric. Although some levels percentages have improved in Guatemala, the total is so overwhelming that the basic results in the oppression of all peasantry are much the same. Culvert writes of this phenomenon in Guatemala during the mid 80s.
The relative youth of the population has many well-documented social consequences that are found throughout Latin America, but that in Guatemala are found in a peculiarly aggravated form. A relatively youthful population is a mixed blessing indeed, though Latin American politicians almost without exception persist in regarding it as a good thing: It represents, after all, the only self-renewing natural resource available to them. But children need education and social services, and since they are not yet old enough to work, the resources to pay for these must be found from a restricted tax base. Some progress has been made despite all obstacles. In 1950 only 28.1 percent of the population over the age of seven could read or write; in 1980 the literacy rate was about 49 percent. But not only are there very sharp differences between ladinos and Indios (in 1950 about 50 percent of ladinos were literate but only about 10 percent of Indios), but in the rural areas the free public education to which all are in theory entitled is not enforced, and those who have had schooling have seldom had more than two years at most, (Culvert-31).
The tragedy of civil war had many repercussions, and for the peasants of Guatemala, Maya and Ladinos alike, they suffered not only the scarcity of amenities but the opportunity for basic education.
Torn by years of Civil War and a neglected system of education, Guatemala has one of the lowest literacy rates in the Western Hemisphere. In some regions, nearly three out of every four adults cannot read or write. These staggering statistics are in largely the result of an absence of fundamental learning tools. Over 90% of schools lack textbooks and basic library books. Fewer than 5% of children have ever used a computer. Most Guatemalan schoolchildren graduate without the skills needed to get mid-level jobs and are therefore condemned to a life of ignorance, poverty, and discrimination, (“About”).
It is at this point of the report that the relevance of Guatemala’s history detailed has much to do with why some Mayans are electing to change their human development through alternative methods of education. Within the concept of “Alternative Education” the author of this report will propose a parallel philosophy and action., as quoted in the following definition of Human Development.
Human Development is about much more than the rise or fall of national incomes. It is about creating an environment in which people can develop their full potential and lead productive, creative lives in accord with their needs and interests. People are the real wealth of nations. Development is thus about expanding the choices people have to lead lives that they value. And it is thus about much more than economic growth, which is only a means—if a very important one—of enlarging people’s choices, (“Undp”).
The Maya people have created “art” such as sculptures, wall relief, and tapestry for centuries as a form of social and historical communication and yet, “A unified view of traditional Maya theology does not exist. Researchers who have worked in Santiago Atitlan in the past have noted that religious beliefs and practices among the Maya vary from individual to individual. This is because there is no unity of opinion in matters of Tz'utujil faith. Certain core myths are widely known among nearly all segments of the community, but the particulars of these stories are learned primarily through oral tradition and thus are not codified in any single source,” (Christenson -XVI).
This history of the oral tradition and the Mayans use of art as communication is a paradox of their survival, for although it has allowed them to retain their culture it has also kept them out of the economic mainstream of the Spanish speaking ruling culture. This is most apparent when the statistics show that, “Nearly one-third of the 11.6 million people of Guatemala cannot read or write despite government efforts to boost the rate of literacy.” What is a fact of the dominant patriarchal system of both the Spanish ancestry and Mayan is that, “Most of the 32.7 percent of people who are illiterate are women and people living in rural areas. This was established in the peace accords signed with guerrillas in 1996,” (“Literacy”).
One of the problems of continuing illiteracy lies in language as Robert Carlsen revealed in investigating the social and political history of Santiago Atitlan, from 1996 to 1997. He was the first anthropologist to work in the area who was conversant in the Tz'utujil (one the several dialects of Mayan) language spoken in that community. Earlier anthropologists relied on Spanish, which is understood by many male Mayans when they are dealing with commercial matters, but not cultural topics. The native women speak comparatively little Spanish, (Christenson -21).
Another factor in the use of their native language is their association of religion and land. Culvert writes that, “The religious practices that bind the Indian communities together stem from the land, and it is the land that forms the secular proof of the survival of the community. Even though a possible remedy…would be migration or the acceptance of land colonization schemes, the Indians have a mystical association with their ancestral lands that they are reluctant to break. Governments have been no less reluctant to encourage this solution,” (Culvert32).
The mystical element that Culvert writes about is based in mythology. According to an indigenous account of the initial conflict between the Mayas and Spaniards involved magic. “Their captain had transformed himself into an eagle. They came to kill Governor Tlaxcalan, [Maya for sun] a title given to Alvarado because of his power as well as his blonde hair, but they could not because a very white young girl defended him; and although they desired greatly to enter the camp, when they saw this girl they fell to the ground and could not get up. Then they saw many birds without legs, and these birds surrounded the girl, and although the Indians wished to kill her, these birds defended her and blinded them, (Christenson- 37).
The belief in mythological folktales has served as a bond between the Mayas and through the centuries aspects of those tales were transferred to their Catholic conversion, as well as traditional ancient Maya artisan techniques. In the village of Santiago Atitlan, a Catholic church was rebuilt and the priest, Father Rother, “Commissioned a local Tz'utujil sculptor, Diego Chavez Petzey, and his younger brother, Nicolas Chavez Sojuel… Rather than strictly following the original arrangement of the altarpiece, the Chavez brothers replaced many damaged panels with entirely new compositions based on traditional Maya religious beliefs and rituals familiar to their contemporary experience. The relationship between the artists and Father Rother is best characterized ascollaborative,” (Christenson - 38). Christenson wrote more of the collaborative.
As reconstructed by the Chavez brothers, the central altarpiece in the church of Santiago Atitlan represents a translation of contemporary Tz'utujil theology into material form. This theology is based on a worldview in which all things, both animate and inanimate, require periodic renewal through ritual performance to reenact the origin of the cosmos. Atiteco rituals are eminently social events which reflect collective realities. Therefore the artists chose to carve the altarpiece with references to motifs and ceremonial performances which are familiar to the religious experience of their community. Although set in the context of a Roman Catholic church, the altarpiece conveys a theology that is consistent with uniquely Maya concepts, some of which predate the Spanish Conquest.
If the Mayan culture has such a strong force within it that has remained alive for 500 years, it seems irrational to ignore its strength in applying any form of contemporary visual or literacy education. Yet the subsequent generations will only know their history through the recounting and documentation of it. For the Maya this has occurred in one contemporary form.
Testimonial writings have enabled common people whose voices are rarely heard to provide their own perspective on national events. The most famous of these testimonies is the autobiography by Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú, written in 1992. The contribution of Menchú was not only to draw attention to injustice but also to the strength of Mayan communities who have fought against it, (“Agre”).
Although there have been examples of Mayan documenters and writers being able to stand on the world stage, it is still a rare occurrence. Wearne writes in The Maya of Guatemala.
Ever since colonial times, Spaniards and Ladinos alike have subjected Native Americans to legal, social, political, and economic discrimination. Since these Maya cultures do not speak Spanish, ladino landowners often forcibly evict them from their plots of land and take over. Rigoberta Menchú herself describes how local plantation owners did this to her village community, forcing them to leave their land after tricking her father, an illiterate, Quiche-speaking village leader, into signing a document in Spanish binding the natives to leave the land after two years of occupation …One of the results of this internalized ethnic policy is that most Mayan parents refuse to send their children to public schools or to learn Spanish, because then their children become assimilated into Guatemalan culture and leave the community….While this may preserve Mayan culture, it also passes down to new generations disenfranchisement through speechlessness, (“On-War”).
Today in Guatemala the Mayas are at a new frontier where the choices they make will affect the generations that will follow. They are well aware of the mechanics of the spirit in the world, yet because of their history they have much to distrust in the reality of day to day political and social dynamics. After 500 years of oppression they come to the 21st century with eyes of suspicion and yet they because the fantastic leap in world communications they are walking into new lands of opportunity and know they have survived. Christenson writes:
The Tz'utujils [the Mayan tribe of Santiago Atitlan] are a modern people…Like any living society, they are well aware of the world beyond the borders of their community and readily adopt aspects of Western culture, art, and language which fit the needs of their people, (Christenson- 213).
Christenson goes on to say what has the most hope for the Mayans to benefit from the possibilities in the contemporary situation. “The Maya do not passively adopt foreign intrusions imposed on them but select those aspects of Western culture that complement their own unique worldview.”
At this point in time the Maya are yet survivors of an invasion of Europeans and the culture they imposed. Robert Carlsen writes in The War for the Heart and Soul, “As the Mayas' post-Columbian history demonstrates, the process of conquest may demand hundreds of years. Moreover, to be successful conquest must be implemented on multiple levels. In a remarkably candid statement, Bernal Diaz del Castillo, a soldier in the Conquest and the primary chronicler of that event, writes, we came to the New World “to bring light to those in darkness, and also to get rich,” (Carlsen- 20).
The Mayas then as now have reason to be suspicious of outsiders who come into their world, for it seems they have always been used only to create wealth for others and little gain to themselves. As late as 2002, many Mayans earned less than $1 for a 12 to 14 hour work day. At the same time missionaries drive around in $40,000 SUVs and are paid wages that are based on first world economy, (Wolverton- 1).
What may be worse is the Maya are still being kept in colonial servitude on several levels. Carlsen writes, “Not only did the Mayas endure being discovered and invaded, but they have even had to suffer being invented according to Eurocentric cultural and theoretical conceptions.”
Carlsen is making several points that one should consider when wanting to affect or work within another culture.
In raising this consideration I am purposefully confronting the debate between the "symbolic" and "materialist" approaches to the social sciences, as perhaps best delineated by Marx's famous polemic that "it is not the consciousness of men that determines their social existence, but on the contrary, their social existence determines their consciousness. (Carlsen-21)
Carlsen also observes that the native people are not adapting to modern economic systems, and suggests that a closer look at the educational process might show a way they could benefit within modernity. Yet he raises the prevalent suspicion the Maya have with education when he writes about a village where, “I am reminded of an incident told to me by Atitlan's Catholic priest, Tom McSherry, an account which somehow puts these figures into perspective. Among the myriad mini-dramas characterizing McSherry's parish population is a boy who habitually faces his father's wrath. The crime: sneaking into school. In Atitlan today, hunger for education must give way to the family unit's survival imperatives, which generally means children's commitment to full-time work.”
To introduce any new idea into the Maya culture is daunting if not impossible when faced with the historical fact of 500 years of oppression that has been compounded by the disastrous 36 year civil war taking the lives of 200,000 Mayans. Carlsen writes a chilling appraisal of this but also indicates a potential for change that comes from a village that is only a few miles from the proposed project with the collective of Mayan villages.
Guatemala's future might hold one evident message from Atitlan is that peace alone cannot be expected to resolve the country's social turmoil. Masked by the political violence of the past decade and more is that not only have Guatemala's underlying economic and ecological problems failed to disappear; in many cases they have worsened. Moreover, consistent with the wave of recent armed robberies committed by Atiteco youths, the civil war has triggered widespread social unraveling. Addressing these problems may prove as difficult as was gaining the peace accord itself. Yet, daunting though the path ahead may be, the Atitecos have demonstrated that restitching the tattered social base is possible. Where the Atitecos have succeeded it has been through reliance on community. It is heartening that most of Guatemala's other Mayan towns have their own legacy of community upon which to build,( Carlsen170)
In this section the concept of “Arts in Alternative Education” will be discussed and how it may be applied to a multi-media project with the direct intention of improving literacy within a small Maya collective of villages.
Ana Grier Cutter writes in Ethics and International Affairs, “The development [of] communities [is] an opportunity to, at the least, do no harm.... Do No Harm makes an important contribution to an ongoing discussion about how outsiders can play a productive role in preventing and resolving violent conflict…Anderson cites the experiences of many aid providers in war torn societies to show that international assistance—even when it is effective in saving lives, alleviating suffering, and furthering sustainable development—too often reinforces divisions among contending groups. But she more importantly offers hopeful evidence of creative programs that point the way to new approaches to aid,” (“Ethics”)
Alice Lovelace in a three part lecture entitled “The Arts in Alternative Education” perhaps defines the kind of people who are best suited for alternative education, and goes on to illustrate the broad concept. Lovelace says the types of students are, “Complex; with multiple identities, overflowing with emotions, challenging, and desiring to be challenged.” Although she is referring to the troubled youth of inner-cities in America, she could just as well be considering the traumatized individuals of war-torn Guatemala.
Again Lovelace writes about America, but the similarity and association that can be seen within contemporary Maya culture can be made. As relating to the social environment and the recent history of Guatemala Lovelace said,
Private and public education is failing large numbers of [students]. The severity of violence and the means of violence are on the increase among them. They account for the dramatic rise in prison and jail populations… [It] has its normative crisis in adolescence, and is in many ways determined by what went before and determines much that follows. We [are reminded not to] separate personal growth [from] communal change. In other words, we belong to each other and to the histories we share. Identity, sociologists insists, is affirmed or asserted on what, and who, others believe us to be and it exists, even while we struggle to create ourselves. We know identity is influenced by environment; and tends to be generational in the various forms of crisis that attack us and the issues that affect us. Many also believe that the identity of the youth is greatly affected by attitudes and trends in national history, (“Alter”).
Lovelace goes on to speak in which sense modern technology or what tools need to be applied in an alternative fashion.
Please do not read technology to mean only computers -- a computer is useless to the illiterate and the non-thinker. The technology must take many forms, from the simple to the complex. Here I speak of technology as a tool of cultural anthropology, I use it accordingly to mean: The body of knowledge available to a civilization that is of use in fashioning implements, practicing manual arts and skills, and extracting or collecting materials. A technology that looks at the making of art and the creation of cultural artifacts as a body of knowledge. This is how we fashion the world around, extracting from our environment those things that make life worth living.
The profile of an individual or a group that modern sociologists such as Lovelace believe will benefit from an alternative experience to education are people who “have difficulties that include: behavior problems; adjustment difficulties, poor peer interaction, difficulty with authority figures, poor motivation, insecurity and a lack of self-confidence, talk too much or talk too little, are disruptive, destructive, aggressive, and many are chronically irritable/depressed/angry.” This portrait could easily describe the social characteristics of any oppressed or traumatized peoples, from inner-city ghettos to Palestine to the Mayan Highlands.
What is significant in using art (or media which allow creative expression) within an alternative education, Lovelace says, “Is a manifestation of the multiple identities of young people, the power of expression that burns within them. It addresses that cloying feeling of being denied. The making of art satisfies their human needs as it guides them to fully understand and practice self-reflexivity and freedom, the expression of their multiple dimensions of identity. According to sociologist Ira Goldenburg: In a fundamental way the need for a sense of self is oriented towards the reconstruction of one's past, towards the discovery of one's racial, sexual, and ethnic prehistory, and towards recapturing the roots of one's group heritage,” (“Alter”).
The silence of the Maya people through illiteracy compounded because of language and their lost opportunity to join society or even tell society of their identity and history is perhaps the biggest obstacle to quality of life or to change the economic and social racism they endure. Yet the Maya are people with multiple skills, and crafts and come from ancestry that created some of the world’s most profound works of art and science. They are an intelligent people, although bigotry and oppression has placed them in an inferior position in the contemporary society of Guatemala.
Lovelace says that intelligence comes in multiple forms and intelligence can be expressed through what is called natural intelligence.
According to one of the pioneers in the theory of multiple intelligences, Dr. Howard Gardner: An intelligence entails the ability to solve problems or fashion products that are of consequence in a particular cultural setting… The creation of the cultural product is crucial to capturing and transmitting knowledge or expressing one's views or feelings.
In accordance with the concept of Arts in Alternative Education and what Lovelace says, it is important to understand humans, “Are not limited to only one intelligence, but usually have some aspects of all. Some people are particularly strong in one area. These are doorways through which the arts have accessed children and adults for hundreds of years.” Lovelace uses the term expressive arts for any media that allows the individual or group to express or demonstrate their identity.
The expressive arts encourage students to learn and create from a position of personal power. The expressive arts embrace the multiple intelligences, thereby providing an opportunity for every student to be successful regardless of their reading or writing level. The expressive arts facilitate language development, reading comprehension, and communication skills. Through the medium of making art students explore the landscape of meaning that rests beyond the literal word and their conscious world; they learn to hear and decode symbolic language; and they discover new metaphors that help them to unlock the meaning of education, (“Alter”).
Lovelace speaks about several organizations in America who have used the principle of Art in Alternative Education for many years.
The Center For Creative Education promotes a vision of society in which creative learning and expression are integral to our sense of community life and fulfillment; where all people are valued for their curiosity and creativity; and each individual has the opportunity to exercise his or her creative potential; where the arts and humanities are accessible and diverse; and where creative use of the arts and humanities are agents of community understanding, tolerance, and improvement….There is great potential in programs like The Center for Creative Education…Horizons School in Atlanta, an alternative high school where students are expected to be active participants in the education they achieve; where labor, the performing arts, literary arts, and academics are equals…The New Orleans based program YA/YA (Young Artists/Young Aspirations), a visual arts after school program through which young artists have become entrepreneurs, marketing their products for companies as diverse as Burger King, Swatch, and the United Nations. In The Center for Creative Education we have a model for artist and teachers in partnership, long-term evolution built into the system, systemic approach to change, alternative ways to test for knowing From Horizons School and YA/YA comes a lesson of recognition and responsibility.
Once again in accordance with shifting who the actual recipient or client is, one considers the information disclosed of the history of the Maya in this report, Arts in Alternative Education can easily apply to Mayan community experience. Lovelace says, “The expressive arts are about human communications on a personal level…The process of production, whether a book, an art exhibit, a dance or drama performance, embodies many of the basic skills we seek to instill in our students through education: research, planning ability, setting goals, communication skills, alternative ways of seeing a body of knowledge, critical thinking and resourcefulness.” Lovelace compiled a list which also can be seen to directly apply to the Maya and a new way in which literacy could develop.
· To make art is to use the imagination as a means of self liberation and conscious raising.
· To make art is to place your personal awareness within a social context.
· To make art is to give recognition to others and to receive recognition from others.
· To make art is to accept that we have the power to change our minds and our situations.
· To make art is to engage in moral growth within a holistic system of analysis and self directed education.
What is significant about the Arts in Alternative Education, is that it is essentially a collaborative form, where the role of teacher and student are often switched and the product that is created has a shared pride. When a work like this is created in a community then it is owned by all the members. Lovelace says,
The expressive arts help to create a sense of community where students and teacher draw from the strength of each other; where each individual is acknowledged as worthy of help at times and at other times capable of giving help to others; where the task of leadership is shared; where everyone is responsible for encouraging each other; and finally " We must stand by one another in difficult times and help the one who has dropped out regain his place," (“Alter”).
Enid Zimmerman is the Art Education Program Coordinator and an Associate Professor of Art Education and Gifted/Talented Education, Indiana University. He writes in a website report, “Emphasis on commonalities shared by all peoples and at the same time understanding and appreciation of differences within various cultures and subcultures may provide strong rationales for those who wish to teach art in a social context. Global education should not be viewed as a discipline with particular content or subject matter, rather it should be seen as an approach to the study of culture that can focus on international concerns or those related to study of students’ own local communities.”
Zimmerman details examples of teaching art in a community based context, or as the proposed project in the conclusion section of this report.
[A] method of teaching in a community-based social context is evidenced in a few art programs that take art beyond the walls of classrooms and emphasize teaching cultural and aesthetic values. Young (1985) described an art program, conducted in a community center and operated by volunteers, to improve and supplement African-American students' art education. Classes were conducted as a workshop and discussions in which students learned about Afro-American art and history and created art products based on these experiences….Artists, educators, and community leaders from different ethnic groups were featured speakers and workshop leaders. Several community-based art education programs have taken place in museums and local art galleries.
Art should be studied in a context in which people are linked through their communities and nations with people in other communities and nations throughout the world. The next decade can become a time of celebrating all people's past accomplishments in the arts and creating a future in which students gain access to global knowledge and understanding in and through art, (“Teach”).
Finally in one sense of showing that “Arts in Alternative Education” has become a recognized form of education the following shows the course description set by the state of Oklahoma.
Oklahoma Arts Council and State Department of Education Partnership
Description: Arts in Alternative Education grants are available to school districts for Alternative Education Programs working in cooperation with the Oklahoma State Department of Education. These programs include artists from the Artists-in-Residence Program and/or local community artists and consultants to provide hands-on arts instruction and experiences for students.
Applications should complement the general education program in its curriculum and/or counseling goals. The alternative education program is designed to motivate students whose needs are not met by traditional educational services. Programs provide instruction for returning drop outs, adjudicated, low performing or other students deemed “at risk” of not completing their education.
Given this context, proposals should reflect how the arts help students develop a positive work ethic, improve communication skills and increase understanding of ideas in other core curriculum areas. Further, the arts build problem-solving skills, self-confidence and a sense of craftsmanship. The arts can also help develop skills in conflict resolution, diffusion of anger and decreased negative behavior, (“Resource”).
Kenneth J. Wolverton was in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala July/August of 2001, where he went to Casa Xelaju Language School to conclude the second year university level Spanish 211 and 212.
Casa Xelaju is involved in social initiatives. While Wolverton was there he was invited to direct a mural project at an orphanage, called Hogar de Niños, (www.xelapages.com/vol-casahogar.htm). It is through this project he became interested in returning to Guatemala, but also because of the success of the completed mural, several groups became interested in Wolvertons return to Guatemala.
The mural at Hogar de Niños gained respect and because of that the directors of an NGO, EntreMundos have acted as a liaison with Association Mayalán; an organization whose members come from the rural Mayan communities of highland Guatemala. They are a not-for-profit association with no political party affiliation. To learn more about Mayalan, visit their website at www.mayalan.net .
Ten rural communities are full members of Mayalan. They work in a variety of social actions affecting rural Mayan communities such a human rights concerns, humanitarian aid, institution and organization building, economic development, domestic violence, education, public health, and other issues.
The focus of community organizations varies a lot due to geographical differences, historical and political differences (some of the communities are communities of repatriated refugees from the civil war, others suffered severe persecution and massacres but chose not to flee) and economic differences (communities in coffee-growing regions are largely dependent on low paid work through huge coffee fincas, while most communities are dependent on subsistence farming and are concerned with issues such as environmental degradation and severe land and water shortages).
Over the past few years, Association Mayalan have helped most of their member communities work together to fund and construct community centers that provide health and educational services in addition to serving as meeting places that help facilitate community unity and cooperation. For most of these communities, this is the only building with electricity, windows and real tile floors.
Wolverton tried to raise funds since he was intially contacted by Association Mayalan in 2002, and in January 2006 decided to fund the project himself. In February 2006 Association Mayalan responded positively to his proposal to create murals. They have requested Wolverton design and direct one or more collaborative murals at their office and also in member communities if possible. (Letters)
It would be a 4 to 8 week mural project beginning in summer 2006 on the success of grant applications. It is also possible depending on funding that a film/video documenter and/or media team will also be actively involved. Reference to The Team means Wolverton and individuals who may help facilitate the collaborative project, either residents of the village or outside resources.
The Team will document the project through writing, digital photography and video and send weekly press eleases to a variety of local and international media outlets.
The concept of The Guatemala Mural Project is to create several interior and exterior murals working with indigenous people, in communities and villages near Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. The plan is to initiate a mural arts project with the participation of local people by responding to their requests and working with their ideas and skills. Murals will be created in schools, village squares and public facilities. The ultimate goal and consequence of the murals is that it will help introduce literacy and in particular to women by means of Arts in Alternative Education.
THE COLLABORATIVE TECHNIQUE
The Collaborative Technique will be implemented to conceive, design and create large public murals. Each mural will be created in a 1 to 2 week time frame.
· Prior to the projects initiation, national and international magazines and newspapers will be offered an article series on the project.
· All aspects of the mural being created will be documented through digital photography, video and writing.
· Weekly press releases will be sent to a collective of local and international media organizations
· An online website about the murals project will be updated weekly. Each community will be given a hard copy publication on conclusion.
All digital images by Kenneth J. Wolverton in Guatemala July 15 to August 15, 2001
Kenneth Wolverton has worked as a “collaborative” artist with large groups, schools and communities since 1971.
His work has been created equally between private and commercial commissions. He has worked with teams of professionals in business and public organizations such as schools, community centers and youth centers.
Wolverton has been the lead artist on many collaborative murals and has conducted training workshops and taught classes in mural art and sculpture.
He created several posts as an artist/organizer, working directly with community groups and individuals in a collaborative and created public artworks or events, such as murals, sculptures, or festival art.
Wolverton works in a diverse collection of professional, cultural and ethnic situations. He has been at the front of creative projects with Navajo Reservations, Hispanic and Afroamerican groups in America and communities in Australia, Britain, France, Guatemala, Iran, Mexico and Turkey.
Wolverton has been involved with art in social context and Art in Alternative Education since 1975 when he was funded by the Leverhulme Trust (London) as Artist-In-Residence for eight years with Theatre Workshop Edinburgh, (Scotland) and directed the first rural community arts program in the western isles of Scotland.
To insure the success of each project, the director must act as a catalyst, an animator, a community liaison as much as being the artistic director. The basic objective of each project is to interact with the requests and the needs of the community.
There is unpredictable creative power in the collective of a community. The need of professionalism and organizational skills of the directing artist must be prominent for a successful creative collaborative project.
Experience in the collaborative is essential for an outsider to help indigenous people to tell their own story, while respecting their historical integrity and cultural aesthetics.
Yet many contemporary artists are no longer an integral part of community, but are seen as oddities or elite superstars who come at a high price.
Artists have subtracted their work from active participation within communities and by consequence; society has been impoverished by this condition.
Art thereby is denied a firsthand experience in a daily situation, as one may compare the labor of carpenters, electricians or plumbers within society.
The ugliness and violence that exists within contemporary society, to a large degree is the absence of creative elements offered on a daily basis.
Society could easily be more gentle and progressive using creative outlets. If a percentage of professional artists returned to a Renaissance attitude, and in coordination with social planners, trained young artists within apprenticeship or guild conditions society would change for the better.
In essence, this is the spirit of Art in Alternative Education and is not a new concept, but goes back to the primordial birth of art as the tool of communication, the first media.
The glossy magazine art world and university academia often see collaborative work as amateur, (nonprofessionals are creatively involved), and threatening because it dissolves the contemporary artistic ideal and commercial status quo.
Experience gained working at a community level in a collaborative form brings abilities and philosophy that can be taught at a higher education or societal level.
A long term mural project in Guatemala would be very significant for the development of skills and career opportunities for anyone involved in that process.
The professional experience applied to the indigenous people of Guatemala would help understanding and communicating in Spanish and their ability to negotiate.
An Art in Alternative Education program would help them achieve that goal, and conversely the non-native speakers would also be learning the Mayan language and culture
Wolverton has lived and worked in the American Southwest for 20 years, where the majority of his collaborative art projects have done with Spanish speaking young people and adults.
He has also worked with the Navajo and Pueblo Native Americans many times in his career and his art has evolved with their cultures. His interest and artistic development has been drawn towards the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
To be invited into the intimate inner circles of one group, automatically allows one to develop better communication and a network of exchange between the indigenous cultures.
Guatemala is of course not only a Spanish Speaking nation, but the Mayan culture is ancient and regarded with great respect by other indigenous peoples as well as by academicians of anthropology and other fields of the humanities, such as art, literature, and astronomy.
To gain personal insight into indigenous cultures can only be gained by living and working with their people directly.
To be invited to work with indigenous people is not only a real opportunity to learn their inner truths. It is an honorable privilege that must be taken with seriousness and integrity.
When an outsider is invited to work with any indigenous people, that indeed is a profound compliment which demonstrates a faith and trust that is rarely given to non-indigenous individuals.
The history of the Mayan of Guatemala is long and often tragic. These people have already been betrayed and persecuted by “outsiders” many times. To be allowed to work with them in any capacity through their own invitation demonstrates an incredible trust.
Association Mayalan (see Letters of Invitation) is an NGO that represents 10 villages. In working with Mayalan and directing mural projects within their villages is a rare opportunity, both as an individual artist and as a representative of the American culture.
This cooperation is an opportunity of International Exchange, promoting peace and understanding between peoples as the most significant goals of art and culture.
Wolverton has created over two hundred murals in the last thirty years. Most of the murals have been done in the Collaborative Technique.
Generally speaking there are two factors which determine the amount of time that it will take to complete a mural. The first factor is the type of actual detail and finish. The second factor is the dimensions and type of surface of the mural wall.
In the case of the first factor, the mural is designed around the number of people and the artistic skills they have. The more developed those skills are, the more sophisticated and technically difficult the mural can be. For example, the mural can range in style between photo-realism and hard-edge cartoons, depending on the ability of the participants.
Wolverton completed two years of university level Spanish and has spent eight weeks in Guatemala and Mexico, working directly with the Spanish speaking locals. His Spanish is basic yet Mayan is the indigenous language, and communication will be learned together.
He is accomplished in InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, FrontPage, PowerPoint, scanning and Word.
He used traditional film photography all of his life but focused exclusively in digital photography since 1999.
Wolverton graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism December 2004.
From 1978 to 1981 he wrote a weekly arts column for The Arran Banner, Isle of Arran, Scotland.
He served as a reporter and photographer for the University of Arizona’s El Independiente and Cursor.
Murals have visual high-impact and in most cases are larger than life in comparison to canvass salon paintings. Because of this characteristic, murals effect the environment where they are created.
Rarely does a mural have no reaction from the public. Murals stimulate human interaction and communication. If the whole community is informed and invited to share ideas as well as participate in the creation of the mural, the result has a positive influence on the public.
Association Mayalan has its own agenda, with specific requirements to be represented in a mural. However, they have common denominators in their cultural identity, a similar imagery of icons representing their sacred values. Therefore, the murals will speak a cultural language easily recognized by all and assume a powerful role in ageless testimony.
An accurate documentation will follow the project through all its phases, from birth to completion, and serve as an effective tool to disseminate information about the process of creating a successful community art project. A variety of media will be used to reach the largest possible audience, such as published articles, web sites and photographic reportages.
The Mural project will have a significant impact not only in Guatemala, but its echo will be heard in a broader international community, through the integration of publicity through all available media. Media will be created through digital photography and video, audio cassette, hardcopy paper publications, plus community radio and/or television that will be included in a website that can be downloaded and reproduced.
Association Mayalán is an organization whose members come from the rural Mayan communities of highland Guatemala. We are a not-for-profit association with no political party affiliation.
I am writing you on behalf of Mayalan, an association of indigenous communities here in the Xela area of Guatemala. We work in a variety of areas affecting rural Mayan communities such a human rights concerns, humanitarian aid, institution and organization building, economic development, domestic violence, education, public health, and other issues. We are extremely interested in working with you to design and obtain funding for one or more murals at our office and also in our member communities if possible.
To learn more about Mayalan, you may want to visit our website currently located at www.mayalan.net . Nearly a dozen rural communities are full members of Mayalan. To become a member, communities must organize themselves to work on community problems and issues such as those listed above. The focus of community organizations varies a lot due to geographical differences, historical and political differences (some of the communities are communities of repatriated refugees from the civil war, others suffered severe persecution and massacres but chose not to flee) and economic differences (communities in coffee-growing regions are largely dependent on low paid work through huge coffee fincas, while most communities are dependent on subsistence farming and are concerned with issues such as environmental degradation and severe land and water shortages).
Over the past few years, we have helped most of our member communities work together to fund and construct community centers that provide health and educational services in addition to serving as meeting places that help facilitate community unity and cooperation. For most of these communities, this is the only building with electricity, windows and real tile floors. We would love to work with you to design and create murals for one or two of these communities, in addition to a mural for our office building in Xela. However, we do not know if financial or temporal constraints would limit your ability to work on three murals.
I am assuming that you will be able to raise the financial
resources you need to complete these murals.
As far as time goes, our office is located about ½ hour by bus away from downtown Xela. We would love to put a mural on the outside of our building. The two communities that are closest to Xela are located near
Solola and San Martin. It takes about 2 hours by bus to reach them both.
These communities are very well organized and have really made a lot of progress on the problems facing their communities. These both recently completed community centers and I think they would be overjoyed to help you (or simply watch you if you prefer) create a mural on their community buildings. If you would like, we could organize community members to help you paint the mural.
I have very little experience in mural painting, but depending on the type of mural you paint, one idea is for you to sketch the mural and the wall and then have a big festival day during which children or older community members could help you paint the different sections of the wall.
We are already planning a community festival in each community to work on other issues such as health care and environmental concerns, and we could incorporate the mural creation into the program. This might also help you save time, since you would have a lot of helpers (or it might make the process more difficult if overseeing painting is too difficult).
Another idea is that you could work with women's groups or
youth groups in the communities to plan the mural. Of course, you could also
just do the mural completely on your own. Whatever you think is best is
fine with us.
As far as the mural in our office goes, we would love to work with our Board of Directors (leaders of all our member communities) to design the mural. Once again, you could decide if you want to work on it solo or if you would like us to bring in community members to help you out.
As far as themes for these murals, I think it might depend on the communities and their experiences (for example, most of the men in the Solola village were massacred by the army during one night in the 1980s, while San Martin is a community of refugees repatriated from Mexico.) We could work with you to focus on a couple of themes for our office mural.
We definitely don't want to hinder your creative juices, so we would be happy to give as little or as much guidance as you would like.
I hope that this is not too much information. We would
really love it if you could find the funding and
time to work on all three murals, but we will definitely understand if that is too much of a
Thank you so much for your kind offer. Please feel free to respond to this email in either Spanish or English. The majority of the Mayalan staff (everyone except me) speaks only Spanish and Mayan languages, but I will be here to translate English emails through the end of July.
Thanks again. Sincerely,
Ruth DeGolia, International Programs Coordinator
Max Gimbel, Info-Doc Program Coordinator, Update Editor
3321 12th St. NE, Washington D.C. 20017, tel. 202.529.6599, fax 202.526-4611
I sent information about your project to the good folks at El Espacio (the physical home of entremundos), and after a short discussion said that they would be pleased to house you, Laura and her daughter from mid-late June til mid-August. Please note the message from David Cohn regarding space at el espacio. You can contact him directly to arrange specifics ; firstname.lastname@example.org
I look forward to seeing the murals.... Max Gimbel
Letter from EntreMundos
Thanks for the e-mail. Working at El Espacio is my pleasure. I really love it there. You have no idea how nice it is to feel "at home" while I'm here for such an extended stay.
As for the muralist (Ken is his name, right?), I talked it over with all of the long term people living at El Espacio. We all agreed that it would definitely change the dynamic of life their but that it would be well worth it. Sanna, one of the dutch girls living here right now has even volunteered to give up her room for the duration of his stay. She is staying in the big room that I think you once lived in and later Silvia. I think that room should more than suit their purposes. Besides I think it's the most cheerful room in the house. So, please go ahead and tell Ken that we're more than happy to accommodate him with a living space and we all look forward to meeting him. If he could do a mural in El Espacio that would be an added bonus.
You mentioned that your other friends won't be coming. If they are looking for comfort, that may be a good idea. The only room we have available is the one adjacent to the kitchen and it has fallen a bit into disrepair. It is our least popular room. As far as the healthy energy that takes place in El Espacio... yes it still exists, although we are all pretty mellow as far as the hours we keep. I think everyone in the place works a job with fairly traditional hours.
Well, thanks for being in touch and I look forward to hearing more details about Ken's arrival. If you need anything at all, don't hesitate to ask.
Wed, 3 July, 2002
Dear Mr. Wolverton,
Greetings from Totonicapán. Max Gimbel from EntreMundos gave me your name and asked that I write to you explaining briefly about Colaboracion Educacional Mundial (Global Education Partnership) and our desire to have you paint a mural at our building.
My name is Angela Datz de Blanco. I am the Director for Colaboracion Educacional Mundial (CEM). CEM is a small organization that serves rural youth ages thirteen to twenty five. We train youth in job and entrepreneurial skills and computer literacy. Our youth learn to be self-sufficient, literate, and employable or to create economic opportunities for themselves. We have served approximately six hundred youth since we began in 1996. We have fifteen youth currently attending our courses. Many of our students are artists in the rural textile industry and appreciate the beauty of murals.
We are requesting to be considered in the Mural project . Currently in Totonicapán, there are no murals in existence. A mural would provide beacon of light for our students and those in the community who visit our office on a daily basis. We pride ourselves on providing a beacon of hope to our youth and we would like to give something to the community as a whole, a mural would do just that.
Max also specified that we provide brief details on the possible contents of the mural being requested. Ideally, a mural picturing the indigenous and non-indigenous youth coming from the rural areas into the world of technology and the workplace, a transition of sorts with lots of color in order to provide a light of hope at the end of the tunnel of poverty would provide an excellent beacon of hope in the visualization of the future for our youth.
Thank you for taking the time to consider this proposal for a mural in Totonicapán. If you would like more information, please contact me at my email address email@example.com Again thank you for your time and consideration, Best Regards, Angela Datz
(12 Undp- http://hdr.undp.org/hd/
(13) Literacy- http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/47/104.html Literacy For All Distant Dream By Celina Zubieta, March 1999
(14 Agre- )http://www.aol.com/agremilusa/embassy.html,
(15) On-war- http://www.onwar.com/aced/data/golf/guatemala1961.htm
(16) Contemp- http://www.uop.edu/~aiida/contemp4.htm
(17) Guate-Lit- http://www.guatemalaliteracy.com/
(18) Arte- http://www.artemaya.com/
(19) Alter- http://www.inmotionmagazine.com/alted.html -The Arts in Alternative Education - Part 1 by Alice Lovelace - In Motion Magazine - Art Changes - from Where I Stand
(20) Teach- http://www.ericdigests.org/pre-9219/global.htmZimmerman, Enid, Teaching Art From a Global Perspective.
(21) Resource- http://www.state.ok.us/~arts/Pages/schools/schools.html-Resources and Programs for Schools.htm Arts in Alternative Education, Oklahoma Arts Council and State Department of Education Partnership
(22) Images- http://images.google.com/images
Anderson, Mary, B. Do No Harm: How Aid Can Support Peace or War
Lynne Rienner Publishers, Boulder/London 1999
Blum, William, Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II,
Common Courage Press, Monroe, Me 1995
Heptig, Vince, A Mayan Struggle: Portrait of a Guatemalan People in Danger, Guatemala, 1997
Nelson, Ralph, Popol Vuh, Houghton Mifflin Company Boston, 1977
Culvert, Peter, Guatemala—A Nation in Turmoil.
Westview Press –Boulder/London 1985
Black, George, Garrison Guatemala. Zed Books Ltd. London,1984
Christenson, Allen J., Art and society in a Highland Maya community: the Altarpiece of Santiago Atitlan. University of Texas Press 2001
Carlsen. Robert, S. The war for the Heart and Soul. University of Texas Press. 1997
(1.) Association Mayalán, www.mayalan.net
(2.) Max Gimbel, Info-Doc Program Coordinator, Update
3321 12th St. NE, Washington D.C. 20017, tel. 202.529.6599, fax 202.526-4611
(3.) EntreMundos, El Espacio, www.entremundos.com
(4.) Colaboracion Educacional Mundial, (CEM) firstname.lastname@example.org