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Why The Immigrants Come: Contemporary Maya Paintings and Textiles from Guatemala: Intro

This guide accompanies the Fall 2019 exhibit in Rosenberg Library.

Exhibit Introduction

Why‌ ‌the‌ ‌Immigrants‌ ‌Come‌ ‌

The‌ ‌Maya‌ ‌and‌ ‌their‌ ‌culture‌ ‌are‌ ‌resilient,‌ ‌having‌ ‌survived‌ ‌500‌ ‌years‌ ‌of‌ ‌conquest‌ ‌and‌ ‌ oppression.‌ ‌Maya‌ ‌people‌ ‌number‌ ‌approximately‌ ‌six‌ ‌million‌ ‌today,‌ ‌and‌ ‌are‌ ‌composed‌ ‌ of‌ ‌roughly‌ ‌twenty-six‌ ‌distinct‌ ‌language‌ ‌groups.‌ ‌They‌ ‌continue‌ ‌to‌ ‌practice‌ ‌their‌ ‌ traditional‌ ‌religion‌ ‌alongside‌ ‌the‌ ‌Christian‌ ‌and‌ ‌Catholic‌ ‌faiths.‌ ‌The‌ ‌artists‌ ‌represented‌ ‌ here‌ ‌are‌ ‌Tz’utuhil‌ ‌and‌ ‌Kaqchikel,‌ ‌from‌ ‌the‌ ‌western‌ ‌highlands‌ ‌of‌ ‌Guatemala.‌ ‌Each‌ ‌of‌ ‌ these‌ ‌groups‌ ‌gave‌ ‌rise‌ ‌to‌ ‌a‌ ‌tradition‌ ‌of‌ ‌contemporary‌ ‌painting‌ ‌starting‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌late‌ ‌1920s.‌ ‌ ‌ 

The‌ ‌works‌ ‌in‌ ‌this‌ ‌exhibition reveal‌ ‌the‌ ‌urgent‌ ‌crises‌ ‌that‌ ‌impel‌ ‌waves‌ ‌of‌ ‌refugees‌ ‌from‌ ‌ Mexico‌ ‌and‌ ‌Central‌ ‌America‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌United‌ ‌States‌ ‌border.‌ ‌Those‌ ‌who‌ ‌abandon‌ ‌their‌ ‌ homes‌ ‌are‌ ‌fleeing‌ ‌political,‌ ‌criminal,‌ ‌and‌ ‌domestic‌ ‌violence;‌ ‌displacement‌ ‌by‌ ‌ multinational‌ ‌corporations;‌ ‌as‌ ‌well‌ ‌as‌ ‌poverty‌ ‌and‌ ‌natural‌ ‌disaster.‌ ‌Many‌ ‌Americans‌ ‌ are‌ ‌not‌ ‌aware‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌United‌ ‌States'‌ ‌responsibility‌ ‌for‌ ‌many‌ ‌of‌ ‌these‌ ‌problems.‌ ‌

In‌ ‌Guatemala‌ ‌the‌ ‌Maya‌ ‌people‌ ‌survived‌ ‌a‌ ‌genocidal‌ ‌war‌ ‌from‌ ‌1960‌ ‌to‌ ‌1996,‌ ‌which‌ ‌was‌ ‌ largely‌ ‌funded‌ ‌by‌ ‌the‌ ‌United‌ ‌States.‌ ‌Currently,‌ ‌the‌ ‌Maya‌ ‌face‌ ‌brutal‌ ‌evictions‌ ‌of‌ ‌whole‌ ‌ communities‌ ‌by‌ ‌multinational‌ ‌corporations‌ ‌seeking‌ ‌profits‌ ‌from‌ ‌mining‌ ‌and‌ ‌ hydroelectric‌ ‌plants—as‌ ‌well‌ ‌as‌ ‌violent‌ ‌incursions‌ ‌by‌ ‌drug‌ ‌cartels.‌ ‌The‌ ‌Maya‌ ‌are‌ ‌struggling‌ ‌against‌ ‌forced‌ ‌use‌ ‌of‌ ‌genetically‌ ‌modified‌ ‌crops,‌ ‌and‌ ‌wanton‌ ‌pollution‌ ‌of‌ ‌ their‌ ‌lakes‌ ‌and‌ ‌rivers.‌ ‌Maya‌ ‌women,‌ ‌like‌ ‌their‌ ‌sisters‌ ‌throughout‌ ‌Central‌ ‌America‌ ‌and‌ ‌ Mexico,‌ ‌are‌ ‌struggling‌ ‌against‌ ‌rape,‌ ‌domestic‌ ‌violence,‌ ‌and‌ ‌femicide.‌ ‌Maya‌ ‌ communities‌ ‌continue‌ ‌to‌ ‌fight‌ ‌for‌ ‌their‌ ‌human‌ ‌rights‌ ‌to‌ ‌land,‌ ‌food,‌ ‌water,‌ ‌and‌ ‌ education.‌ ‌They‌ ‌have‌ ‌intimate‌ ‌knowledge‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌suffering‌ ‌caused‌ ‌by‌ ‌earthquakes,‌ ‌ hurricanes,‌ ‌volcanos‌ ‌and‌ ‌floods.‌ ‌ ‌

All‌ ‌of‌ ‌these‌ ‌urgent‌ ‌problems‌ ‌are‌ ‌reflected‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌paintings‌ ‌by‌ ‌the‌ ‌contemporary‌ ‌Maya‌ ‌ artists‌ ‌exhibited‌ ‌here,‌ ‌who‌ ‌have‌ ‌personally‌ ‌experienced‌ ‌or‌ ‌witnessed‌ ‌these‌ ‌events.‌ ‌Their‌ ‌ observations‌ ‌are‌ ‌creatively‌ ‌conveyed‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌detailed,‌ ‌sometimes‌ ‌painful,‌ ‌images‌ ‌of‌ ‌war,‌ ‌ violence‌ ‌against‌ ‌women,‌ ‌oppression,‌ ‌and‌ ‌poverty‌ ‌they‌ ‌have‌ ‌put‌ ‌to‌ ‌canvas.‌ ‌Still‌ ‌other‌ ‌ paintings‌ ‌balance‌ ‌these‌ ‌grim‌ ‌scenarios‌ ‌by‌ ‌expressing‌ ‌the‌ ‌Maya‌ ‌people’s‌ ‌resilience‌ ‌and‌ ‌ hope‌ ‌for‌ ‌a‌ ‌better‌ ‌future,‌ ‌through‌ ‌images‌ ‌which‌ ‌reflect‌ ‌their‌ ‌aspirations‌ ‌and‌ ‌ determination.‌

Exhibit: Why the Immigrants Come

Crusando Painting
Library & Learning Resources, City College of San Francisco
50 Frida Kahlo Way, San Francisco, CA 94112 (415) 452-5541