2007-12. HIJOS: The Mural “Liberty”
December 19th, 2007
Guatemala City, Guatemala.
December 17, 2007.
Issues: Historic Memory / Art / Society
Mural and Text: H.I.J.O.S. Guatemala
Music: Semilla Urbana
Photography, Video and Translation Sp-Eng: MiMundo.org
Since our beginnings, H.I.J.O.S. has attempted to retake and turn the urban walls of our City into a blank sheet where the history which has not been told could be written in.
We literally began to write on street walls in order to find a space where we could express ourselves and in particular our ideas regarding justice and historic memory.
Such actions were by themselves a memorial to those men and women who led the past struggles.
As time went by, we unconsciously realized that our techniques and colors used began to take a certain shape and organization. They were no longer simple words or slogans. Instead, these now varied in colors, drawings would often accompany our messages, and collages with collective ideas began to materialize. It was during such space in time that we gathered the courage to attempt our first mural; A single drawing in collectiveness.
Nowadays, proposals are presented among our collective or sometimes in conjunction with other organizations. The best ideas are selected, reviewed, and if possible, more than one is carried out. Everyone works as a group so as to develop a single idea, and finally the project is executed.
The goal is to symbolically represent ideas. To us, art represents a way to express our thoughts far and wide to the largest possible audience.
One of the best ways to express our ideas is through drawings, as H.I.J.O.S. truly believes art is fundamentally political in its conception and projection. It represents the capacity to construct and express the ideas of the masses through a tool created and used by the masses.
History itself calls out for collective memory. And as such, our memory recalls a struggle for liberty. And which liberty are we free to talk about? Best we express the struggles and goals we seek to reach.
Located in an area deemed 4 Grados Norte, Zone 4, in Guatemala City, the mural was begun in September 2007 and finished two months later in late November. Firstly, the mural establishes a setting: Guatemala (or any Latin American country for that matter). Volcanoes and mountain ranges, clear blue skies, forests dotted with different tones of green, and poverty-stricken cities reveal where this history takes place.
The Invasion: The Imposition of a punishingly repressive economic and cultural order where saturated jails abound, oppressive security forces impose fear in public space, and police dogs are savagely trained to maintain such order by rule of force. Their masters, those who build upon imperialism and neo-liberalism, have their enemy well identified: the People. Needless to say, such invasion comes from “the Right”, bringing along the darkness of a seemingly endless night.
The March: History, however, also retells the courage of people who have taken upon the struggle to defend their beliefs, henceforth representing a dangerous element to the established yet invasive order. The march, which manifests its ideas through several methods of expression including art and music, is a product of the peasant and working groups. As such, it sides with the masses and accompanies them on the city streets, the rural fields, the hilltops and mountainsides.
The Historic Figures: Within history, a number of key figureheads stand out not only for their leadership, but in a sense continue to symbolize the struggle itself as well as the possibility of accomplishments. Jacobo Arbens (left) represents the legitimacy of our rights and the positive benefits built upon the Revolution of 1944. As a leader selected by the people and managed by the masses as well, he is the embodiment of the constant presence of popular ideology and the historic struggle of our people. The Mayan figure arises from the symbolic Tecun Uman. Nevertheless, he represents far more than just a folkloric persona. He embodies the permanent presence of those from an advanced civilization highly knowledgeable on the mysteries of the universe who have constantly sacrificed their own lives during the long struggle for freedom.
The Peasants: They do not merely work the fields; they caress the soil, protect their land and care for it. Such land in turn provides them with Maize – the ancestral fruit. Maize, sowed with dark, crude hands who handle the harvest with utmost care and gentleness. The ancestral fruit raised in conjunction with Mother Earth.
The Quetzal: Represents the strength to fly and seek liberty. Unlike its usually weak symbolization, the Quetzal accompanies his people in their search for freedom.
The Bus: By far the most direct link between the people and the city. Such environmental destruction by the School Bus can be witnessed in any Latin American nation. Old, abandoned by the North, it is brought for the so-called benefit of the poor in the South – who in turn break the monotony of its egg-yolk tone and transform the obsolete into a creative necessity.
Liberty itself is like memory: it is constantly changing, lives out a period, and transforms. As it struggles to exist, we can only attempt to help it continue. For H.I.J.O.S., our continental history remains full of oppression and injustice, with Guatemala included. The imposition of foreign economic, cultural, and social norms, contradict our own cultural evolution which has in turn abolished us from our fundamental liberty. Far from just denying us our liberties of expression or movement, history has denied us the liberty to be who we are, to develop our own history, lo live with dignity.
But there have also been accomplishments: The struggle and progression of a group of people who refuse to be dominated, who carry on their everyday lives, who express themselves and continue the struggle in various forms, who speak out and even shout at times, who demand and take what is rightly theirs.
“Liberty, because of you we have received innumerable beatings in our flesh that we now can no longer fit in our own grave. We have suffered in countless ways the poundings of the evildoer and written his name a myriad of times in such little flesh that we can no longer die because liberty does not know death.”
Time-lapse video displaying the making of “Liberty” with musical background from Semilla Urbana
, a Guatemalan Hip-Hop group which includes members of H.I.J.O.S. (duration: 3 min. 40 sec.).
Direct YouTube link here
.Versión en español aquí