Two Parks

Two parks up on the mountain sides

So far I have visited two parks up on the mountain sides. They are very different.

One is a conference centre in a park setting where artists are encouraged to install their art and visitors get free transportation up the steep mountainside to enjoy art, nature, and fine dining. It is owned by a hotel called Casa Santo Domingo which is here in Antigua. This hotel, built on the site of an old monastery is also a delight to explore. http://www.casasantodomingo.com.gt/default-en.html

 

Besides permanent art exhibits outside, there are art galleries and museums. The two most interesting were a museum to the Guatemalan author, “Miguel Ángel Asturias Rosales (October 19, 1899 – June 9, 1974) was a Nobel Prize-winning Guatemalan poet-diplomat, novelist, playwright and journalist. Asturias helped establish Latin American literature’s contribution to mainstream Western culture, and at the same time drew attention to the importance of indigenous cultures, especially those of his native Guatemala.” He was also a contemporary and friend of Pablo Neruda, the Chilean author and diplomat.” Wikipedia

And the other dedicated to Efraín Recinos (May 15, 1928 – October 2, 2011) who was a Guatemalan contemporary architect, muralist, urbanist, painter and sculptor. He thought art was best diplayed in a natual setting, so this park is a perfect match for him. Wikipedia again

The other park/garden is an organic garden that also has a great restaurant. It cost 10 quetzales to catch a little bus that ferries people up the mountain to the farm and back again. It is a very steep road with incredible hairpin turns. The gardens are planted on the mountain side and labelled quite well. We (my German friend, Christine and I) found a memorial to the founder, Frank Lee Mays Sirmons, of Cerro San Cristobal, of the textile store in Antigua, Nim Po’t, and  La Antigua Galeria de Arte. He died only last December in 2016, and from the pictures we saw there, he appeared to be a tall, long-haired, red-headed, hippy-looking man, well-loved by the people around him. He had lived in Guatemala for the last 25 years. The food was great and the view even better.

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So this is how I spend my time when I am not studying Spanish. Presently, I have a lovely tutor, a history teacher, who is getting me to read some very interesting articles about the recent history of Guatemala. My writing lags far behind, unfortunately. Here is a picture of us at her school where her students did some photography on various themes.

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Ephemeral Art

So many beautiful things in nature and in art only last a very short while. It always causes me some pain. The flower that only lasts a day or perhaps even a night like my datura that grow back every year. Physical beauty is another asset that does not last long enough.

Art on the other hand is something created by humans. Some art outlives its creator by many years even generations or centuries. It is a powerful means of communication, and we learn so much about the people who sculpted, painted or built objects in the past. Their work is often worth much more in the present than when it was so painstakingly created.

What is the point, then, of creating a work of beauty that will only be detroyed by the wind, the ocean, nature, or even by other human beings? Why spend hours dribbling sand to form a mandala, building sand sculptures, or producing a single dramatic presentation?

Here in Guatemala, the people create alfombras or carpets on the street which will be destroyed by religious processions which walk through them. This happens especially during lent, the forty days which lead up to Easter. Antigua is well known for its spectacular religious diplays. In fact, just yesterday, I visited a museum dedicated solely to La Semana Santa (Holy week).

This morning, I found a street blocked off and the people in this working class district busy making alfombras in front of their homes. It was around noon, and one woman told me that they had started around five that morning. Her family creates a different design each year; they buy all the material themselves. Usually sawdust is used. It has to be tinted beforehand and kept moist during the building process and afterwards so that it does not get blown around.

Another family was framing their alfombra with egg shells. The father told me they had saved up five cartons of eggs shells. That would be around 60 dozen eggs which had to be used, carefully so as to conserve most of the shell intact. The shells were dyed or painted by the children, and very soon they would all be crushed by the procession. img_0757

I hope you enjoy the pictures I took this morning. For more elaborate alfombras and detailed descriptions, look at this web site.

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Markets and Artesanía

Artesanía translates as handicrafts, crafts, craftsmanship, or mastership. Where does the art come it? How do we differentiate between art and crafts? These questions have been niggling away while I visit the beautiful markets and shops of Guatemala.

For many items, it is obvious that commercialization has taken over. Some things are made in factories, maybe even factories outside the country. Some items are made over and over again in the same manner and same colours and size. To me this is craftsmanship (a rather sexist term, especially considering that most crafts are done by women). Craftsmanship demand a great deal of skill and is often confused with our modern version of crafts which often lovingly hangs on our refrigerator doors.

The Spanish word, artesanía, however includes the word ART. Much of Guatemala’s artesanía involves a huge amount of art and craft.

A visit to a Guatemalan market is a feast for the eyes. And if one goes into the food area, the array of food is tantalizing. Although I usually avoid street food, one item I consider safe is tamales because they are cooked the same day and are served piping hot. Yesterday was no exception. Eduardo and I clumsily ate two huge tamales wrapped in banana leaves right in the market stall. (Dough was made from rice and corn masa) It was the locals turn to stare!

Saturday market in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala

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Discovering Guatemala

Travelling with my husband

Eduardo couldn’t have thought of a better way to get me back on track. He suggested we meet in Guatemala, a country we both have wanted to visit for years.

So after two weeks of diving in Cozumel on my own, we met in Guatemala City. From there, we went to the lovely colonial city of Antigua.

Strolling about the city, we visited a textile museum, and various language schools where I think I might study for couple of months after Eduardo goes home.

Presently we are located on the shores of Lake Atitlan which is surrounded by high hills and three volcanos.

A new generation of hippies have discovered the villages and crowd the streets, visiting, selling their own wares alongside the local Guatemalans, and offering various other services such as hotels, health spas, health food stores, and probably others that I haven’t discovered yet.

Clear mornings and misty afternoons with warm spring time weather make this an ideal place to get away from winter.

Ismael Vargas, artist from Guadalajara (1947)

Enjoyed an exhibit of works by Ismael Vargas at the art gallery of the University of Guadalajara. Here are some of my pics. The one above is a photo taken for the University of Guadalajara by Israel Rivera for the opening of this show, “Redimiendo el vacio”.