Folding Monument (Monumento a Juan Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán), 2020. Upcycled cotton canvas, thread, cotton webbing, photograph, shelf.
Installation views, 22nd Bienal de Arte Paiz, Antigua, Guatemala
In 1945, after dictator Jorge Ubico’s resignation, Guatemala held elections. Under presidents Juan José Arévalo and Juan Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán, the country began what became known as its “Ten Years of Spring,” a period of progressive reforms which supported the working class. Árbenz’s Agrarian Land Reform redistributed 100,000 acres of unused farmland from large plantations, paying the owners the amount of money they had paid in tax on the land: most landholders, including the U.S.-based United Fruit Company, had drastically underpaid for the land and Árbenz’s reforms responded to this exploitative history, returning the land to Guatemalan farmworkers and Maya communities. In 1954, the CIA sponsored a coup to overthrow the Árbenz government. This marked the beginning of a brutal 36-year civil war that claimed more than 200,000 lives, and during which the Maya Ixil genocide took place. Today, despite extensive legal and forensic evidence, a significant portion of Guatemala’s population denies the war crimes enacted by the national military against Maya communities. This monument to Árbenz often goes unnoticed by passersby.
Text written in collaboration with Laura August
Photo: Byron Mármol