Guatemala City, Art & Capitalism?

Guatemala City, Art & Capitalism?
May 10, 2010 Lainie Liberti
Art Bienal map
Gotta guard all that "stuff" from the bad guys. (American culture has taught them well)

Gotta guard all that “stuff” from the bad guys. (American culture has taught them well)

On Saturday, May 8th, 2010, we woke up early and hopped on a “chicken bus” heading into Guatemala City. This was the last day of the Bienal de Arte Paiz festival, so we decided to make the day of it, see as much of the closing exhibit as we could and enjoy the city I have become so infatuated with.

Flirting with Guatemala City has it’s rules and being safe is one consideration. The capital has one of the highest murder rates in all of Central America. Yes, of course all the conventions of common sense must be applied , but I feel one of the greatest lessons I can teach Miro is to be fearless and always have faith in our safety. This is the very attitude which attracts more of the same,  after all. Balance this confidence with common sense and not buying into the typical fear based beliefs has become one of our greatest lessons on this amazing journey.

Friends from the city have blessed us with advice, sharing a few simple ways to enjoy the non-tourist oriented city: Don’t ride the urban buses, don’t walk in certain neighborhoods (zones)  or carry valuables and try to stay out of white cabs, which are notorious for robberies. Not too difficult to follow and we’ve never had any problems. When we do head into the city, we usually get off the bus from Antigua at one of the many malls, relatively safe locals, and depending on our purpose for our trip we continue to our final destination  from there.

So on Saturday, we got off at one of the city’s newish shopping hot spots, a modern, upscale and proud mall called Miraflores. Around a half dozen or so malls exist in Guate and they seem to be  an important social hub for both tourists and locals alike. They are bright, secure and superficially pleasing, and I suppose due to to the lack of many safe public spaces within the city, there just aren’t many other alternatives. (The case of the accidental consumerist, perhaps?)

Entering Miraflores, we were immediately transported into shopping-town-USA involving the usual (upscale) suspects: Guess, Tommy Hilfiger, Abacrombie & Fitch, Ralph Lauren for Kids and their scrubbed window displays. Miraflores was constructed on top of an ancient Mayan ruins called   Kamimaljuyu, interestingly enough. This explains the malls’  modest museum dedicated to the Pre-Columbian site of Kamimaljuyu, in addition to the upscale shopping, American dining establishments , a multi-screen cineplex and a Ferris wheel.  Although we  didn’t visit the museum, I did find this link and admittedly, my interest has peaked.  However, I am struck with the profound contradiction within the symbolism itself. Miraflores is a monument to consumer culture build over the ruins of an ancient culture in part destroyed through over-consumption.


Our Saturday seemed to echo with irony as the concept of consumerism and capitalism reappeared as a theme in both the city and the artworks we saw.

Enjoy my narrative in the form of a “photo-essay”. Some of the images are images of the actual art works from the how and others are images of the city of Guatemala.  Please enjoy and feel free to leave your comments!


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