Framing Disappearance: H.I.J.@.S., Public Art and the Making of Historical Memory of the Guatemalan Civil War
AbstractGeographers describe how social movements elaborate alternative histories in public spaces. However, few studies have examined how such alternative histories are conditioned by underlying historical narratives. We engage this topic by analyzing public art created in 2004-5 by the Guatemalan chapter of a transnational organization called Hij@s por la Identidad y la Justicia contra el Olvido y el Silencio, Sons and Daughters for Identity and Justice Against Oblivion and Silence, (H.I.J.@.S.). Composed of the sons and daughters of people whom the Guatemalan government forcefully disappeared and murdered during the Civil War (1960-1996), the group seeks to maintain a historical memory of the war and represents an important voice of the Guatemalan left. Our analysis shows how public art created by H.I.J.@.S. resists the continued effects of enforced disappearance by elaborating historical memory in which the disappeared have a place. We also document how images and texts created by the group privilege the actions of ladinos--Guatemalans who identify as nonindigenous--and their organizations and open limited space for imagining Maya agency or the possibility that Mayas were subject to enforced disappearance. We suggest that differences in the ways Mayas and ladinos are portrayed in public art created by H.I.J.@.S. in 2004-5 is an effect of the leftist historical narrative that informed the group’s work at the time. While we agree with H.I.J.@.S. that there is a battle to be waged against official histories of the war, we argue that leftist historical narratives must also be transformed to be more inclusive of indigenous knowledges.
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