Guatemala Images and Artifacts on Display

November 11, 2013

The LAII, in partnership with Instituto Cervantes of Albuquerque and the Los Griegos Public Library, is sponsoring an exhibition on Guatemala throughout the month of November. The exhibit explores Guatemalan culture through vivid photography of Día de los Muertos in Guatemala and hands-on artifacts produced in or focused on the country.


The photography in the exhibit is subtitled "In Memoriam" and is the work of New Mexico photographer Steven St. John. In Memoriam explores the ways individuals and cultures choose to celebrate life by honoring and remembering those who have died. Photographed over the past several years, it is a collection of photographs of Día de los Muertos in the highlands of Guatemala. Día de los Muertos, also known as Day of the Dead or All Saints' Day, is celebrated in the Hispanic world between October 31 and November 2.

The photographs depict three of the primary traditions associated with Día de los Muertos, including visits to the cemetery to tend the grave sites; adorning with flowers; and flying the giant paper kites used in some villages.

In Guatemala, an important tradition for Day of the Dead is the visit to the cemetery. Some families honor their dead by visiting their grave sites. Family and friends take flowers, clean the grave, and, in many cases, take them music, drinks, and food to celebrate life and death. In Guatemala, the main dish is generally a fiambre of picked vegetables, legumes, cold cuts, meats, and cheese. In visiting the cemetery, many adorn the graves and altars of the dead with natural and artificial flowers. Commemorative flower ornaments like crowns and crosses are also made during these days. This holiday is so important that the market at the main cemetery in Guatemala City orders and sells between 5,000 and 8,000 bundles of flowers. In addition to these practices, one of the most original and colorful traditions of All Saints' Day in Guatemala are the Giant Kites of Sumpango and Santiago Sacatepéquez. The barriletes, or giant kites, represent the vehicle through which the souls of the dead coexist with the living during Día de los Muertos. The tradition is based on Maya cosmogony and represents the union of this world with the underworld. The kites are made of bamboo, tissue paper, and fabric.

Artifacts that represent facets of Guatemalan culture are displayed alongside the gallery of photographic images. These materials are drawn from across the country, although they emphasis the indigenous cultures of the country. The artifacts come from a Culture Box program which the LAII is developing, again in partnership with Instituto Cervantes, to support K-12 teachers who intend to incorporate Latin American cultures or Spanish culture into their classrooms. Beginning in Spring 20014, the Culture Box program will be available free-of-charge to all k-12 educators. Further details will be announced closer to the date.

This complete exhibit of photography and artifacts is on view at the Los Griegos Public Library until November 30, 2013. Visitors may view it during normal operating hours. For reference, see the exhibit flyer.