Issue 15: Gunpowder Body

Javier Payeras

Reading time: 10 minutes



Reconstructing Accumulated Poetry

Writer Javier Payeras revises the conformation of the poetic action in Guatemala, proposing the intersection between text and artistic gesture as an attitude of resistance to face the complex situation of the Guatemalan: their isolation, fragmentation, memory, and cultural contradictions.

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  1. The Grupo Vértebra was founded in 1969 by Marco Augusto Quiroa, Elmar René Rojas, and Roberto Cabrera in a time of deeply violent confrontations that arose out of the conflict between the guerrilla command of the Rebel Armed Forces (FAR), the state military forces, and the death squad Mano Blanca. A year later, they published their Manifesto Vértebra in the first issue of the magazine Alero. The text reflected their interests in a material project that aspired to a new humanism as well as to taking up a position of the future through artistic language, among other topics. Rodrigo Fernández Ordóñez, Manifiesto Vértebra, 1970. Available in the website of Universidad Francisco Marroquín [Accessed on June 4 2019].

  2. Nuevo Signo group, composed of the poets Julio Fausto Aguilera, Luis Alfredo Arango, Antonio Brañas, Francisco Morales Santos, Delia Quiñónez, Roberto Obregón, and José Luis Villatoro, formed in 1968 with the aim of creating a new literary space oriented towards poetry and to denouncing the situation in the country. A particular mark of its members’ writing came out of their encounters with the city after having moved to the capital of Guatemala. As a collective, they created different publications that today are key references for talking about literature and its forms of dissemination. Carmen Lucía Alvarado. “Nuevo Signo: una realidad poetizada.” Revista Luna Park, April 7, 2013: [Accessed on June 4, 2019].

  3. Antonio Gramsci states that the organic intellectual is the one who organizes culture and its participation in the transformation of political imaginaries. See more in Antonio Gramsci, La forma de los intelectuales (Mexico D.F.: Editorial Grijalbo, 1967).

  4. Imaginaria was founded in 1987 during a period of hope in Guatemala, after democracy had been restored and the election of the first civilian president after many years of a military regime. They appeared on the cultural scene with an experimental interest in curation and modes of production, opening a gallery in Antigua. Initially formed by Moisés Barrios and Luis González Palma, the group reorganized with the addition of Isabel Ruiz, Pablo Swezey, Erwin Guillermo, Daniel Chauche, Sofía González, César Barrios, and Paola Ferrario.

  5. The “repressed vanguard” was committed at the time to signaling from different ideological points delineated more or less along two positions. On the one hand, the idea of art committed to social struggle and, on the other, of art associated with the revolution.

  6. The movement of multiple systems of poetics that wove together sensory and everyday experience began in the Casa Bizarra, an old neoclassical mansion abandoned in the center of the city. In 1996, Guatemala experienced one of its periodic waves of optimism, for many believed that the Peace Accords had defined new rules for the political chess board, although it was nothing more than another vain illusion that lasted as long as a Latin American popstar at the top of the charts. However, the vitality that the new artists brought to the Guatemalan cultural environment did not seem to falter with the ideological swing of the postwar period. It was the first time a new generation of artists had truly emerged in many decades, one with the situationist rage of the sixties, but without the militancy and censorship imposed by the Cold War. Let’s say that everything pointed to the predictable contracultural opening after years of repression. The term Urban Art was assumed and the explosion of contemporary forms of exhibition and appreciation of culture appeared everywhere: performance, rock and poetry-graffiti, the generational epiphany of the nineties within that zombie space known as Zona 1. The truth is that the consumption of video clips, some hallucinogens, and a lot of cult literature were enough to start a movement among the younger citizens with its inevitable search for irreverence. Casa Bizarra lasted for only a very short time, and by 1998 it had already closed. However, all its hosts moved to the Festival of Urban Art. Two editions, in 1998 and 1999, were enough to lay the foundations for new intellectuals and cultural managers to get over their fear of public and private space, and the new postmodern scene was set up: the Octubreazul Festival of October 2000.


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