Beyond the Text: Chi Xot’s Visual/Lived Cartography (paper)


I will be presenting on the work of Ángel Poyón and Fernado Poyón at the Indigenous Writers and their Critics Symposium (February 24-25, 2020) at the University of California, San Diego. I wrote the paper in Spanish but I prepared a summary in English for those who won’t be able to follow along. The idea is to promote discussion across language barriers, which is not always easy. I’m posting the summary provisionally in case there aren’t enough copies to go around the day of the panel, but I will likely take it down once the Symposium is done because 1. this is a project in its very early stages, 2. I don’t want it all out there just yet, and 3. it’s not as great without the accompanying images. However, if you are interested, I’m happy to tell you more about it. And please do credit any work that may derive from this–these ideas are not only my own, but have been developed over time and through discussion with Ángel and Fer, as well as my fearless co-author, Paul M. Worley.


This talk proposes an analysis of the context where contemporary artistic production in Chi Xot takes place. Chi Xot, also known as San Juan Comalapa, is a kaqchikel town in Chimaltenango, Guatemala, famous for its murals and many artists (visual, textile, musical, literary, among many others). Using examples from art and comic books, I explore the visual logics of the town, a type of cartography that requires a lived experience to access the aesthetics of each artist. Specifically, this paper focuses on Ángel Poyón’s and Fernando Poyón’s proposal to decentralize Guatemala’s art system and look for ways of making, promoting and appreciating artistic creation from Chi Xot within Chi Xot itself. In other words, these two artists reject western models of making and selling art, offering their own, originating from their own experiences as members of their community.

Más allá del texto: La cartografía visual/vivencial de Chi Xot (ponencia)

En estos días estaré presentado un trabajo reciente sobre la obra de Ángel Poyón y Fernando Poyón para el Simposio de escritores indígenas y sus críticos que se celebrará en la Universidad de California en San Diego del 24 al 25 de febrero. El ensayo está escrito en español pero preparé un resumen en inglés para aquellos que no hablan el español. La idea es permitirnos la discusión más allá de las barreras lingüísticas lo más posible. El resumen estará disponible por este medio provisionalmente pero muy posiblemente lo remueva al concluir el simposio ya que es nada más una muestra de un proyecto apenas en su infancia y no quiero que ande rodando por allí aún. Además, no tiene mucho sentido sin las imágenes que lo acompañan. Sin embargo, si les interesa saber más, con mucho gusto estoy dispuesta a comentarlo más a fondo. Si alguna idea o trabajo deriva de aquí, por favor asegúrense de atribuir las ideas a dónde y a quién pertenecen porque todo esto es producto de un largo diálogo con Ángel y Fer, así como con Paul M. Worley, mi co-autor


Esta ponencia ofrece un breve análisis del contexto en que se realiza la producción artística contemporánea (poesía y arte conceptual) de Chi Xot. Chi Xot, también conocido como San Juan de Comalapa, es un pueblo kaqchikel en el departamento de Chimaltenango muy conocido por sus murales y sus muchos artistas (visuales, textiles, musicales, literarios, entre otros). Con ejemplos provenientes del arte y de cómics de la zona, se explorará la lógica visual del pueblo, una especie de cartografía que exige la vivencia para acceder a la estética de cada artista. En particular, la ponencia se enfocará en la propuesta de Ángel y Fernando Poyón de descentralizar el sistema de arte en Guatemala y apostar por formas de crear, promover y apreciar la creación artística de Chi Xot desde Chi Xot mismo. Es decir, a través de su propuesta estos artistas rechazan modelos occidentales de hacer y comerciar arte, reemplazándolos por modelos propios, provenientes de sus experiencias como miembros de su comunidad.

Ábadakone at the National Art Gallery of Canada

(Nota en español)

I am happy to share with you a recent Twitter thread on my visit to the National Art Gallery of Canada for their Contemporary Indigenous Art Exhibit, Ábadakone (Continous Fire/Feu Continuel).

If you’re on Twitter, don’t bother with this post, you already know what to do!

In this thread, I focus on the three Maya artists from Iximulew (Guatemala) who were part of the exhibit, Fernando Poyón (Kaqchikel), Edgar Calel (Kaqchikel), and Manuel Chavajay (Tz’utujil). The exhibit was fabulous and I do hope many people go see it. I’m excited to think through some things, to write about others, and who knows, maybe even pay a second visit to the Gallery! I do need a copy of the catalogue (it was not yet out), so a second trip may be in order.

Nota en español.

Es un placer compartirles esta mini-reseña estilo Twitter de la exhibición de artistas indígenas contemporáneos Ábadakone (lengua Algonquin que significa Fuego continuo) de la Galería Nacional de Canadá (8 de noviembre al 5 de abril de 2020). Aquí me enfoco en los 3 artistas mayas de Iximulew (Guatemala) cuya obra es parte de la exhibición, Fernando Poyón, Edgar Calel y Manuel Chavajay. Los curadores realizaron una gran labor y vale la pena ver el resultado: más de 70 artistas de todas partes del mundo quienes representan a más de 40 naciones y grupos indígenas de más de 16 países. En estos momentos me encuentro reflexionando, pensando en qué escribir y quizás hasta considerando otra visita–aún no han impreso el catálogo, así que quizás sea necesario ir por uno en cuanto salga. El hilo está en inglés, pero sospecho que si lo abren en Twitter hay opción de traducción.

Textile Artist: Ángelica Serech

After much experimentation (and a huge realization: the ad blocker on my browser was preventing me from seeing embedded tweets properly), I finally figured out how to embed an entire thread in my blog. This particular thread took some preparation because I wanted to make sure I talked about Ángelica and her work the best way I could. This is the first time her work is featured and it’s a very big honour for me. I trust you will find her work as beautiful and compelling as I do.

Quick note: @Tsikbalichmaya is Paul M. Worley’s Twitter handle, in case you’re wondering.

Writing about Contemporary Maya Art on Twitter

Last week, Ángel Poyón asked me to translate a brief description of a recent piece, Kaxlanwäy (2019), for a social media post he was working on. I did just that, and since I enjoyed it so much, I asked him for permission and then put it up in a tweet. And since that was so much fun, I decided to do it again, this time featuring the work of Marilyn Boror Bor, a Kaqchikel artist working in Guatemala City. And so here we are, I’m now writing fun threads about contemporary Maya art.

This latest thread was a bit more extensive since I thought about it as a thread and I asked Marilyn to send me photos. She sent me a bunch and I managed to include quite a few. Check it out:

I just *had* to include this photo. After many months of social media-ing, I had the good fortune of visiting Marilyn this past summer.

To learn more about Marilyn’s work, head over to the Twitter.* And yes, I’ll try to do a bunch more of these threads since the work that Maya artists are putting out is pretty sharp and deserves our attention. That, and in case you haven’t heard, some amazing contemporary Maya art will be making its way to the National Art Gallery of Canada this November, for the second Contemporary International Indigenous Art exhibition, Àbadakone | Continuous Fire | Feu continuel, which will feature more than 70 artists from all over the globe.

*I’m being facetious. Kind of. I’m fairly new at the Twitter.