Art Activism in Guatemala
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Guatemala is a small Central American country with a long history of violence in the 20th century. In 1996 after 36 years of civil war, a peace treaty was signed, bringing an end to ethnic genocide and armed conflict. In the midst of this struggle, there is an emerging community of artists who are advocating for social justice and to sustain indigenous culture through their work. These artists create works that confront topics such as discrimination, violence against women, race, gender, sexuality, power, corruption, and the attempt to erase recent history. This qualitative study uses the lens of existential social thought utilizing semi-standardized, semi-structured interviews with artists who are facilitating social change through their work. Data from interviews was compiled, and a phenomenological reduction was accomplished by clustering reoccurring themes in interviews to uncover unique commonalities. The research shows how artists use, make meanings through, and understand social justice artwork that facilitates social change in Guatemala. The findings highlight the frustrations of Guatemalans who want power relations disrupted and to lift the country out of violence and corruption. To effect change, these artists have demonstrated how art can transcend the cognitive process and reach people on an intimate and emotional level. However, further research is needed to explore how internal and external forces, and powerful Ladino families from Guatemala's colonial past, maintain a hold on power.