The encounter of two worlds

I ran into this exposition by accident, I was looking for paints of certain Guatemalan painter and ended in an antiques exhibition. The peculiar Mayan relics in the showcases called my attention and I decided to take a look to see what it was about. It was totally worth it.

The first thing I did was to walk in the hall for a bit, just to see the details in the pieces. I noticed that the pieces were made out of different materials like wood, clay, stone and metal. Some of them were statues, other were personal items like rings. Some of them were a little odd, they looked like little vessels from the exterior but in the inside they had faces and other details, there were also pictures, engravings and old documents facsimiles. In one of the hall’s sideways there was something curious, an illustration of the central plaza in which you can observe some bonfires, the title of the image was “The big act of faith in Santiago de los Caballeros”. I didn’t know about this event so it was from there that I started reading the expo’s texts.

I didn’t know that in reality I started in the middle of the exposition, the key event in the application of the so called ‘ecclesiastic justice’ in the Kingdom of Guatemala. It happened on March the 11th 1554 with the big Act of Faith of the Provisorato de Indios, presided by Bishop Francisco Marroquin, like a punishment for the indigenous people for maintaining their rituals and ancestral ceremonies. Indigenous inhabitants, priests and chiefs were forcedly taken to the central plaza, head shaved and lashed as a punishment for their “transgressions”.

Later on it became of my knowledge that this “transgressions” were in reality the persistent propagation of the adoration of local gods, act that the clergy considered “idolatry”. An ecclesiastic crime because one of the main goals of the church in the province after the conquest and colonization of the Guatemalan kingdom was to evangelize the vast indigenous population. But the Mayans practiced mercy to their gods and the supernatural forces that according to them moved the world. Through these elaborated and extravagant images they gave form to their deities, since these were their “earthly connection with the god”.

I understood in a better way some aspects of the Mayan world view. From what I understand their gods were a reflection of the human conduct, they could be benevolent of malicious, prone to change their mind easily. I also learned about the rituals and ceremonies that surround the fabrication of these images. It was interesting to know that music, dance, and choreographies were considered divine manifestations. And that the ceramic masks that they used in the choreographies, and musical instruments were considered divine vessels.

The encounter of two worlds is without question a magnificent exposition that help us understand the collision of the Mayan worldview with the Spanish in the XVI century. It exhibits, for the first time, a wide selection of sacred Mayan objects that were definitely designed with the intention of being seen. The exposition counts with more than one hundred Pre-Hispanic pieces and is under Fundación La Ruta Maya´s custody, and since July the 16th 2019, until March the 1st next year, it will be displayed in The Formation Center of the Spanish Cooperation in La Antigua Guatemala, from 09:00 a.m. to 18:00 p.m.

To read in spanish here

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