Friday, April 29, 2011

History and Identity: Art Appreciation as Reflecting a Region's Standing

Latin America's history with colonial oppression, now centuries old, and the subsequent dispossession of the indigenous by a new set of oppressors, may contribute to the problems artists there face in framing their works. But I believe the socio-economic and political standing of a region influences majorly how its art is viewed locally and abroad. As long as Latin America remains poor, as long as it stays mired in admiration for Trujillos, Castros, Duvaliers, Pinochets, and now Chavezs and Ortegas, until it clears the poppy fields instead of the Amazon, until its people stop flocking to the Virgin of Guadalupe for curing chronic conditions, one suspects its art will be seen a tad condescendingly by the rest of the world.

One can claim this is unfair, that art should not be tied to politics and economics, that multiculturalism means accepting the warts of those with other ways. Unfortunately, artists will have little following in their own places as long as the people there are poor. Art is our highest form of mental expression, and it cannot flower where basic human wants are unmet for large hordes of the populace. For Latin American art to achieve international recognition, those countries will have to progress economically, lifting their masses out of poverty.

The Spanish rule is now almost two hundred years old, only slightly younger than British rule in the US. Blaming colonialism for Latin America's art problems is a flight from the reality of its poverty, despots, demagogues, the pelo malo/pelo bueno (good hair/bad-curly-hair) local racism, and superstitious religion. Art cannot don the mantle of myths and mirages to distract from reality. The pre-Columbian Aztlan reeked of famines, human sacrifices, conquest, tribute, slavery, and environmental destruction. The Aztecs were as bad as the later Spaniards. If artists there are still railing against Colonialism almost 200 years after Spain left Mexico then their ways and works are unlikely to be the salvation of the land.

1 comment:

  1. Ajoy, I agree wholeheartedly with your post. Definitely, for Latin American art to flourish there must be a tremendous shift in the economics of those countries. When their governments decide that educating the masses and creating jobs to provide income above the less than poverty level are the answer to lift their countries out of the economic pit they are in perhaps, then, the art will be lifted up to the level it certainly deserves. However, those in power (Chavez, Ortega, etc) are wanting in that area. God forbid the people would reject their leader's oppressive rule. (not that would be allowed!) And if education would lift the people out of their situation, then the powers that be would not allow this to happen. It is such a sad state of affairs. And to blame the Spaniards isn't entirely fair, you mentioned, the Aztec were certainly on the same level as the Spaniards...they sacrificed their own, had famines, slavery, required tributes, etc. I feel the situation of the Latin American people is heartbreaking. There is so much potential and ability. Their leaders are selfishly keeping their people down for their own profit. The artists won't see the benefit of their works and neither will the world.