I became focused on learning and researching the history I knew very little about.
artist: Juan Brenner
1. Can you tell us more about the significance of the name "Tonatiuh" and how it relates to your series?
Back in 1519 when Hernan Cortez and Pedro de Alvarado had their first contact with the Tlaxcalan people, de Alvarado was nicknamed “Tonatiuh” or “The Sun”, his physical beauty, blonde hair, and beard mesmerized the locals. My project “Tonatiuh”, revolves around Pedro de Alvarado’s invasion of the territory today known as Guatemala in 1524, and analyses the incalculable consequences of the Spanish conquest of the Americas. Pedro de Alvarado’s presence is still felt in today’s Guatemala; corruption and cruelty are trades designed and instituted by this complex character almost 500 years ago.
2. What inspired you to focus on miscegenation and the consequences of the Spanish conquest of Guatemala?
After more than a decade of working in New York as a fashion photographer life brought me back to Guatemala and I basically retired for a few years, when I started thinking about “Tonatiuh” as a formal project (in the process of research) I started understanding many of the layers that construct our reality, I tried to stay away from my origins for a very long time, so it was time to learn in order to start a creative process; I became focused on learning and researching the history I knew very little about.
3. What message or themes do you hope to convey through your images in Tonatiuh?
There are so many layers within “Tonatiuh”, actually with every project, and it’s just a matter of dissecting every one of those layers and trying to get as much information as possible; the content is in the images and I really hope the audience understands and open their minds to those layers. Ideas of death, syncretism, racism, and corruption are topics we encounter every day in our Latin American countries, these and many more, are key to understanding our societies and the codes we live by, 500 years after the Guatemalan invasion by the Spanish Crown, those codes instilled right then, are still very current and in use.
4. How do you believe your work in Tonatiuh contributes to a broader understanding of Guatemala's history and contemporary society?
I see my work in the Guatemalan Highlands as an archive, many other artists have done their share of documenting the Guatemalan Highlands (Julio Zadic in the 40s and Daniel Chauche in the 80s, for example), and my work fills a niche that might (I really hope) become deeper with time; I hope in 25 years people look back to the images I’m producing and at least understand I’m doing honest and transparent work.In today’s Guatemalan society the situation gets a bit more complex as I don’t think my work resonates with the actual narrative, a narrative still dominated by the white, euro descendant, and colonialist narrative that was instilled during the early colonial process. My work has been picked, criticized, and embraced by a few of my contemporaries and younger generations of artists who in a way think about our history as a circular and recurrent programmed reality.
editor : Ecaterina Rusu