Me dejo atras compañero! (You left me behind, comrade), 2008, Acrylic
“Me dejo atras compañero!” (“You left me behind, comrade”), 2008, Acrylic. This is a painting that reflects on the Guatemalan civil war, which lasted for 36 years. At the peak of the conflict during the late 1970s to the early 1980s, thousands of people disappeared; several thousands were killed and there were five hundred thousand refugees. The Guatemalan student movement was almost eliminated by the military, with many students tortured and forced to denounce others. This is a painting to the memory of those who disappeared and whose lives were sacrificed during the years of conflict. The poem “Exilio” is linked in spirit and sentiment to this painting. It is dedicated to Eliseo Balcazar, a Guatemalan activitist, who arrived in Melbourne in 1988, under the auspices of Amnesty International. Eliseo passed away eleven years after his arrival.
After the blood letting. 2009. Acrylic on canvas.
_A Happy Family Day in
Zaculeu”, 2007. Acrylic on canvas. Zaculeu
is in Huehuetenango, in the highlands of Guatemala.This is the memory of a happy family day
sometime in 1975.
As read at the opening of ‘New Imaginings: Photographic Journeys of Asylum Seekers and Refugees’, at the Janet Clarke Hall, The University of Melbourne, October 2009.
As I ponder how to bring closure to one of my many diasporas I came into contact with Hugo - the fellow countryman who welcomed me upon my arrival at the Midway migrant hostel Down Under.
Twenty-two years later (four presidential terms, a peace treaty, a generation, a sweep of centuries in between)
I saw him by accident when I stopped to greet another man whom I last saw seven years ago - at the funeral of my fellow countryman, the revolutionary and poet Eliseo. The official statistics suggest there are one hundred Guatemalans living in Victoria - almost three hundred across Australia, miraculously close to one million live in Uncle Sam's land - twelve per cent of the population abroad.
During the years of conflict 400 villages were erased from the map. Five hundred thousand Guatemalan peasants were uprooted from their small cornfields, fleeing to neighbouring countries. Hundreds of thousands of students, intellectuals, community leaders fled abroad, the lucky ones escaped via diplomatic conduits.
In the new century there are plenty of Aussies who venture into my country and fall for the idyllic Mayan nature and bring back photographs, textiles and worry dolls but no one brings the magic worry doll to take my worries away.
Melancholy of all Remains in tact in my soul.
The solstice of the years of conflict parades in solitude around the safe ground of my neighbourhood. I salute the melancholy beyond the intellectual border of an eventual return
Hugo my fellow countryman whom I lost contact with eighteen years ago is planning his return to the motherland bringing fulfilment to his dreams shattered by years of conflict.
Hugo told me that another fellow countryman died in his arms three years ago. They shared solitude in times of happiness and despair. So I have figured we are now ninety nine Guatemalans.
Melbourne is my adopted home. Let me twilight here till the memory of a future past long gone brings the winter solstice to a happy symphony.
Angel Calderon, Melbourne November 18, 2007
_Theme: Diaspora, Exile, Memory, Guatemalans in Australia