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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — As a part of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Mayan and Guatemalan Art Exhibit is on display at the Oklahoma History Center near the State Capitol on 23rd Street. 

The collection comes as an effort from the Guatemalan Society, The Guatemalan Consulate, the Oklahoma History Center, and CONAM (Comité Nacional Pro-becas Mayas de Guatemala) to showcase the art of Guatemalan locals from the area of San Pedro La Laguna Solala around the Atitlan Lake in the Solola Department of Guatemala.

Thirty paintings

The collection puts a spotlight on thirty oil-on-canvas paintings portraying current and ancestral Mayan and Guatemalan traditions and customs, the scenery, its geography, Mayan masks and calendars, faces, and dresses. 

The area’s proximity to volcanoes and water, along with the richness of local agriculture, are portrayed in the works of the six autochthonous artists.

CONAM has been promoting the local culture, history, and economy abroad for more than 20 years. 

Julio Cesar Batz is a Guatemalan Native and CONAM’s representative since 2018. He travels with the collection to share information about the paintings and to foster connections between the community of San Pedro La Laguna with other cities and communities abroad of Guatemala.

“We have two objectives. The first, to promote our country as producers of culture, arts, and crafts. And the second and most important is to support Guatemalan youth,” Batz told Free Press.

Mission

The mission of CONAM is twofold. On the one hand, the organization hopes to open a market of local goods including art, honey, crafts, fabrics, coffee, and other regional goods with countries that already have a free trade agreement with Guatemala. 

Previous to Oklahoma, San Pedro La Laguna has built connections in Ontario and California. They are looking into possibly open relationships in South America and Europe. Batz said the organization is certified to do exports.

On the other hand, the organization helps underprivileged Guatemalan kids using the proceeds from the art purchases. All profits from the art sales will go to the artist themselves and help the youth of the area. 

Also, CONAM is looking for sponsors that are willing to help the kids of the community in San Pedro La Laguna.

“The main mission now is to find international help to support underprivileged kids. The idea is to combat malnutrition, extreme poverty, illiteracy, and lack of access to resources. From donating clothes to sponsoring a kid, we brought photos of some of the kids in need that require sponsorship,” Batz said.

Part of the project is to organize yearly tours for the sponsors to go visit Guatemala and see how they are having a direct impact on the lives of Guatemalan youth. 

“Our mission is more social than economic,” said Batz. 

Marta Salgado is a Guatemalan native and has been an Oklahoma resident for the past 14 years. She is showcasing her crafts alongside the main exhibit, donating half of the proceeds from her small business Artesanias MV (Virtuous Women Crafts) sales to aid the Guatemalans in both San Pedro La Laguna and the OKC Metro where Guatemalans have been settling for several decades now. 

Cultural history

“Showcasing collections like the Mayan and Guatemalan Art exhibit is important to the city and state because of the cultural history of Oklahoma,” said Oklahoma History Center Event Manager Cyndi Lu Daniels.

She also said it is important to learn where we come from and where we are going which helps the members of the community in becoming better citizens.

The Oklahoma History Center has a multicultural office that works in tandem with its Education Department to help expand programs about Oklahoma’s history while making it available in a public space, according to Daniels. 

The Education Department will offer a virtual tour of the exhibit Thursday, September 17th and the video will be available for those who are unable to participate live. 

To sign up on the virtual tour and to access information about the video visit https://www.okhistory.org/.

The exhibit will be opened to the public until Saturday, September 18th. On that day, the Oklahoma History Center will hold the bicentennial independence celebration of Guatemala, offering food from Pollo Campero for purchase and multiple dance performances. Also, The History Center will have free admission to the rest of the museum as a part of their Saturday Smithsonian Museum Magazine day.