Hombre de Maiz, Levantate Picture

pen & ink on paper, approx. 39.5 x 32cm (framed) / 26.5 x 20.5cm (artwork)

The idea for this drawing came to me during my first visit to Guatemala, just after the end of its long and brutal civil war. The government, eager to feign innocence of its many, well-documented atrocities and be seen as supportive of its healing populace, was in the midst of a public relations campaign that included the posting of millions of “morale-boosting” flyers around the country. The most commonly seen of these depicted four ears of corn, arranged pointing outward to the four cardinal directions, with the caption “Hombre de Maiz, ¡Levántate!” (“Man of maize [corn], arise!”).

This was intended to speak to the nation’s Mayan population, still a majority, even after the massacres, and despite minimal-to-zero representation in government. Maize is one of the most sacred and important things in Mayan culture, and, indeed, ancient lore describes man as being made of maize. The four-pointed arrangement of maize ears also resonates with the Mayan belief in Four Origins in space, from whence we came - and, additionally, could be interpreted in heavily Catholic, conservative Guatemalan circles, as a cross.

In my much more elaborate spin-off of this poster, I have included additional influences from imagery found on the carved sarcophagus of Pacal Votan (king of Palenque, in modern-day Chiapas, México, from 615-683 A.D.), including the Mayan Tree of Life - also a cross of sorts - with the ceiba tree forming the vertical axis and the double-headed dragon, the horizontal. In accordance with Mayan symbolism, the gaping mouth of Xibalba (the Underworld) is located amidst the roots of the ceiba and is guarded by the jaguar god (along with a couple of fierce crocodiles). Above flies my stylized rendition of the holy quetzal bird, inspired by the icon stamped into my passport by the Guatemalan authorities!
Continue Reading: The Underworld