L'anthologie of Global Inestabilidad Transpuesta - Political Instability: Guatemala (Part 27)

Transposing emblem by José Lobos

As the home to 17 million people, Guatemala is the most populous country in Central America and the most ethnically diverse. Since the country gained its independence from Spain in 1821, it has experienced many turbulent and abrupt changes. The population can be divided into three groups: i) the Ladino or Hispanic group speaking Spanish and making up some 59% of the population; ii) the indigenous groups – descendants of the pre-Columbian Mayan peoples – accounting for 40% and speaking some 23 different Amerindian languages and frequently Spanish as a second language; iii) last but not least, a small but culturally important Garifuna group on the Atlantic coast (less than 1% of the population) with Afro-Caribbean roots and speaking Garifuna.1
Antigua, Guatemala - Woman selling traditional colorful fabric

1944: a revolution that shaped the country ideologically

In 1944 a multi-sectorial movement toppled the dictatorship of Army General Jorge Ubico, who had ruled the country with an iron fist for nearly 14 years.2 That was the Revolution of 1944. The revolutionary leaders identified themselves as humanist leftists. They prioritized education for all the people and the building of institutions. The first president of the new democracy was an academic, Juan José Arévalo, who held office until 1951.3 His successor was also an important revolutionary, Jacobo Arbenz, a colonel in the army and the son of a Swiss immigrant.4
Guatemala City, Guatemala - Mayan women sell Guatemalan food and fruits

1951: President Jacobo Arbenz moves ahead with more revolutionary reforms

President Jacobo Arbenz took office in 1951 and pursued more revolutionary reforms. He initiated the construction of a much-needed highway from Guatemala City up north to the Atlantic coast. This highway was intended to compete with the International Railroads of Central America (IRCA), an American company. He also started a controversial Agrarian Reform program that was intended to expropriate idle, large concentrations of cultivable land. This Agrarian Reform program threatened both local and foreign land owners including the United Fruit Company (UFCO), another American company closely connected with the IRCA. Both local and foreign land owners and investors saw President Arbenz's reforms as a threat.
Guatemala City, Guatemala - Mayan women sell Guatemalan food

1954: the counter-revolution

Because of the revolutionary reforms, some prominent right-wing fundamentalists received help from the American CIA and formed a secret paramilitary group made up of Guatemalan exiles opposed to Arbenz. They were led by the Guatemalan Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas.5 In 1954 they invaded Guatemala from neighboring Honduras and removed Arbenz from the government. The operation was called PBSuccess. Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas became the new ruler and implemented a de facto government; he also reversed the most controversial revolutionary reforms.6
Sumpango, Guatemala - Giant kite festival honoring the spirits of the dead on All Saints' Day

1960: a leftist guerrilla movement starts, resulting in a 36 year internal armed conflict

Inspired by the Cuban revolution led by Fidel Castro in 1959, a few Guatemalan Army officials headed by Marco Antonio Yon Sosa rebelled against the Guatemalan government. They went off to the mountains and adopted the name "13 November Revolutionary Movement." This began a guerrilla war that gradually turn into a civil war that would last 36 years.7 After negotiations with the government, it ended in 1996 when the "Agreement on a Firm and Everlasting Peace" was signed by the guerillas and the government of President Álvaro Arzú.8
Antigua, Guatemala - Mayan woman weaving

2006: formation of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) and the video accusing the president and his wife of murder

"The United Nations and the Government of Guatemala signed the Agreement to Establish the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) on December 12, 2006.”9 It was established as an independent, international body designed to support the Public Prosecutor's Office (MP), the National Civil Police (PNC) and other State institutions in the investigation of crimes committed by members of illegal security forces and clandestine security structures and, in a more general sense, to help to disband such groups.10 In 2008 Álvaro Colom, a leftist politician, was elected president. He initiated social programs such as food aid for the poor but at the same time imposed obligations on the beneficiary families, such as requiring them to send their children to school. First Lady Sandra Torres (Ms. Colom) oversaw the social program. Right-wing extremists criticized the first lady´s position, and accused President Colom of preparing his wife as successor. One of the members of the opposition was a politician named Rodrigo Rosenberg Marzano. He recorded a video stating that if he were murdered, the president would have ordered it. On May 10, 2009, Rosenberg was indeed shot dead.11 The post-mortem discovery of the video triggered a wave of indignation throughout society, and a huge public demonstration was organized and called for President Colom's resignation.12 The CICIG investigations discovered – and demonstrated – that the lawyer had actually prepared his own death. His accomplices were found and confessed.
Antigua, Guatemala - Chicken bus (name for colorful modified and decorated bus)

2015: the "La Linea" case: the nation's president and vice-president discovered to be the heads of a large fiscal fraud network

The most recent episode of political instability was code-named "La Linea" ("The Line"). It was discovered by CICIG investigators, and – to the dismay and indignation of the whole country – the heads of this illegal structure were the nation's president and vice president. Both had to resign and, after a trial, were declared guilty.

This is an international news dispatch about the citizen's indignation at the corruption in the high levels of government: "GUATEMALA CITY — Tens of thousands of Guatemalans marched in heavy rain over the weekend calling for the resignation of President Otto Pérez Molina and speaking out against corruption. They blew whistles and banged pots and pans, and later released blue and white balloons – the colors of the Guatemalan flag."31

José Lobos


1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Guatemala
2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jorge_Ubico
3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juan_Jos%C3%A9_Ar%C3%A9valo
4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacobo_%C3%81rbenz
5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlos_Castillo_Armas
6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1954_Guatemalan_coup_d'%C3%A9tat
7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guatemalan_Civil_War
8. https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Agreement_on_a_Firm_and_Lasting_Peace
9. http://www.cicig.org/index.php?page=mandate
10. http://www.cicig.org/index.php?page=mandate
11. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodrigo_Rosenberg_Marzano
12. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2009/0520/p90s04-woam.html
13. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2015/0521/Guatemala-How-a-corruption-scandal-forced-the-president-s-hand-video

The Emblem of Instability in a postcard booklet at 1080 Wyckoff (Queens, New York)


Photo 1: Antigua, Guatemala - Street view by Kobby Dagan

Photo 2: Antigua, Guatemala - Woman selling traditional colorful fabric by Aleksandar Todorovic

Photo 3: Guatemala City, Guatemala - Mayan women sell Guatemalan food and fruits by Aleksandar Todorovic

Photo 4: Guatemala City, Guatemala - Mayan women sell Guatemalan food by Aleksandar Todorovic

Photo 5: Sumpango, Guatemala - Giant kite festival honoring the spirits of the dead on All Saints' Day by loca_4_motion

Photo 6: Guatemala - Jacalteco monkey by Luger Himmlisch

Photo 7: Antigua, Guatemala - Mayan woman weaving by Aleksandar Todorovic

Photo 8: Antigua, Guatemala - Chicken bus (name for colorful modified and decorated bus) by Aleksandar Todorovic

Parts of the Emblem of Instability

Delibasheva, Emilia. Political Instability: Electoral Coups in America and Bulgaria. December 2016.

Bichen, Svetlana Novoselova. Mental and Cultural Instability: Russia and Turkey. February 2017.

Caetano, Raphael. Instabilidade emocional: Brazil. February 2017.

Cordido, Verónica. Instability, a Stable Reality: Venezuela and America. April 2017.

Dastan, S.A. The Stability of Instability: Turkey and Syria. March 2017.

D'Adam, Anton. Psychosocial Instability in Argentina and America: El granero del mundo and The Manifest Destiny. January 2017.

Friedrich, Angelika. Introduction: The Emblem of Instability. September 2016.

Fondevik, Vigdis. Unstable Nature: Norway and Denmark. October 2016.

Halimi, Sophia. Modern Instabilité: Youth and Employment in France and China. March 2017.

Hernandez, Jonay Quintero. Embracing Instability - Spain. February 2017.

Kelvin, Sera. The Stability in Expecting Emotional Instability: Brazil. April 2017.

Larrosa, Mariela. The Very Stable Spanish Instability. April 2017.

Mankevich, Tatsiana. The Absence of Linguistic Stabilнасцi: Does the Belarusian Language Have a Future? December 2016.

Meschi, Isabelle. Linguistic Instabilité and Instabilità: France and Italy. November 2016.

Mitra, Ashutosh. The Instability of Change: India. January 2016.

Moussly, Sahar. The Instability of Tyranny: Syria and the Syrian Diaspora. December 2016.

Nastou, Eliza. Psychological Αστάθεια and Inestabilidad during the Economic Crisis: Greece and Spain. December 2016.

Partykowska, Natalia. Niestabilność and адсутнасць стабільнасці in the Arts: Polish and Belarusian Theater. January 2017.

Persio, P.L.F. Social Instabilità and Instabiliteit: Italy and the Netherlands. November 2016.

Pranevich, Liubou. Cultural Instability: Belarus and Poland. March 2017.

Romano, Mavi. Unstable Identities: Ecuador and Europe. October 2016.

Shunit. Economic Instability: Guinea and Gambia. April 2017.

Sousa, Antonia. Social and Economic Instabilidade: Portugal. January 2017.

Vuka. My Intimate Imbalanced Inclination. March 2017.

Walton, Éva. Historical and Psychological Bizonytalanság within Hungarian Culture. January 2017.

Zadrożna-Nowak, Amelia. Economic Instability: Poles at Home and the Polish Diaspora. November 2016.

Zakharova, Anastasiya. Instability in Relationships: Russia. April 2017.

To follow: texts by Guatemalan, Korean, Indonesian, Serbian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian writers and translators

Further reading

Azazeal, Alex. Отражение Spiegelt Reflection. 2014.

Friedrich, Angelika. The Emblem of Instability. September 2016.

Friedrich, Angelika. Sub-Under-U-метро-Bahn-Ground-Way. 2014.

Gergiev, Vladimir. Street - Straße - Улица. 2014

Metivier, Anthony. Kunstart. 2014.

Smirnov, Yuri. Art de streetулица. 2013.

Whittlesey, Henry, et al. Transposing Emblem - Junk Culture - Müll Trashed Мусор (Part I). August 2016.

Whittlesey, Henry, et al. Transposing Emblem - Junk Culture - Müll Trashed Мусор (Part II). August 2016.

Whittlesey, Henry, et al. Transposing Emblem - Junk Culture - Müll Trashed Мусор (Part III). September 2016.

Whittlesey, Henry. Forward to Next Transposing Emblem. January 2016.

Whittlesey, Henry. Changes to Transposing Emblems. November 2015.

Whittlesey, Henry. Excerpt of new emblem transpoзиция on trash. September 2015.

Whittlesey, Henry. Müll trashed мусор. 2013

Visit www.transposing.net for more information about transposition.

The Emblem of Instability in a postcard booklet at 1080 Wyckoff (Queens, New York)
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