Spotlight On: A Series on Culture & the Arts

“Spotlight On” is XelaWho’s regular monthly series on all things cultural & artistic in Xela and Guatemala. This month’s topic is: Family, History and Cartoons: The Guatemalan Cartoonist, Rodolfo Valladares

by Martín Díaz

My mother told me an interesting story about my great-great-grandfather, the famous Guatemalan cartoonist, Rodolfo Valladares. “Look what your great-great-great-grandmother did to me” he used to tell her, showing a scar on the top of his head.

Well, 100 years ago, the President of Guatemala was the famous Manuel Estrada Cabrera. Unlucky for my great-great-grandfather, Don Rodolfo, he was also the godson of his mother-in-law, who didn’t like the artist for a son-in-law. So she decided to get my great-great-grandfather out of her life. The woman paid Estrada Cabrera to get rid of Don Rodolfo, also known as “El Loro” (i.e. the parrot). The president hired some guys to hit the cartoonist in the head and leave him in jail with the pretext of being drunk and making a public nuisance.

Don Rodolfo got out of jail with a warning and fled to Spain to study art at the VASHAS academy in Barcelona. El Loro came back to the country after Estrada’s fall, and later in the 1980’s was named a favorite son of the City in Quetzaltenango for his artistic work. His numerous caricatures were preserved in the Casa de la Cultura for 30 years. The amazing collection contains the most famous Guatemalan politicians and artists, including Estrada Cabrera, of course.

Now a number of his works are on display at Centro Cultural Augusto Monterroso, located at 8a Avenida 5-19 Zona 1. Look for me there, and I will give you a tour not only of my great-great-grandfather’s artistry but also a whirlwind tour of Guatemalan political and literary history. I look forward to seeing you!

Editor’s note: Martín Díaz was XelaWho’s resident cartoonist long before he discovered his famous great-great grandfather’s caricatures. Díaz is also active in Xela’s literary and poetry scene and helped to found Centro Cultural Augusto Monterroso (and Café Tito) mentioned above.

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