Art in Xela
Slouching towards Jerusalem, paintbrush in hand
As the founder of Xela Collective, a local art organization, and co-founder of Festival Quinto Sol, a local art festival, I believe Quetzaltenango has the potential to be the art capital of all of Central America. People travel from all over the world to visit the jungles, volcanoes and reserves of Costa Rica, why shouldn’t people look at Guatemala, or even Xela in the same way but for art and culture?
It was clear from the moment I moved to Xela in 2014 that a richness of artistic ability and creative passion were prevalent in the community. I also saw a huge lack of opportunities to grow as an artist or to inspire new artists. In the last 4 years, I’ve seen steady growth and more recently a small explosion of art and cultural events here. Time-tested projects like Ciudad Imaginación and Vessica Galeria have been working hard to create more opportunities for artists to express themselves and to inject art into peoples lives. New projects like Antologia and Teatrito show how young creative minds are coming together to help grow this movement. They see the potential in themselves and their community. As more projects, more energy, and more passion are put into artistic opportunities in Xela, we see a snowball effect taking place. We are now seeing that it is possible to create the change we want to see in our community.
The next step is to recognize the potential Xela has as being an art and culture capital of the world and more importantly, to work together to make that dream a reality. Why does it matter? Xela has long been known as the “Cuna de Cultura” or “Cultural Cradle” of the Mayan empire. Of course, you can still find deep, cultural beauty in this amazing place but there is far more that can be done to ensure this sentiment grows as opposed to it fading away.
Xela is the fastest growing city in Guatemala, and we as members of this community must decide what we want it to grow into. We covet the relative safety, the friendliness and the small community feel here in Xela and if we want it to stay this way we must make proactive steps to ensure it. Also, with the attention of being the art capital of Central America, domestic and international tourism will increase which will lead to greater financial prosperity for the people of Xela. This financial security will help local residents and Quetzaltenango to evolve into the community we dream up.
Therefore, this is a call to all local residents, expats and travelers to do your part in keeping this momentum going. Attend art events, support local art organizations and artists, donate or buy their products and share their info online. We all have a part in this movement. What will yours be?
Kaleb Olson is co-founder of Xela Collective and Festival Quinto Sol. Check out our coverage of the festival throughout the magazine.