El Ultimo Reclutamiento de 1995
(The Last Recruitment of 1995)
38" x 51", oil on canvas.
Victor Vasquez Temó
This painting depicts the final recruitment—which took place in 1995. When the peace accords were signed, the Guatemalan army agreed to no longer induct men into the army by going into the Mayan towns and just grabbing young men off the streets. On paper the old recruitment policy had been in effect throughout all of Guatemala, but in practice it was used only in the Indian towns rather than Ladino areas of Guatemala. Until the peace accords the Guatemalan military, with an the infantry composed mainly of Mayans, had for the past decades followed a genocidal policy against the Mayan Indians. An incredible number, some 300,000 Mayan Indians, have been killed in Guatemala since 1950 mainly by the military and primarily between 1980 and 1985.
The Guatemala Military grabbed Victor Vasquez off the streets of his town when he was 17 years old. He was taken away to the military facility in nearby Sololá to begin training, but was released from service a month later when his father suddenly died. Victor being the eldest male was needed to care for the family, among the poorest in San Juan la Laguna. This painting certainly is the most personal painting among all his works. The traje [traditional dress] of the Mayans in the painting are of Victor’s town San Juan la Laguna. Although it is unlikely that the military was quite as aggressive in San Juan as Victor shows in the painting, it is fairly certain that it would be a fair depiction of how the military sometimes recruited in more remote areas of Guatemala. Victor painted this painting in secret (due to fear of repression) and outside of his family showed it to no one before it left the country.