HISTORY // PURPOSE
The Guapamacátaro Hacienda, established in the early 1600’s by Spanish settlers as an important agricultural producer of colonial Mexico, hosts our art and ecology programming. Located in the verdant highlands of northern Michoacán, the estate is now comprised of 16 hectares, a minute fraction of what it once was. In the local language (Purhépecha), Guapamacátaro has been attributed two interesting meanings: “place where the offspring fly”, and “surrounded by water”, which is seen in the form of several lagoons, natural springs and a winding river. Maravatío, the nearest town 6kms away, was once serviced by passenger train from Mexico City (two hours away by car now), and continues to be a humming trade post for producers of the region. Nearby mining towns of Tlalpujahua and El Oro boast a fascinating yet harsh industrial past, where early twentieth century capitalists such as Rockefeller and Guggenheim made part of their fortune. Severely affected by the Mexican Revolution in 1910, and the collapse of the mining industry a few decades later, the hacienda ceased agricultural production yet remained a cultural beacon through activities at a church and a school built for the community in the 1950’s.
The project was launched in 2006 by Mexican artist and curator Alicia Marván, with the objective to communicate and implement sustainable alternatives for development, utilizing art and ecology as tools. Its conceptual framework includes ecology in a broad sense, not limited to its common association with the preservation of the natural environment. All components of the local ecosystem (human, natural and artificial) and their relationship to each other are subject of inquiry, creativity and growth.
CONTEXT // RELEVANCE
In Mexico, many rural zones like Guapamacátaro lack cultural opportunities. This phenomenon is due to a complex web of factors such as the priority to fulfill basic needs, economic migration, globalization and lack of support from the public and private sectors. Consequently, this deficiency contributes to severe social issues including alcoholism, violence, repression and learning disabilities. At the same time, many rural zones in México present a high level of ecologic degradation, due primarily to poor education.
Our program addresses these two very important issues. Through education and community organizing, we are creating a more sustainable network of people, technology and resources. Our programming involves local people of all ages in an array of cultural activities: workshops, round tables, exhibitions, performances and screenings. Subjects have included various art techniques, aesthetic appreciation, resource management, organic agriculture and craft making with natural and recycled materials. Already, these new activities are generating a great amount of positive change in society.