A mass of heads belonging to members of the Argentinean military – with their caps, mustaches and stern expressions as they celebrate Army Day during the 1970s military dictatorship – welcomes you to Latin Fire. Other Photographs of a Continent 1958-2010, the exhibition at the center of this year’s PhotoEspaña photography festival, which is dedicated to Latin America.
The display of around 180 photographs on loan from the Anna Gamazo de Abelló Collection can be seen until September 13 at Madrid’s CentroCentro exhibition space, situated in what was once the main post office and is now home to City Hall.
Anybody imagining that this mosaic of images covering a half-century of life in the region represents some kind of thesis should think again, says PhotoEspaña director María García Yelo: “This collection of Latin American photography, probably the most important in private hands in Europe, has no common identity.” The works are from Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Cuba, Argentina and Chile, but “there is no encyclopedic intention,” even though “this is the first time” that so many pieces from the collection have been shown together.
That said, looking at the exhibition, which took a year of negotiations and preparations to organize, there is a predominance of “reality, of the injustices experienced by Latin Americans,” says Colombian María Wills, who co-curated the show alongside Frenchman Alexis Fabry. Among the few common features that bind the works together are the mix of the popular and the urban, and the economic difficulties of the photographers, she notes.
The curators also explain that the English title, Latin Fire, which they took from a poster they saw for a salsa group, is a reference to the passionate character of Latin Americans, and also reflects the “overwhelming influence of the United States,” of its language and customs, on the culture of all its southern neighbors. “Although now the opposite is starting to happen,” Fabry points out.
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