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Mario Gonzalez Chavajay is one of three brothers from San Pedro who have gained acclaim and recognition as the most prominent Mayan artists. Their grandfather is said to have started the rich tradition of “art naif” painting in the Tzutujil Mayan communities around Lake Atitlan. Mario’s paintings were shown in the exhibition, The Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya, at the Fine arts museum of San Francisco. His paintings and those of his brother, Mariano, were the only modern works shown with the ancient Maya artifacts. He was among the Guatemalan artists invited to the United States for the opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, and one of his paintings is in their permanent collection.
Life was never easy for Mario. His family lived a life of scarcity. Mario’s father often went on drinking binges, spending most of the money he earned as a house builder, leaving the family to live on what was left over. So, like most poor campesino (country) families, they subsisted on tortillas, rice, and beans.
Over the years, Mario has worked hard to perfect his craft, working as many as 10 hours a day, often living in poverty, selling his paintings for few quetzales as he raised a family of his own
He has made it his mission to incorporate into his paintings and communicate the rich culture of the Mayan people, the wisdom of his ancestors, the beauty of the natural world, and at the same time bring an awareness of the suffering and exploitation and discrimination his people have endured.
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