Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Guatemala in 1934

The following clip is a condensed version of a series of films shot in 1934 by members of a field expedition to Guatemala from the Chicago Museum of Natural History. 




Two of the leaders were museum Curator Karl P. Schmidt, herpetologist and his tocayo, F.J.W. Schmidt, mammologist, job titles which had me worried for a moment or two, but in fact point to specialisms in amphibian and mammalian life respectively. 

In the silent, four-reel version, the full contingent gathers on deck before steaming out of an American port, and viewers can clearly see that one of them is brandishing what looks like a pair of skis. Unless these were ultra-thin depression-era surfboards, they are not the sort of items one would immediately think of packing for a trip to Guatemala, but then perhaps one of the adventurous academics thought it might be a lark to water ski up the Rio Dulce. I know I would...



The elegaic mood has been masterfully emphasised by the music of Estonia's greatest living composer, Arvo Pärt. Swap out this score for Wagner and you have a documentary which deploys sections of the Chicago museum footage to more ill-informed and ultimately xenophobic effect: Menace of Guatemala (1934).








4 comments:

norm said...

Nice clip. The physical topo map, does it still exist?

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for the clip. I had forgotten what certain streets looked like in la capital. My grandmother told me that back in the early 30's she went to the zoo to see a group of lacandones that had been brought in from the Peten. They were different times.

Guy Howard said...

Sure does: http://www.tripomatic.com/Guatemala/Guatemala-City/Raised-Relief-Map-of-the-Republic-of-Guatemala/

As for the poor Lacandones. A la gran!

Guy Howard said...

Sure does: http://www.tripomatic.com/Guatemala/Guatemala-City/Raised-Relief-Map-of-the-Republic-of-Guatemala/

As for the poor Lacandones. A la gran!