Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Santiago Atitlan: The Blooming of the Arts

Visiting the surroundings of Lake Atitlan, one cannot refrain from becoming enamored by the beautiful paintings representing the indigenous costumes and colorful landscapes that can be found in the numerous little art galleries, like the one above painted by one of the brothers Gonzalez Chavajay (from San Pedro La Laguna), which Marcelo and I bought a few years ago in Santiago Atitlan and now is the focal point in our dining room.
The blooming of the arts in Santiago Atitlan dates around 1950 when paintings by Juan Sisay started gaining fame in Europe and in the United States of America.
He died tragically in 1989; however, the second generation of Atitecos painters formed under Master Sisay's tutelage, emerged then. 
This second generation are two painters: 
Manuel Reanda who was the first assistant to Master Sisay, and Miguel Chavez who married one of Master Sisay's daughters and started working with him developing his own style, more modern and expressionist than primitivist.
The steps of this called second generation were soon followed by two of three Master Sisay's sons, Juan Diego and Juan Manuel who had both the opportunity to study in art schools in Guatemala City and Mexico.
Juan Diego and Juan Manuel were the first painters from Santiago to specialize almost exclusively in large portraits of the local citizenry, which appears to be the specialty of Santiago Atitlan artists.
As of today, there are several acknowledged Santiago Atitlan painters, among others, two grandsons of Master Sisay, Juan Diego and Juan Francisco, as well as Martin Ratzan and Pedro Reanda Petzey, who in addition to painting also does wood carving.
The Sisay family is one the most renowned of artistic families, adding rich history to the Guatemalan popular art. In the photo to the left, Juan Francisco Sisay and his art. To contact him, please send him an Email. Paintings to the right, on sale through Arte Maya.
The embroidery is also another expression of art in Santiago Atitlan and women have become true artists in this technique. In the photo above, Master Manuel Reanda and his wife Dolores Sapalu de Reanda, who wove and embroidered both attires.


  1. I have an original Sisay that is not displayed anywhere. It was left to me in a will from a family member. It is for sale at this time. Who do I contact as I would like it to be in a collection of someone who really enjoys his work. the painting is of a woman knealing down and weaving in a village. She looks sad in the painitng. Contact me at

  2. Beautiful images and blog... I live at Lake Atitlan most of the year, although I'm back in the U.S. right now where we are based in North Carolina. Loved seeing the photos and reading the stories and made me homesick for my "second home!" Gracias, amiga for sharing some of your life with us all.

  3. Notify me of follow up comments and posts... Thanks!


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