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Regina Galindo was born on a day in 1974. Seconds later the doctors cut the umbilical cord that joined her to her mother. Thirty years later, Regina illegally buys six umbilical cords stuffed into a Pepsi-cola bottle full of formaldehyde. In Guatemala you can buy anything imaginable from the most unexpected sources. What she will do is tie herself to a bed, with these umbilical cords, at the four extremities. She’s eight months pregnant. This performance, “Mientras, Ellos Siguen Libres” (Meanwhile, They Remain Free), refers to the mass rapes inflicted by soldiers, during the armed conflict, on thousands of women, pregnant or not. The majority lost their children.
The young Regina plays in the streets of Guatemala City, a city that is not for children. Nor for women. It has the highest rate in the world for the murder of women. In these surroundings she grows, this girl who will talk of death and violence against women when she develops her work as an artist. She will do it very graphically in her work “XX”. She will place 52 cement headstones on the graves where 52 unidentified persons rest in the Verbena Cemetery, where every day unknown corpses arrive to be buried, accompanied by the most absolute silence. Galindo highlights a detail: white lilies flourish on these graves. It is said that these flowers spring from the decomposition of the corpses. White lilies are symbols of innocence and, in Christian iconography, of purity. The legend recounts that they grow on the tombs of innocents condemned to death. So, for example, they appear in “The passion of Sacco and Vanzetti” by Ben Shahn.
In the year 1982 Regina is 8 years old. In Guatemala, Efraín Ríos Montt declares that violent death is natural. It is a poetic way of saying it but to put it bluntly: during the 17 months that Ríos Montt was in power they accused him of ordering the execution of 1.171 indigenous women, as well the sexual violation of over a thousand under-aged girls. During these months, in Guatemala there weren´t inhabitants so much as potential victims and potential criminals. Sometimes both. This period of terror left an indelible imprint on the young girl, who twenty years later would ask “¿Quién Puede Borrar las Huellas? (Who can erase the traces?)”. She will walk barefoot from the Congress of Guatemala to the National Palace leaving a trail of bloody footprints on the pavement. It is in reference to the victims of Montt, who can’t traverse these streets, but it is also a denunciation of the presidential candidacy of this ex-militiaman in 2003.
During her adolescence she elaborates poetry that is tightly bound to reality and sensitive to women. Over the years this poetry turns into actions, in the first public appearance of Regina as a performer: “Lo Voy a Gritar al Viento” (1999): (I’m going to shout from the rooftops) (1999): she hangs, like an angel, from the Post Office building of Guatemala City and reads out her poems at the top of her voice. She rips out the pages and throws them down to the street, where people fight for the bits of writing. The poetic reading of a tragic reality pervades all of this artist’s work.
Regina is growing up and thinking about what she is going to do with her life. She studies to be a secretary and manages to find work in an advertising agency. She resigns herself to becoming a housekeeper, her own or someone else’s, like thousands of other women in the country’s capital. She deals with this subject with great wit in “Angelina”. She dresses up as maid for a whole month, carrying out her routine with this identity. To record it she takes photographs with a modest camera. We can see her in a bar, on public transport, with her family…where we can’t see her is at her real job, the advertising agency decided to sack her for going to work in fancy dress.
So Regina José Galindo removes her disguise and finds herself unemployed, with limited resources but with one conviction. She didn’t have the money to elaborate a multimedia proposal, she only had her body. So what can she do? Work with it. As an artist.