El Paso Sculptor Reimagines Mesoamerican History With A Sci-Fi Twist

Chamizal National Memorial in El Paso is showing sculptor Angel Cabrales’ new exhibit, “The Uncolonized: A Vision in the Parallel.” 

By Leah Scarpelli & Antonio CuetoSeptember 30, 2019 3:31 pm,

What would Texas, Mexico and Central America be like if colonization never happened? That’s the alternate history on which a new exhibit at Chamizal National Memorial in El Paso is based.

The exhibit, “The Uncolonized: A Vision in the Parallel,” imagines an alternate history through sculptures by El Paso-based Angel Cabrales. Cabrales started with a new historical timeline: events are the same up until 1513. After that, he shows what might have happened had events unfolded differently when Europeans colonized Latin America.

“I tried to keep it as plausible as possible, using historical events that had happened, and giving a ‘What if this didn’t happen?’ or ‘What if this happened instead?’” Cabrales says.

The first alternate scenario he depicts comes from real-life historical accounts of a Spaniard who, after having been shipwrecked in the Yucatán, was taken in by the Mayan people, and fought with them against Hernán Cortés when he invaded in 1519. Cabrales imagines that a few Taíno, infected with smallpox, flee the Caribbean and end up on the Yucatán peninsula with the Mayans and the Spaniard. They then teach the Mayans how to stave off bubonic plague. 

Cabrales leans heavily on a sci-fi aesthetic in his sculptures. 

“They were very, very intelligent, so I just started to envision this world with a sci-fi twist,” Cabrales says. “I had Azteconauts and Mayathematicians and Olmechemists, Zapotechnical engineers, because I just wanted to keep that reference to all of the cultures there and [show] their intelligence along with it.” 

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Written by Savana Dunning.