Orientation: Not Lost Yet

Guatemala Map Graphic
Orientation: Not Lost Yet
Artist Balam Soto
Feb. 02, 2017
e-textile

E-textile. Photo: Balam Soto

I am not lost in Guatemala City yet, but am still in my comfortable home writing this blog. However, I have started my travels by attending the American Arts Incubator orientation week in California. This was the week for “getting you ready to leave, dude." I had never been to California and I loved it. San Francisco has a bit of a Latin American city flavor.

After an 8-hour flight and ½-hour train ride I arrived at the orientation, excited about getting right down to work. We started with an icebreaker and an overview of the week, but the next day we really got to work. We covered the challenges of being abroad, details on how to run our projects, video documentation, had lots of discussions and exercises... it was a jam-packed week!

Midway through the week, we had to present our projects to mentors and other invitees in just 6 minutes. Personally, I like the less-is-more-concept so was comfortable but I was not expecting the fantastic feedback I received. I presented my idea for a Portable Makerspace and got positive feedback from the mentors. People seemed to like the fact that I was born in Guatemala and am now returning to share my knowledge.

After the presentation we got a chance to mingle at CounterPulse, a local gallery, and a moment of magic passed. While I was eating my dinner in silence, reflecting about my day, I felt someone looking at me. A man approached to introduce himself. We each felt the other looked familiar but couldn’t remember why. It turned out we had each been invited to the Information Technology Festival at Galileo University in Guatemala, but in different years. We recognized each other from photos – we live in such a small digital world.

LED textiles

LED Textiles. Photo: Balam Soto

I was excited because it was further proof to me that Guatemala is trying to create a real footprint in the technology world now. Our Mayan ancestors were inventors and scientists, innovative and creative problem-solvers. I am a strong advocate of the idea that we should be harnessing our legacy and creating new pathways in Guatemala, rooted in innovation.

During orientation week, I had the chance to be challenged and explore new ideas, something I love to do. Friedrich Nietzsche said, “When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago.” I want my Guatemala experience to be full of new ideas to be conquered.

E-textile on Guatemalan fabric

E-textile on Guatemalan fabric. Photo: Balam Soto