Carolyn Prescott discusses
the Overthrow Series
Kinzer, who served as the New York Times bureau chief in Nicaragua, Germany and Turkey, and as Latin American correspondent for the Boston Globe, documents regime change operations carried out by the U.S. in fourteen sovereign nations over the course of a century, writing only about those cases in which “Americans played the decisive role in deposing a regime,” whether by threatened or actual invasion or through covert operations. In these accounts, I was struck by the elegiac statements of the deposed, which convey the asymmetry of confronting a nation as powerful as the United States of America. Some of these heads of state submitted their resignations in order to save their people from bloodshed; sometimes we have only the words of their compatriots.
In thinking about how to bring these events to light, I thought almost immediately of the Mexican and Latin American tradition of retablo painting These votive paintings typically tell stories of misfortune followed by a rescue through the miraculous intercession of a saint. The artist recreates the story as told by the protagonist, whose words are written on the painting. The role of the artist as a faithful listener yet imaginative recorder of stories not widely known seemed to me a fitting one for rendering these stories of regime change. Thus, I have appropriated the retablo genre, rejecting the concept of a unified historical narrative, instead combining fragmentary story elements and knowing these stories have been and will continue to be told by the people whose governments were overturned.
References Stephen Kinzer, Overthrow, America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq. New York: Times
Books, Henry Holt and Company, 2006. (Note: Mr. Kinzer does not bear responsibility for any errors of fact or interpretation in the painting series or in this portfolio.)
Elin Luque Agraz and Michele Beltrán, “Powerful Images: Mexican Ex-Votos,” Retablos y ex votos. Museo Franz Mayer, Artes de México, 2000