After the great depression of 1929, Guatemala’s fragile economy collapses. The US embassy observes the nonconformity in the working class and “the accumulation of red storm clouds”. A strong leader is needed in the country. Jorge Ubico is an efficient military man, implacable governor and the sum of privileges inherited from the oligarchy, the right man to guard the status quo. His triumph in elections as the only presidential candidate is the singing of salvation that announces the establishment of a new State.

While visiting Guatemala a few years ago, somebody accidentally reveals a familial secret to me in a brief sentence: “Your grandfather went into exile in Mexico at the time of Jorge Ubico in the 1930’s”. Actually this is the first time I hear something about him but no one wants to speak anything else about those days. However four photographs - his scant gestures of survival that my family keeps together with an old Mexican migration ID, suggest that my newly-met grandfather was a dissident voice from the regime imposed in Tacaná, his hometown.

The discovery is strange and fascinating like the old photos that I find (maybe they find me) in a Berlin antique dealer days before traveling to Guatemala: photos of Zeppelin’s journey from Germany to America by an unknown author, also taken during the thirties. Why does the the dictatorship persecute him? What kind of violence face him and his family? Why is his identity document disrupted, the only one preserved in the Guatemalan official records? Driven by my self-chosen exile in Berlin, I embark on a journey to find out the reasons behind the years of forced absence of my grandfather, to understand the unknown which I have idealized by recognizing a sense of belonging with it. Tacaná is a journey of encounters and divergences with the mutation of realities -own, foreign and invented- sheltered in the self-censorship. It is a personal way to articulate memory, the place which redefines my self, the self of my family, the place that gives a meaning to my exiled self as well.

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