By Sylvan Hardy
What if the “New World” conquered the “Old World?” Instead of European conquistadors colonizing the Americas, what if explorers from the Americas sailed east and subjugated the natives of Europe? How would history have been written by the victors?
These are the questions that inspired Smoking Mirror, an exhibition by Quito artist Eduardo Villacis that opens Friday, December 28 at the Museo de los Metales on Av. Solano.
Presented in the manner of a traditional museum exhibit, spread through several rooms with detailed descriptions of artifacts and illustrations, Villacis’ timeline begins when Christopher Columbus lands on the coast of the Aztec Empire in 1492. After arresting the Italian mercenary as an illegal alien, the Aztecs gather valuable technical information by examining his Spanish ships and their contents, including the collection of “fire sticks” (guns). They also find a navigation map showing the world from which Columbus came.
With their newly gained knowledge of ship building, ocean navigation and firearms, the Aztecs organize an expedition to explore and conquer the unknown land to the east.
The Europeans submit easily to the Aztecs, their population depleted and weakened by a great plague, believing the invaders are the Army of God come to punish the unfaithful as described in the Bible’s Book of Revelation. The conquistadors are struck by the backwardness of the pale-skinned natives, who they believe to be sub-human, and set about enslaving them for service to the empire.
They name the New World Amexica, in contrast to their home land, Mexico.
Among the more appalling examples of the ignorance of the “barbarian lands,” the Aztecs discover, is the religion the natives call Christianity. Instead of the logical tradition of sacrificing people to the gods, the Christians sacrifice their god to themselves and then proceed to eat his flesh and drink his blood.
Among other things, they are fascinated by the king of the Christians, who is called “Pope,” and his priests who are referred to as “fathers” by devotees, although some children call them “uncles.”
Among the Aztec’s first acts is to put the Pope on trial for heresy and cannibalism and to construct a great pyramid on the ruins of the Vatican. The conquerors import legions of missionaries to Europe to convert the Christians and soon the offending religion is eradicated.
Smoking Mirror, which includes drawings, paintings, sculptures and video by Villacis, was created as a graduate school project when he was a Fulbright Scholar at California State University – Fullerton, in the U.S. It was first exhibited in 2007 at the Bert Green Fine Art Gallery in Los Angeles.
The exhibit is bilingual, with all descriptions and commentary in both Spanish and English.
Smoking Mirror opens Friday, December 28, at 7:30 p.m. at Museo de los Metales, 11-83 Av. Solano. The exhibit continues until April 2019.