Whenever I am in Quito, I make a point to visit the Guayasamin museum. Oswaldo Guayasamin was an Ecuadorian expressionist painter, sculptor and designer, who lived from 1919-1999. In February 2007, I wrote a general overview of the museum with a focus on the Guayasamin Foundation. During my visit this past July, I concentrated on the museum’s most recent addition, Guayasamin’s Chapel of Man, La Capilla del Hombre in Spanish.
After presenting the Chapel project to UNESCO, in 1989, Guayasamin received support and funding to construct the Chapel of Man next to the Guayasamin Foundation in the Bellavista neighborhood of Quito. Construction began in 1996 and the Chapel was inaugurated in 2002, three years after Oswaldo Guayasamin passed away. The Chapel of Man is an attractive structure dedicated to the men and women of the Americas and the eternal flame inside the Chapel represents peace and human rights. A quote by Guayasamin reads, “Mantengan encendida una luz que siempre voy a volver,” which means, “Keep a light burning for I will always return.”
The Chapel of Man takes one on an unsettling journey through Ecuador’s turbulent history. Guayasamin’s paintings illustrate the pain and sadness of having lost friends and colleagues in insurrections and political upheavals throughout South America. The Chapel’s contemplative environment and Guayasamin’s impressive larger-than-life paintings are emotionally moving and stir an inquisitive mind. A quiet afternoon walking through the Chapel refreshes my memory of Latin American history, the root of Ecuador’s continuous struggles and challenges.