“Andar por America”

Olga Ramaz

Latin America’s beauty flourishes through its scenic landscapes, architecture, customs and colorful people. “Andar por America” brings to life the struggle, triumph and warmth of Latin American culture by way of photographs, as captured by the lens of professor of Latin American and Latino Studies, Carlos Ugalde.

The exhibition, currently on display at the Glendale College Art Gallery, celebrates Ugalde’s 25 years of travel through Latin America. The extensive showcase is comprised by more than 100 images, all of which tell a story and convey the humanistic side of impoverished countries such as Peru, Mexico and Guatemala, among others.

“These [photographs] here are out of the 500 images that I have already used for some reason or another,” said Ugalde. “So they are coming from that pool, and of course, the archive that I have now [has] accumulated [to] 15 to 20,000.”

Ugalde has used most of these photographs for teaching purposes inside the classroom. Through his images, he has transported students to several countries in Latin America, and taught them about the people, architecture, archeological composition, politics, daily life, and history.

“I knew that I was going to become a professor, one way or another,” he said. “And I knew that I had to have material to teach with, so, more and more I started to take photographs.”

“There is a story behind every photograph [and] this [exhibition] represents a big chunk of my life,” he added. “I have been traveling, experiencing and preparing myself continuously to give decent classes in the area of the history of Latin America.”

Because there are so many images, he knew it would be challenging to select just the right ones for this exhibit.

The distribution of the photographs throughout the gallery also became a “tremendous challenge.” In setting up an exhibition, Ugalde said that one has to have a “sense of the space” in order to make the exhibit functional.

“[With] every exhibit, I end up learning something new,” he added.

Roger Dickes, the gallery director, said that Ugalde did most of the installation work and promotion for the exhibit himself.

“This [exhibition] is something that he wanted to do for a long time, even before I became gallery director,” said Dickes. “Working with him was easy.”

One of the walls in the gallery is devoted to illustrating the diverse Latin American culture and the origins of its people.

“Latin American [means] we are indigenous, we are African and we are from European descent,” said Ugalde. “Through the portraits, this is what I try to present, not only a portrait, but a story.”

Another wall in the gallery is devoted solely to political figures such as Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Ebo Morales and Fidel Castro.

However, several of the photos on display are not of famous people. Many of them focus on the children Ugalde has encountered in his travels.

Whether it is two boys selling mangos on a Mexican beach, a small boy playing the accordion on the heavily trafficked streets of Mexico City or a young Cuban girl in her school uniform paying homage to Ernesto “Che” Guevara, Ugalde manages to capture many aspects of life in Latin America that go beyond what is generally seen in the media.

During the ’80s, Ugalde made a total of 16 trips through Central America. In 1982, Ugalde was presented with the opportunity to work for KPFK as a host for a Spanish program titled “Nuestra America.”

“Being credentialed with KPFK gave me a lot of room and ability to be right smack in the middle, have a little protection and be present at historical events,” said Ugalde.

With a press pass in hand, he traveled to El Salvador in 1984, a trip that Ugalde said was “a little more delicate” due to the country’s political conflicts, the right wing politics in the United States during that time, and the backlash of opposing and criticizing U.S. policy.

Ugalde cataloged what has happening in El Salvador through his audio reports and his photographs, and he said that such opportunity was a “great experience.”

One of the photos that Ugalde managed to take during that time was a photo of a mother, looking down to her deceased daughter, as a result of the bombings in northern El Salvador.

“El Salvador is a country that has been bombarded like no other country in Latin America [during] the ’80s,” said Ugalde. “Just by chance I was there and I had to document it. It’s not a pleasure at all, but it has to be done.”

That night Ugalde sent the report to KPFK, in both English and Spanish. He recalls that he was with two Salvadorean journalists, both of which were not allowed to publicize the report due to political reasons.

Alba Vasquez, a psychology major, believes that Ugalde’s exhibition is “pretty much complete.”

“It shows the political side and struggles of the people in different countries,” she said. “But it also shows the simplicity of their lives, the happiness they have and the effects that our sanctions, blockades and policy have on these different countries.”

“I like the exhibition,” she added. “It is really good.” Edgar Santacruz, a history major, appreciates the photos in the exhibition, saying that some of the images on display make him reflect and become more “grateful” for all of the things he has.

“For example, the [photo of the] classroom over there, we hear a lot of complaints here at school, ‘it’s too cold, or ‘the seats are uncomfortable,'” he said. “They don’t have AC, calefaction or seats. I’m lucky that I have what I have.”

Ugalde’s flair for photography developed as a teenager when he would help his older brother develop photos in a modest dark room the two constructed, a time that he credits as the “beginnings of my experience with photography.”

“So many people help out, and throughout the journey of photography I’ve been helped an awful lot,” he said.

Ugalde’s goal with “Andar por America,” as stated in the essay found in the exhibition’s program, is to “share with the viewer, images that will hopefully bring about a better understanding, sensitivity, respect, appreciation and love toward Latin America.”

All of the images on display are for sale, with 10 percent of the proceeds going to assist a school in Peru, which Ugalde visited last year during his sabbatical. The price for each framed photograph is $325 and those interested are encouraged to contact Ugalde at [email protected] or via telephone at (626) 576-7068.

“It moves me,” said Ugalde, reflecting on the numerous, positive comments he has received in regards to “Andar por America.” “It encourages me to continue, learn and improve. I am very, very pleased.”

“Andar por America” is on display through Nov. 16 at the Glendale College Art Gallery. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. For more information on the gallery or the current exhibition call (818) 240-1000, ext. 5663 or visit www.glendale.edu/artgallery

Admission is free and open to the public.