In this article, José Sabogal discusses the life and work of Mariano Flórez (or Flores), a maker of engraved gourds from Huanta, a region of Ayacucho; the author had just learned of the death of the craftsman whom he knew personally.
In their effort to find true “Peruvian art,” Indianist painters not only depicted local themes in their own production, but also studied and revalorized local popular art. They traveled around the country, meeting native and mestizo producers, whose names and works began to receive recognition in the country’s capital. José Sabogal himself wrote a number of groundbreaking articles and books on the topic. He was particularly interested in engraved gourds—a form that had been used continuously since pre-Hispanic times and that had undergone interesting transformations during the colonial period and after independence. In that technique, Sabogal—the founder of pictorial Indianism—found a materialization of his notion of mestizaje as the paradigm of “national art”—a line of thinking that informs this text.
Mariano Flores was one of the most outstanding gourd engravers from the Bajo Mantaro region of Ayacucho. It was thanks to this article by Sabogal that not only the name and identity, but also the important work, of a local Andean artist became known throughout Peru; a portrait of Flores—a 1942 woodcut by Sabogal based on a drawing—appeared beside this article. Flores was Quechua speaking and illiterate, which explains why the spelling of his name, which is registered in some of his works, was never determined for sure (Sabogal used Flórez; other intellectuals used Flores, which has become the preferred spelling). Though Sabogal wrote this text as a tribute to Flores after his death, a death certificate dated 1949 was later located—the discrepancy was undoubtedly due to poor communication with remote villages.