Guatemala Scene Report With Able & Sonar
There is something really special about painting in foreign countries. The unfamiliar spots, the new food, new friends, the feeling of living forever. I’ve been painting in Central America for a long time now and the graffiti movement is thriving more than ever. I am grateful to have made lifelong friends who became crew and who showed me in street situations to have my back. I’ve put in alot of work with Able in Nicaragua & Guatemala. Sonar in my eyes, is kind of the OG of Guatemala graf and he still puts in heavy work in the street. Guatemala is hella gangster but so magical at the same time. Central America’s THC crew has a heavy presence in Guatemala and there are people like Onknawn who is really sick. There are many crews, lots of active bombers & people with incredible pieces. But in Guatemala, it just feels different… and so magical. Shout out to Onknawn, Mion, THC crew, Sonar & Able for looking out & taking care of me.
– Jehu OSD….Anmls..THC
Interview with Sonar
Jehu: You have always been a great friend and brother to me, I even spoke with your mom on the phone for 20 minutes while I was painting with you. You are family and I always saw you as the leader and OG of Guatemalan graffiti. And the most active too!
Sonar: I’ve always had an attitude of getting confidence quickly with the people I relate to in a close way, and I think that also has a lot to do with the fact that we both belong to the same crews, automatically one becomes part of a family and hence the deal. I do not consider myself an OG in Graffiti as such, because I do not believe I am a “Graffiti Artist” I feel more like a “Classic Bomber” but I know that I have gained a great respect with people from the old school and the new school, mainly because I am active and injected into the scene. I simply paint everywhere in the city and that has led me to have recognition as the painters who have been known to paint “All City” several times, especially illegal.
Jehu: Tell me about the graffiti movement in Guatemala and what makes it different from other places.
Sonar: I do not know if there is a notable difference in Guatemala, compared to the rest of the scene in Central America, because some 10 or 12 years ago there were artists who had great quality and were very active, but that level grew in El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Panama with the emergence of new artists and crews. Another thing that has influenced much in this development has been the availability of having good paint of brands focused on Graffiti itself as Montana of the USA. and Spain; Belton from USA; Iron Lak of Australia; 360, Level9 and Illegal Squad of Mexico; Even a company that made its own brand in Guatemala called Sneak was created, but with a very limited variety of colors.
Jehu: When I visited you for the first time in 2006, Montanas were already there. Tell me about the availability of paint in Guatemala compared to other countries in Central America.
Sonar: The fact that there is a very active Graffiti scene in Guatemala since 2006 with several large productions and the creation and realization of different Festivals and events (HipHop Revolution Festival, Guerrilla Graffiti, DeMiBarrio to TuBarrio, Historical Center Festival, Bonito mi Barrio , Alia2 Festival, etc.), have greatly influenced the fact that it has become a socially acceptable phenomenon in the capital city, even in advertising and graphic design there is a lot of presence, there is also a company dedicated to making Graffittis to the client’s taste: (GuateGraff), and has been for 3 years with a gallery as such, called Galeria77 focused 100% on exhibiting works by urban artists and writers.
Jehu: In Nicaragua, they threw rocks at us, but in Guatemala people seemed to really love it. How do people see in the capital graffiti?
Sonar: I think that so far the craziest thing that has happened to me when I’ve been painting has been that I get a job painting in a place that we had previously bombed with some friends ….. hahahahahaha, and well, the classic police chase and bribery I have not been able to free myself either, several times I have had to deal with the police but I always manage to get away without major problems!!
Jehu: You introduced me to a group of writers recently when I was down there, who are some of the writers who are killing it right now?
Sonar: I currently believe that those who are doing very good things on the streets are Empy (EKS, ODV), Obeck, Japy (Nears), Nieber (Nears), Nahual (Dog Paw), Twipz (NSF), Zeros (Heavy Klan), Ziwer (NSF), Zenith (NSF), Jey (NSF, Fury Girls) and classical painters such as: Spaint (EKS), NearSix (EKS), Woser (EKS, GuateGraff), Zick03 (UZC), Seimer (EKS, GuateGraff ), (Trave (RSK), Dope (THC, UCB), Seyor (RSK) and Pulido (2y2).
Jehu: You’re from THC & Anmls, THC is the biggest crew in Central America, right? What do these crews mean to you?
Sonar: Being a member of the most legendary and largest Crew in Central America is a great honor, there is nothing better than being part of a large family where every time I have the opportunity to visit I feel at home, plus there are a few monsters of painters in the Crew that one never stops learning or representing; and recently they invited me to be part of Anmls, to which I feel comfortable for the same reasons: sharing the love for spray painting and the companionship of friends anywhere in the world.
Jehu: What’s next for you?
Sonar: My work and my work has always been to be involved in music, to that I have dedicated my time, energy and life, and I will continue on the same path, without leaving aside the power to paint every time I have the opportunity and to share those unique moments with good friends!
Interview with Able
Jehu: You started painting in LA but then moved to Central America correct?
Able: Yeah I moved to Central America when I was 14 but as a child moved back and forth from Mexico, Central America, and California. I’m California born raised in Nicaragua/Mexico/Cali.
Jehu: What crews do you represent and what do they mean to you?
Able: The crews I rep are RTH,1810 ,ANIMALES, AND the most recent crew NSF(Guatemala). My crews mean familia to me. I rep each crew for individual reasons but all my crews are fam. They showed love and respect from the get go. 1810 when it why came to visit we connected like homies and showed them respect and took ‘em all over Nica to paint. When I came back to the states they treated me with the same love and respect. RTH as the crew that I rep that gets up the most . Street folk every where I go o always find a random tag hit up sticker of the crew and it dope to see the homies constantly moving they push me to what to do the same. Animales is familia 100% my good friend JEHU put me on I believe in 2011/12 maybe even earlier when he came to Nicaragua. I feel like we are a collective of free thinkers and progressive individuals working to better ourselves and help along the way. teach what we can and also learn and grow. NSF is the most recent crew I got in and to be honest they are my homies everything i traveled to Guatemala they always took me out to paint party put me up in the homes. Just genuinely good peeps. I’ve been hanging with these guys for 6 plus years so it was only natural to become part of tha familia.
Jehu: Where have you painted in the world?
Able: I’ve painted almost all of Central America, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Thailand, and all the west coast states. Washington, Oregon, California always trying to paint new countries and cutty spots
Jehu: Painting in Central America is really special and magical to me personally & I know you have painted all over Central America, what makes painting so special in Central America?
Able: The rawness and realness of what is relatively a very new graffiti scene. The fact the people appreciate graffiti murals and expression as an art form and not just vandalism but of course also the vandalism it’s a graffiti paradise nobody really cares what u do or what u paint a long as it not political or gang related. You’re good. Freedom of expression is limited to us as Central Americans and graffiti has been a huge influence in protest out here we have very few rights and use graffiti to Express ourselves and our struggle.
Jehu: What is the craziest place that you have painted in the world and what are some stories that you might be able to share?
Able: El Salvador in a MS13 hood for the hood and a church helping a friend do his community work for a None government organization. Shit looked like a scene out of a movie veteranos all tatted up all over their faces even their gums of there teeth and cops only drove by to see if we were still good but the gang members were baby sitting us the whole time since we weren’t from there. every now and then they would make jokes like if we don’t like the finished outcome of the mural yall ain’t leaving… then proceeds to laugh and give us some weed to smoke and walk away.. one time in Nicaragua I went out bombing with some crew mates and we almost got chopped up by some fools trying to rob us we tried to square up with them but they pulled machetes so we started throwing big chunks of cement and rocks from the street that was all busted up. I remember throwing a bag full of cans at dude face that was about to slice my crew mate Soek he just barely got away and we didn’t look back after that just kept running till we found and armed guard from a bank. Been shot at multiple times to be warned off from trespassing. Been beat up by cops and let go, you know just normal graff shit that happens I’m Central America. I don’t regret any of the moments and memories.
Jehu: Who are some of the writers that have inspired you over the years?
Able: I’ve had a handfull of good friends that I definatly see as mentors. BBOY Homie (Nicaragua) VECK16 (Nicaragua), Echo (El Salvador) have been the biggest influences on me forsure but I pick up lil tricks and traits from the people I paint with consistently. . As a kid Saber MSK inspired me his style of letters is what really attracted me to graffiti. And train graff always had a big influence in my eyes. NOW What inspires me is being known internationally. Once I left Cali It opened my eyes to the international graff world and that inspired me to keep painting Able. I didnt grow up with much access to internet etc.. living in Nicaragua . So I had no clue that other people were writing the same shit. But when I found out that there were others writing the same. I made it a thing to travel and get up.
Jehu: Whenever I have seen you up in other countries, you are always one of the most up and most active. What’s next for you in this graf game?
Able: Thanks that means alot! I feel like I could push myself harder pero gracias!! To be honest I just want to stay active as much as I can, I’m not really in it to win it as I once felt I was and had the hustle and drive. Now I just want to travel the world and make my presence felt everywhere I go even if I dont kill it super hard but make sure to be seen. Putting in foot work… As a young writer all I cared for was getting up and now as an adult I want to grow into doing more murals but never lose my background of graff culture. Looking forward to the future and what it brings.