WILL FOCUS ON NATIVE LEGENDS
Growing up in the Central American nation of Belize, Dismas
Lizarraga and Griselda Ramirez recall the warnings of their elders.
go too deep into the forest or Tata Duende may play
some mischief on you. Beware of Xtabai, the beautiful woman
who seduces men and then lures them into tragedy.
would sit down with us at night and they would tell us these stories,"
said Ramirez. Lizarraga added, "The older generation people
know the tales. Theres not a set story for each character.
Everybody has their own interpretation but most are scary in some
Now, the two
Mission College students are bringing to life the creatures they
once feared as children.
Early next year, Lizarraga and Ramirez who refer to themselves
professionally as Dismas and GrissyG will lead an exhibition
of their work through the six major regions of Belize. "The
Legends of Belize" will focus on the myths of their homeland,
as researched by the two young art students. Their work will also
serve as required projects for their advanced art class with instructor
Dismas and GrissyG have long been interested in the myths as a motif
for their artwork. During a visit to their native Belize last summer,
they had an opportunity to propose the "Legends of Belize"
series to the president of Belizes National Institute of Culture
The official was intrigued and agreed that the works would be exhibited
Dismas began researching the legends. They found some information
in books. But most came from the tales told by relatives.
is the most famous," said GrissyG. "Shes basically
a female ghost who seduces drunken men and theyre either found
or not found."
GrissyG said a family story holds that one of her great uncles was
swept off a dance floor by a beautiful young woman. The two disappeared
for hours until his friends found him dumbstruck and crying by the
side of a road.
was convinced it was the Xtabai," she said. "His
family had to stay by his side for two weeks because he was afraid
she would come back for him."
Dismas said his grandparents would tell him stories about Tata
"Hes a spirit that lives in the jungles of Belize and
can manipulate the jungle to protect it," he recalled. "Like
if poachers are killing too many animals, hell send a porcupine
to attack them. Or, hell attack them himself."
Ramirez said that nearly every family they know can tell of at least
one relatives personal encounter with Xtabai or Tata
Duende. Still, theyre skeptical. Both believe the legends
especially those most frightening to children were
created to protect children.
are a lot of wild animals in Belize," said Dismas. "I
think some of the legends were made up to keep children from wandering
into the jungle and getting lost or bitten by a snake."
With Belize now rapidly developing, Dismas and GrissyG fear that
the myths and legends may disappear as the country modernizes.
"Thats why weve really taken this project to heart,"
said GrissyG. "We want to preserve whats already being
The rush is on to have the exhibit ready by January. The featured
works employ a wide range of materials, including metallic and acrylic
paints, gel mediums, wire, and sculpey. Dismas and GrissyG are confident
they will have the collection ready in time. They work well together,
often finishing one anothers thoughts. Their partnership is
both artistic and romantic. And although both were born and raised
in the same town in Belize, they had to travel thousands of miles
before they met. They did not meet until both came to the U.S.,
10 years apart. After meeting, they discovered they have many mutual
friends and relations in the homeland.
"Her aunt was my Moms best friend when they were younger.
And my uncle hes a doctor in Belize actually
delivered Grissy as a baby," said Dismas.
The fact that they both emigrated to Los Angeles, wound up at the
same community college, and, in fact, in the same art class
(where they met) seems to suggest they were destined for one another.
Quite a story. Its the stuff that legends are made of.
Dismas/GrissyG Collection of Works
BY EDUARDO PARDO