Friday, June 8, 2012

Mangus Family Lore: Guatemala City 1959

Alfred, Donald, and Marvin Mangus lensed by Jane Mangus, Guatemala City, 1959.

I've been surrounded by art, science, and books my whole life. Those are my father's landscape paintings on the wall behind us. My father always wanted to be a full-time artist, but my grandfather, Alfred R. Mangus (my brother's namesake), was very practical, and so dad became a geologist instead, studying at Penn State.

Marv soon took up painting as a member of the Washington D.C. Landscape Club in his free time, and he was mentored by another member artist there named Roger Rittase. These fifties paint daubers had a direct lineage to Daniel Garber, and they painted in an style now characterized as Pennsylvania Impressionism.

Dad combined his science with his art for an unparalleled understanding and appreciation of whatever landscape he found himself in. On top of that, he was a robust man of adventure, happily exploring and mapping remote regions in the Canadian and Alaskan Arctic, in the jungles of Guatemala, and far-flung lands elsewhere. It was not uncommon for him to be away on a field trip for months at a time and this was during the days of limited communication.

Dad preferred the arid climate of Alaska, but he had many memorable adventures in Guatemala. He would be hacking his way through the jungle with his guides, only to stumble across an ancient, abandoned Mayan pyramid that hadn't been touched in centuries. He also told me he accidentally discovered a Cold War compound where ordinance and vehicles were being stockpiled for the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.

My mother enjoyed living in Guatemala, but Dad was glad to move on. We lived in Guatemala City from 1958-60. Our next stop would be Calgary, Canada.

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