Day of the Dead, 1900: a day to venerate the past by honoring the deceased, a year to herald the excitements and fears of a new century, and a fitting date for K’iche’ Mayans from the Guatemalan highland city of Quetzaltenango to begin a half-century professional relationship with portrait photographer Tomás Zanotti. Born in Mexico to a Mexican mother and an Italian father, Zanotti made his way to Quetzaltenango, roughly two day’s journey from Guatemala’s northern border.1 Shortly after he arrived in 1898, Zanotti apprenticed with the Englishman James Piggot, who operated the city’s first portrait studio, and then took over the trade. At the time, K’iche’s comprised an overwhelming majority of Quetzaltenango’s population. Yet during those early years only a handful showed up to have their pictures taken. The low prices charged in the few anonymous account book entries—“dos indios,” “grupo indios”—suggest that bureaucratic...

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