“Latin American silver and gold – as Engels put it – penetrated like a corrosive acid through all the pores of Europe’s moribund feudal society, and, for the benefit of nascent mercantilist capitalism, the mining entrepreneurs turned Indians and black slaves into a teeming “external proletariat” of the European Economy.”
– Eduardo Galeano
When the Spanish set off for America in the 15th century, gold was the economic base and one of the crucial driving factors for the colonialism of the region. Meanwhile, the Catholic religion provided the moral justification. Melting Gold interrogates these ideas, honing in on the opulent aesthetic of gold in order to speak about how the unbounded beauty of this precious metal serves to obscure its violent extraction process.
In this short film, an ancestral oral history comes alive to tell us of the reappropriation of gold for the benefit of a local community in Mexico a century ago. Initially, the evocations of melting gold seem to allude to the colonial projects cultural tragedy; the countless indigenous artefacts which were melted down for their raw material. Yet the story we are told is one of anti-materialism, of personal sacrifice for the benefit of a whole community, pointing to the complexities surrounding the topic of the film. The human greed usually associated with gold is replaced by a utilitarian enterprise which brings prosperity to an impoverished town.
The video reminds us of the continued colonial frameworks of power in action globally, as it scans slowly around the luxurious interior of Barcelona cathedral, alluding to the relationship between the violent extraction process of gold in the Americas, and religion (or present-day capitalist economy) in Europe.