Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote

January 15, 2014

PanchoRabbit_JKT

Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale was published in May 2013 by Abrams Books for Young Readers. I am its author and illustrator. The book can be read on two levels. On the surface it is a story that reads like a fable, a bit like the Little Red Riding Hood or the Gingerbread Man. But the book is also an allegory of the terrible journey that undocumented immigrants go through in order to reach the U.S.

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The book begins when a drought forces Papá Rabbit to leave and go North to find work so that he can provide for his family. After some years Papá Rabbit is finally returning. His family prepares a big fiesta for him and they cook his favorite meal: mole, rice and beans, a heap of warm tortillas and a jugful of fresh aguamiel. Everyone is excited to see him, but it gets late and Papá Rabbit does not come home.

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In the middle of the night Pancho Rabbit, the eldest son, packs Papá his favorite meal and decides to look for him. Along the way he meets a sneaky coyote who offers to help him. They travel together on top of a train, they cross a river, they use a tunnel guarded by snakes and they cross the desert. Every time the coyote helps Pancho he asks him for some of Papá’s food until the food runs out and the coyote decides he still hungry …for Pancho!

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In Spanish the word coyote has two meanings it is the name of an animal, but it is also slang for a person that smuggles people between the U.S. and Mexico border. Immigrants pay coyotes exorbitant fees for their help. They put their lives on the coyote’s hands and they have no guarantees that they will reach their destination. According to a 2010 Pew Research Center report, 11.2 million undocumented immigrants live in the U.S. An average of 150,000 unauthorized immigrants enter the U.S. each year. Most of them are from Mexico and Central America. They leavve their home countries due to poverty, violence and lack of opportunities.

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Central American migrants travel around five thousand miles on top of trains to cross Mexico. It is extremely dangerous. Because of their undocumented status they are vulnerable and they are often the victims of gangs that steal from them and abuse them.

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Some migrants never reach their destination. According to the American Civil Liberty’s Union and Mexico’s National Human Right’s Commission, between 350 and 500 migrants die every year. That number is most likely a lot higher because many migrants that die while trying to reach the U.S. are never found or claimed. Some drown while trying to cross the river that separates Mexico and the U.S. Many more die of dehydration while crossing the desert.

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It is not only young men that go on this journey. Women and children also go on this journey. There are an estimated 1.5 million undocumented children in the U.S.

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Immigration comes in and out of the news cycle. But when it is discussed, it is usually in abstract terms. Instead of focusing on the experience of actual people politicians discuss immigrants as a statistic in the economy. Or worse, when we hear of immigrants in the media, it is with negative and sensational tones. Undocumented immigrants are often equated with terrorists and drug traffickers, when in reality almost all immigrants are hard working people trying to provide for their families. In 2008, 94% of undocumented immigrant men of working age were employed compared to 83% of U.S. born men.

Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote has been well received by teachers, librarians, professors and parents. Some people have called the book liberal propaganda though. My book does not advocate for open borders of for a giant border fence protected by drones. Instead, it tries to focus on the terrible journey that migrants go through and the separation that families experience.

Pancho

Immigration is a complicated issue. In order to reach long-lasting solutions both the U.S. and the Mexican and Central American governments and societies need to be involved. On the one hand the immigrant’s home countries have to improve living conditions and create better opportunities for their citizens so they are not forced to leave. On the other hand the U.S. needs to admit its dependency on undocumented workers to do much of its manual and domestic labor and to provide legal and safe working opportunities for those seeking employment. Undocumented immigrants are a huge and important part of the U.S. workforce. According to a Pew Research Center study in 2005, 7.2 million undocumented workers were working in low skilled and often grueling jobs, like farming and construction. Only 31% of U.S.-born workers hold those occupations.

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Some people have said that Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote is inappropriate for children. I disagree. I have read the book to children in schools and libraries in different parts of the U.S. Young kids enjoy the story the way they would enjoy a classic fable or a folk tale. Older kids are able to understand and discuss the second layer of meaning in the book. Many of them see their own experiences reflected in the story.

Last October a group of 4th graders from Metz elementary in Austin introduced me at the Texas Book Festival. They shared with me this multi-voice poem about their own immigrant experience.

According to a 2011 Pew Hispanic Research Center report, in 2008 there were 5.5 million children of undocumented immigrants in U.S. Schools. I think it is important to make books that resonate with them, with their parents and that generate empathy and understanding from their classmates.

Here is a video of a TEDx talk I gave which has more information on the artwork and more information on my personal connection to immigration.

Akron Art Museum

January 26, 2013
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Left Wall

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Right Wall (click to enlarge)

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Full Mural (click to enlarge)

This is a mural I designed for the Akron Art Museum in Ohio (akronartmuseum.org). The museum will print and install the mural. It is going to be 30 ft long (including the door) and 8 ft tall. It will be on display from February 9 to August 4. It is part of an exhibition called Draw Me a Story, which will also feature picture books created by 2nd and 3rd graders of Leggett Elementary, King Elementary, Glover Elementary and The Lippman School. Here is a clip from the museum’s member’s magazine with more info.

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click to enlarge

The books the children made and the mural I designed are homage to Ezra Jack Keats and to his groundbreaking book The Snowy Day, which was the first modern picture book to feature an African American protagonist. An exhibition called The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats will open at the museum on March 16. It will be the first retrospective of the award-winning author-illustrator in the US.

keats

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Keats books are set in Brooklyn where he grew up and lived. His spreads are filled with Brooklyn buildings,  graffiti and traffic lights. But more importantly, his books feature children of diverse ethnic backgrounds. They reflect the environment that surrounded him. This is a nice little video on youtube with plenty of information on Keats’ work and life.

Keats’ work was revolutionary in terms of content, but also in terms of technique. He would do collage and mixed media when no one else was doing it.

spread from The Snowy Day

spread from The Snowy Day

I have a lot of admiration and I feel a great affinity towards Keats. I do collage in my illustrations (but I use the computer). I am drawn to urban settings and try to make relevant social commentaries in my work.

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The Snowy Codex

I wanted the mural to look like a modern Pre-Columbian codex set in contemporary Brooklyn during winter. The characters are always drawn in profile and I chose to use a limited palate: blue, red, white, black, gray and a tiny bit of yellow. The color choice was intentional. Red, white and blue are the colors of the American flag. The US is one of the most, perhaps the most diverse country in the world. There are people from all races and backgrounds here, especially in big urban centers like New York. Unfortunately a lot of prejudice and racism still prevails.

I had a lot of fun with this project and tried to make reference to several pieces of art and artifacts. The bundled children are inspired by egg-shaped Aztec sculptures in the Museo Nacional de Antropologia in Mexico City.

huevo

cihuacoatl

cihuacoatl

The four children making snow angels in the center are meant to look a bit like a Huichol Ojo de Dios. The 4 directions are of utmost importance to indigenous groups. I drew children of different ethnicity pointing towards each direction.

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I included some text in the mural. The text comes directly from things that 2nd and 3rd graders wrote. I sent them a brief letter with a short questionnaire. I asked them what winter sounded, smelled, felt, looked and tasted like. I also asked them what was their favorite thing to do on the first snowy day of the year. My drawings are based on their responses. Snowball fights and sledding where among their favorite activities. Those are also some the things Peter, the protagonist of The Snowy Day does in the book.

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I tried to integrate some of their text into the image, and make it a part of the illustration, much in the spirit of my friend Lauren Redniss.

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Redniss

I will be visiting Akron from April 12 to the 16. I am looking forward to meeting the students that I corresponded with and seeing the full scale mural! Hopefully you can make it to Akron and see it yourself. When the exhibition ends I will be donating the mural to one of the Elementary Schools that participated in the project.

Chivas and Miller Lite

August 28, 2012

for the “Expresa tu Pasión” Chivas and Miller Lite contest

This is a poster I designed for the “Expresa tu Pasión” contest for Miller Lite, the official sponsor of las Chivas de Guadalajara in the US.

My design is currently competing. If you like it, vote for it here  https://www.facebook.com/MillerLiteLatino/app_511795078837873 It takes a bit of work to register, but once you are registered you can vote once every day. Check out the other artists that are competing and check out this Miller Lite Sizzle video.

I was thrilled when I was contacted about the contest a few months ago. I’m a big Chivas fan and Miller Lite is an off the hook beer. The assignment was to design a poster that featured Chivas fans demonstrating their passion for their team.

These are some of my initial sketches


My first thought was to do something with the actual Chiva, the teams mascot. But then I decided to use a fan with a Chiva mask  instead. Miller Lite shared with the artists some products they have designed and one of them was a Chiva luchador mask, so it seemed appropriate.  

My artwork is influenced by Pre-Columbian art. For this piece I looked at  this page from the Borgia codex for inspiration. I believe that the two Gods are Quetzalcoatl and Miquiztli.

I liked the mirror like effect and decided that I should include at least two fans in my poster. This is a sketch which is getting close to what my final design was. I included a pair of Chivas and some old school soccer balls as a framing devise. I dropped them from the final piece though, so that it would be cleaner and have a billboard like effect.

…Mohawks and fohawks are in style among soccer players

Marco Fabian

Balotelli

Neymar

The 11 stars at the bottom of the poster represent the 11 championships the team has won. Chivas are the most succesful team in Mexican soccer, they have the biggest fan base and they are the only team in the league that plays with Mexican players only. Four players of the Mexican soccer Olympic team that just won the gold in London are from Chivas. This is a short vid I made animating the poster. The song is “Chivas de Corazón” by Banda Machos.

I took a bunch of goofy pictures rocking my friends autographed Chivas jersey. Unfortunately it is not mine…

#Smoof-moofness

Goooooooooooooooool!

el rebaño sagrado

Marco Fabian

Chivas!

I illustrated the cover of a book about Las Chivas a while back. I have a blog entry about it with images and interesting anecdotes of the team. Check it out here http://duncantonatiuhmex.wordpress.com/2010/05/17/chivas-y-tuzos/ its in Spanish… y arriba las Chivas!!!!

Día

April 28, 2012

I am very excited to be an ambassador for El día de los niños / El día de los libros, Children’s Day / Book Day, better known as Día.

Día is a year round celebration of children, families, and reading that culminates on April 30. The celebration emphasizes the importance of advocating literacy for children of all linguistic and cultural backgrounds.

Día was started by the wonderful author and literacy advocate Pat Mora in 1996. When she learned that in Mexico and in other Latin American countries April 30 is a holiday to celebrate children, she decided to create a similar celebration in the US and further, to link it to literacy. She soon found enthusiastic allies. Members of REFORMA, the  National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking, joined her efforts and in 1997 the first Día was celebrated.

Día has grown and grown over the years. It is now sponsored by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). There are Día celebrations hosted by librarians, teachers and community leaders all around the country. A Día day may involve readings by guest authors, book give-aways, games, activities and cultural performances.

Día is an opportunity for children to spend a great day with their families and to enjoy books. It is a day especially important for children who live in underprivileged areas or who have parents whose first language is not English. There is a wonderful map on the American Library Asociation (ALA) website where you can look for a Día event near you (click on the map) .

If you are a librarian, a teacher or someone interested in hosting a Día event there are wonderful resources in Pat’s webiste http://patmora.com/ and in the día website http://dia.ala.org/ There is a very thorough and insightful resource guide with everything you need to know about Día based on more then 15 years of experiences here:

There is in fact an award, the Mora award, named after Pat’s parents, where libraries, schools or educational institutions receive a 1,000$ stipend based on the creativity, focus and outreach of the Día event they plan to host. You can find out more about the Mora award here:

Be sure to check out Pat’s blog where she is hosting díapalooza, with daily April entries related to Día: http://sharebookjoy.blogspot.mx/

Again, I’m thrilled to be an ambassador along with other wonderful authors and illustrators. ! I’m fortunate to know and be friends with some of them like: Monica Brown, René Colato Laínez, Yuyi Morales, John Parra and Lucia Gonzales. Check out the full list of ambassadors here:

I made a pair of videos for Día where I’m reading from my books. Enjoy!!

Dear Primo, A Letter to My Cousin

Diego Rivera: His World and Ours

ZapaShiva

June 13, 2011

ZapaShiva

The image above is of ZapaShiva, a Zapatista woman in the Shiva pose. I made the image for the 5year Plan which was started by my friend Aaron Sinift, an artist, activist and entrepreneur in Brooklyn NY.

The first project that Aaron curated and brought to life was an artist book featuring the work of 26 artists. I made an image for the book. You can check it out in this earlier post. The images were printed on cotton khadi. The cotton was spun by artisans in India. The idea behind the book is to make a sustainable art piece and to celebrate the Gandhian ideals of self sufficeincy and non violence.

This video explains the project really well. 

In both images I’ve made for the 5year plan I tried to make a link between social movements in India and in Mexico. I am not an expert on the Zapatistas, but their struggle for self-governing and their resistance to transnational corporations resonated for this project.

The woman is holding a shovel and an ear of corn to symbolize the struggle for autonomy . She has a cell phone and a laptop, because the internet was a fundamental tool for the Zaptistas and it has proven to be a fundamental too for any social movements to come.

She is emptying a Coca-Cola bottle to simbolize the resistance against transnational corporations and she is holding a chilli because when I think of Mexico and India I think of food, spicy food. The cotton bolls and the wheels that frame the image are there to represent the fact the image will be printed on hand spun cotton khadi.

ZapaJhola mock-up

Now Aaron is working on jhola bags. His approach with them is twofold. He plans on printing some limited edition jhola bags with original artwork featured on them.

But he is also looking to work with large retailers to offer jhola bags at their store for shopping. The jhola bag is the anti plastic bag. There are no carbon emissions involved in its production because it is made by hand and it helps some of the poorest people in India and the world to support themselves.

t-shirts

June 13, 2011

ZapaShiva tee

I have been making some t-shirt mock ups lately. The one above is of ZapaShiva, a Zapatista woman in the pose of the Hindu godess Shiva. I’ll write about the image on my next post.

This is another mock up I made.

Original Baller

I am thinking of submitting my designs to Threadless. An online store and community where you submit your design and people vote for it. If people vote for your design Threadless considers printing the tee and selling it. The designer/artist gets a cash prize.

M train, West 4 to Marcy Ave

This one has one of my subway sketches on it. I made it on the M train from the West 4th Street stop to the Marcy Avenue stop. To see more of my subway sketches click here. Any thoughts or suggestions on these tees? If I print them, would you buy one?

Diego Rivera is out and about

June 10, 2011

Diego Rivera: His World and Ours

I have not posted a new entry to my blog in several months. I apologize for that. I have been quite busy and productive though. My second picture book Diego Rivera: His World and Ours was published by Abrams this last May.  You can buy it online from Abrams or from Amazon among other retailers.

The book has received some great reviews so far.

It received a Parent’s Choice Recommended Seal by the spring 2011 Parents’ Choice Book Awards.

The Latin Baby Book Club chose Diego Rivera:His World and Ours as their June book of the month. They did a Q & A with me too.

The Happy Nappy Bookseller gave the book a very generous review. “There are a few children’s biographies about Diego Rivera. Tonatiuh’s sophomore release is a great addition, with it’s own personal distinctions. “

It got a starred review from Kirkus. “A simple picture-book biography of Diego Rivera concentrates on his artistic career and encourages children to imagine themselves painting their own world… Both solid introduction and exhortation, this book will thrill budding artists.”

And Publisher’s Weekly gave it a great review “Suggestive of stained glass windows, Tonatiuh’s mixed-media collages combine ancient Mexican art motifs with blocky, stylized figures, to pay tribute to this versatile artist.”

I am heading to Dallas later today. I am thrilled to be a part of the 1st Annual BooksmART Festival in the Dallas Museum of Art where I will read Diego Rivera: His World and Ours and also Dear Primo, a letter to my cousin.

I will be visiting 3rd graders at the The School at Columbia University next Monday and I will be heading to New Orleans at the end of the month for the ALA conference. I have a busy and exciting month ahead.

Machete

November 6, 2010

Danny Trejo: Machete, Machete, Machete

 

I would love to make animations for the initial credits of films… Experiments TK soon.

 

 

Dope, catchy song by Novalima that is featured in the Machete soundtrack.

 

Diego Rivera: His World and Ours

October 12, 2010

page 3

This is a sneak peek at my upcoming picturebook “Diego Rivera: His World and Ours” I am the author and illustrator of it. It is going to be published by Abrams and will be available next spring.

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The first part of the book is a biography of the great muralist.

But then the book asks what would Diego paint today? For instance, “Would he paint our craze for monsters and creatures of outer space as he painted the god Quetzalcoatl and the feathered serpent?”

page 30-31

What I admire the most about Rivera is that he looked back at the art of ancient Mexico and combined it with the art of the modern era.

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In my work I attempt to do something similar. I look back to that ancient art also, but I try to combine it with the tools of the digital era.

NIOSH

October 12, 2010

These are a series of illustrations I did for NIOSH, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. They will be displayed in brochures at the Mexican Consulate to inform immigrants about safety measures in the work place.

In the first illustration I tried showing a hardworking immigrant family looking for a better future. I tried flipping this border sign image.

 

border sign

 

The second one is about the risks of injuries while working in jobs such as construction when the adequate safety measures are not provided.

 

roofer, rufero

 

The third one is about the dangers of toxic chemicals in the workplace.

 

cleaning lady

 

 


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