Archive for the ‘Mexico’ Category

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.

Pancho2

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!

Pancho15

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.

Pancho7

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.

Pancho11

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.

Pancho13

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.

Pancho17

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.

usatodayinterior

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.

NarcoCorridos

February 26, 2010

Los Tigres del Norte

Los Tigres del Norte are perhaps the most accomplished Mexican group today. Their musical career expands over three decades. They sing songs of love and heartbreak. But they also sing songs that have a social message to them. They sing very poignantly about Mexican migrants in the US.

Even more, in 2000 they founded a non-profit to preserve Mexican and Mexican American music. UCLA was the recipient of a grant from their foundation and they have used it to digitize one of the largest collections of Mexican music from the early 20th century.

But what identifies Los Tigres del Norte the most is that they are the most succesful NarcoCorridos interpreters both in Mexico and abroad.

NarcoCorridos are a genre of muisc that stems from the Corridos. Corridos are a genre of norteño music, a grandchild of the polkas, and their distinctive feature is that they tell a story. Corridos became popular during the Mexican Revolution. They communicated news to a largely illiterate population.

NarcoCorridos also tell stories, but they tell stories about narcos and drug trafficking. They first became popular in 1973 when Los Tigres del Norte recorded “Contrabando y Tracion” Drug Smuggle and Treason also known as Camelia the Texan.

Los Tigres newest NarcoCorrido is called “La Granja”, The Farm, and it makes allusion to George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

But this song and all other NarcoCorridos have been banned from the airwaves in Mexico by president Felipe Calderon. His argument being that NarcoCorridos celebrate drug traffickers and violence and are therefore to blame for the current violence and drug war in Mexico.

Granted, there are some NarcoCorridos that do celebrate violence but I consider banning them scapegoating at its worst. Not only that, it is a spit in the face to Mexican’s liberty of expression. NarcoCorridos are not responsible for the drug war. They are a critique and reflection of it.

The real reasons behind the drug war are:

1) Government corruption at all levels.

2) The insatiable demand for drugs from US consumers.

3) The ease with which weapons, most of them legally bought in the US, are re-sold and bought in the black market.

I’m surprised there haven’t been more protests against the prohibition. Imagine the uproar if Gangster Rap was banned in the US. But then again just because something is banned doesn’t mean people don’t listen to it. I mean, drugs are banned…

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Los Tucanes de Tijuana

Los Tucanes de Tijuana are another group that stands out when it comes to NarcoCorridos. Their lead singer and guitarist Mario Quintero writes all their songs. He has very witty lyrics.

In his song My Three Animals he uses the slang words perico, chivo y gallo (parrot, goat, rooster) to talk about cocaine, heroine and marijuana.

And similarly in his song my 3 women he sings of a white woman, a woman with green eyes and a black woman to talk of those drugs again.

Besides trafficking marijuana from Mexico and cocaine and heroin from abroad, Mexican Narcos have recently become a large producers of methamphetamines too. What animal or type of woman would best suit to describe this drug? A crazy macaw, perhaps?

I’d love to collaborate with Los Tigres or Los Tucanes and do a CD cover for them. Hence the square format of my illustrations. And I plan on doing more illustrations of Mexican music genres and prominent Mexican musicians. Suggestions are welcome.

I also recently found out that narco videohomes, a B-movie industry about narcos is thriving. Check out this article on Vice. They are kind of like the Ghanean movies that you find in black hair saloons and that are loved by the African Diaspora worldwide. But they are with Mexican people and about drug smugglers.

narco videohomes

I’d love to do some dvd covers for them too.

Tonantzin

December 12, 2009

faith in Mexico

Dear Primo, a letter to my cousin

November 19, 2009

cover

This is the cover of “Dear Primo, a letter to my cousin.” It’s my first picture book. I wrote the story and illustrated it. Its published by Abrams and it will be in stores March 1st.

The story is about Carlitos and Charlie, two cousins that write letters back and forth to each other. Carlitos lives in the countryside in Mexico. He rides his bicicleta to school and loves quesadillas. Charlie lives in a city in the US. He rides the subway to school and always gets a slice of pizza on his way home.

There are words in Spanish scattered throughout Dear Primo and a glossary at the end. These are some spreads from the book:

p8-9

p12-13

p18-19

p30-31

Carlitos and Charlie’s environments are vastly different, but at the end of the day the two primos are more alike then different. Primos are primos. The story is inspired by my own experiences and observations. I grew up in Mexico, but have lived for a significant amount of years in the US.

I received a copy of the book from my publisher this last week. Here are some pictures of it:

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I’m so happy with how it came out.  My mom and I got very emotional when I translated the author’s note to her.

my mom and the primos

I can’t wait to see it in libraries and bookstores, but more importantly, to see children reading it.

cover

I plan on being in NY for the release of the book and hopefully I’ll be doing some book readings too. More on that once I know the details.

The book is 32 pages long, full color. It’s 8.5 x 11 inches, and it has a hardcover with a jacket. If you are interested in pre-ordering the book you can click here and to see the Abrams spring 2010 catalog you can click here or visit www.abramsyoungreaders.com

The flying men of Papantla, intangible heritage of humanity

October 12, 2009
The Papantla flyers

The flying men of Papantla

On September 30th, 2009 the ritual performed by the flying men of Papantla was recognized by the UNESCO as an Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The ritual is a fertility dance that has its origin in the Mexican state of Veracruz.  It consists of five men who climb up a pole eighteen to forty meters high,  four of them tie their feet to a rope and glide down while the fifth man plays a flute and a small drum. The entire ritual, including the number of times the men spin while gliding down has symbolic meanings that dates back to Pre-Columbian times.

I’ve seen the flying men of Papantla perform on many occasions. When I read the news I wanted to create image about it, but didn’t get around to it. However, I recently found about Illustration Friday. A blog in which a topic is posted every Friday. Anyone can submit their interpretation of the topic. I’ve never participated, but last Fridays topic was “flying”. It seemed like a great opportunity to participate and to jump start the illustration about the flying men of Papantla I’ve been meaning to do. You can here an interview with Penny Dullaghan, the creator of IIllustration Friday here.

I’m very happy with the way the image turned out. The image does not adhere to the Western idea of perspective -there is no such thing as a vanishing point in the image. Therefore I tried playing around and have characters that are seen from above, while simultaneously others are seen in profile.

This is a video of the ritual:

Silver or Lead, the drug war in Mexico

October 10, 2009
Silver or Lead cover

Silver or Lead cover

A few months ago I did a series of illustrations for a short book called “Silver or Lead, the drug dilemma.” It was written and designed by my talented friend Marissa Haro. To see more of her work check out her website: www.marissaharo.com

index

index

In the book Marissa tackles several issues pertaining to the drug war that is taking place in Mexico and the US. Mexican president Felipe Calderon openly declared war on the Mexican drug cartels in December of 2006, and heavily militarized the country. Since then, more than twelve thousand people have been killed.

so far from God, so close to...

so far from God, so close to...

In Mexico there is a saying “so far from God and so close to the US,” and in the case of the drug war, the saying is more than accurate. The US is the largest exporter of weapons and the largest consumer of drugs. Ninety percent of the weapons that are seized from Mexican drug traffickers can be traced back to the US. Most of these weapons are actually bought legally and then sold in the black market.

p16-17

p16-17

90% of the weapons

90% of the weapons

That is not say that the Mexican government is exempt of responsibility for the current situation. Widespread corruption among Mexican officials has allowed the cartels to flourish and to have their present strength. Corrupt officials continue to protect them.

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p20_21

without govermental coruption...

without govermental coruption...

However, any realistic end to the drug war must involve a shift in policy from the US towards both the use of drugs –treating addicts clinically as oppose to criminally—and towards gun control.

p18-19

p18-19

To me it’s simple economics. Consumption, not production is what needs to be deterred. If there is demand there will be supply. If a day ever came when the Mexican cartels no longer existed, new cartels would spring up in the Caribbean, in Asia, or anywhere else in the world for that matter.

In Drugs We Trust

In Drugs We Trust

I have an earlier post on the subject. This is a link to it: https://duncantonatiuh.wordpress.com/2009/04/21/narcocorridos/ The illustrations in that post have backgrounds, etc. Marissa decided to use only the characters in the images I made for design purposes.

elected Mayor of the largest borough in Mexico City caught at a table dance… dancing!

September 30, 2009
Juanito, elected Mayor for Mexico's City most populous borough

Juanito, elected Mayor for Mexico's City most populous borough

Rafael Acosta better known as Juanito is by far the most surreal of Mexican politicians to be in the scene for a while. Before becoming an activist (and by activist I mean being a part of demonstrations, getting beaten and beating police up) Juanito was a soft porn actor, lucha libre wrestler and a street vendor (still is). His idols are Rocky and Rambo and his favorite restaurant is a street market stall that sells shrimp with lots of ketchup.

In these past elections he received support from the influential Manuel Lopez Obrador, the left candidate who almost became president of Mexico in 2006.  The deal however was that if Juanito (from the PT) won he’d give his post to Clara Brugada, Obrador’s actual choice, who wasn’t able to win the nomination for candidate (PRD) because of internal conflicts in the party.

Juanito accepted the terms, and to the surprise of everyone he won the election for Mayor of Iztapala, Mexico City’s most populous borough. He surprised everyone even more days after when he rebelled and claimed that he had won the election and that he was going to become Mayor of the borough disregarding the deal.

Unfortunately the entertainment is over. After a meeting with Marcelo Ebrad, Mexico’s City Mayor Juanito gave a news conference in which he declared that due to heart problems he would after all resign his post and give it to Clara Brugada.

Juanito wasn’t actually caught at a table dance dancing. But he might as well have been. These are some images of the real Juanito. Someone please write a Wiki entry about him!

Juanito

Juanito

Thank You Baby Jesus because we are going to the worldcup!!!

September 28, 2009
Thank You Baby Jesus becaus we are going to the worldcup!!!

Thank You Baby Jesus because we are going to the worldcup!!!

“Thank you baby Jesus because we are going to the worldcup!!! Thanks you because we beat Honduras, Costa Rica and Landon Donovan’s big head gringos. José Ramirez Gomez. September 28, 2009.”

This illustration is inspired by retablos, or ex-votos which are devotional painting usually drawn in a naif style by people who’ve had no training in art,  but that draw them to a saint or virgin of their devotion as a Thank you for the fulfillment of something they’ve asked for.

ex-voto

ex-voto

This is one of my favorites. It is of a man thanking Saint Jude for not getting caught while cheating with his friend’s wife and asking for forgiveness because the flesh is weak.

Santo Niño del futbol in Tacuba

Santo Niño del futbol in Tacuba

And this a photograph of “el Santo Niño del futbol”, a  baby Jesus located in a church in Tacuba, Mexico City that gets dressed up with the national team’s uniform every time there in important soccer match.

Landon Donovan has a big forehead.

Gandhi in Chiapas

September 24, 2009
Gandhi in Chiapas

Gandhi in Chiapas

This is an image I put together for my friend Aaron Sinift’s 5 Year Plan project. The project entails the making of a handmade book and is meant to be a seva, a service to honor Gandhi. The book will be printed in Chennai, India in collaboration with Tara Books and will feature the work of 32 artists (including me, yay!).  To find out more about the 5 year plan visit: http://www.5yearplan.org/ Some parts of the website are under construction, so be sure to check it out again at a later date.

Gandhi Print

Gandhi Print

This is the image I made for the book. I tried keeping the colors to a minimum since it is going to be silk-screened. When Aaron told me about the project I immediately wanted to relate it to Mexico, my country of origin and inspiration; and a country with many parallels to India. If you don’t believe me check out this gorgeous photography book: India-México, Vientos paralelos.

I thought of the Zapatista movement, because the idea of self –sufficiency that Gandhi and Aaron’s project are trying to promote very much resonates with that movement for indigenous autonomy in Chiapas. I must admit though, that I am not very up to date with any recent news about the Zapatistas. I appreciate any good leads in the subject, especially about later, rather than early events.

Thank you Virgen de Guadalupe

May 6, 2009
Thank you Virgen de Guadalupe

Thank you Virgen de Guadalupe

Thank you Virgen de Guadalupe because the Diablo did not bring the swine flu to San Miguel el Grande and because father Eulalio didn’t have to cancel mass although we had to pray with face masks on. (Please forgive my husband Florencio who always falls asleep in church and starts to snore) May 5th 2009, María Remedios Mercado.