Tbilisi

May 18, 2010

Duncan

One of the most exciting experiences I’ve had this year was attending the Tbilisi Regional Art Festival -Degree & Profession in Tbilisi, Georgia. I was invited to present my project Journey of a Mixteco, which was my senior thesis at Parsons the New School of Design in 2008.

I went to the festival with Lydia Matthews, Dean of Academic Programs at Parsons and three other Parson’s alumni: Christopher Nesbit from Photography, Ida Benedetto from Design and Technology and Georgeana Ortiz from Fashion. It was Lydia’s sixth time in Tbilisi. Besides her work at Parsons she is a curator and has brought artists to the city before. We were the only American university invited to the event. This invitation was largely due to the relationship and passion that Lydia has with the Georgian country.

Several European universities were invited to participate. Unfortunately due to the volcanic ash, only Parsons and the Yerevan State University of Architecture and Construction from Armenia were able to attend. The event was hosted by the Tbilisi State Academy of Arts, but several schools from Tbilisi were involved. The Romualdo del Bianco Foundation was an instrumental sponsor of the event.

Most of our Parsons group flew from JFK. Some of us met for the first time at the airport. Ida, who is a Fulbright grantee in Ethiopia, flew from Addis Ababa to meet us.

Hagia Sophia

We were able to work out a day stop in Istanbul before heading to Tbilisi. Istanbul is an incredible city, and it was a tease to be there for such a short time. Click here to see more photographs I took while in Istanbul.

***

The Tbilisi festival organizers were incredible hosts, especially Nana Iashvili the Dean of the Faculty of Art Media, who always looked after us. Plenty of food and wine were a must every day. During our visit we attended a variety of cultural events and were able to go sightseeing in the country on two occasions.

We visited Mtskheta, Bodbe and Sighnaghi.

near the Jvari monastery

I was really taken aback by the churches. They are very sparse, like caves and have wonderful Byzantine art. Being in such ancient places makes one realize how old the world is.

This is a link to more photographs

***

Shibori

We we were in Tbilisi for 4 days total. On the second day Georgeana and I participated in a Shibori workshop. Shibori is a Japanese dying technique. The workshop was held at La Maison Bleue, a textile art studio established by five artists, all graduates of the Tbilisi State Academy of Art. The workshop instructor was Keti Kavtaradze. I got to meet her and Nino Kvrivishvili, also an artist at the studio.

Nino Kvrivishvili

The students that participated were from a variety of universities and from different disciplines, but mostly from textile design. These are the pieces that Georgeana and I produced.

Click here to see more photographs of the workshop.

***

Presentation Day

On the last day of the festival we did the presentations of our thesis. Ida presented Lilliput, a photographic non-linear travel log. Chris showed his drawings of vanished buildings in New York imposed over photographs and videos of what stands there now. Georgeana showed a sustainable fashion collection inspired by the atmosphere and a best practice manual for sustainable fashion designers. I presented Journey of a Mixteco, a short graphic novel based on the true story of an undocumented Mexican worker that now lives in New York.

when I come to New York I have so many jobs, man

There were a number of Georgian students that that also presented their thesis, as did two of the Armenian students. Most of the other projects shown were in the fields of architecture and animation.

After the thesis presentations there was a break. Afterwards there was a presentation of the projects that were produced during the workshops. In most of the workshops a variety of students came together for a couple of days and put together a short presentation that addressed a topic. Many of them had to do with globalization, and many were a celebration of  Georgian culture and heritage.

A fashion show followed, and afterward there was a ceremony to announce award winners.

Christopher won the award for the best design. And to my delight my project won the prize for the best presentation. I was thrilled. It is very encouraging to know that although my project is very specific to an area in the world it is able to transcend and to be appreciated and understood in a completely different part of the world. I really want to continue developing the project now. I am looking for grants. Suggestions for places to look into are very welcome.

Chris, me and the xinkhali

It was a very special trip for me. I was able to connect with my Parsons peers through out the week and I was able to connect with some of the Georgian staff, faculty and students. They were very glad I won the award and that made the experience that much more memorable.

Georgians can and love to sing

I know the Festival was being filmed for a program on Georgian TV. I would love to get a hold of that footage.  It’d be very amusing to watch. I’m also looking for a youtube link to Mexican soap operas in Georgian. I saw a clip on TV for one of them at the hot baths…

***

The flight back to New York was brutal.

at the Istanbul airport

Author’s Day at the Woodbridge Library

May 17, 2010

Mixteco codex

My first book event in the US was at the Woodbridge Library in New Jersey. Every year the library has an Author’s Day when they invite several writers and librarians from the region to come. The librarians get to see the writers’ new work. We all get to meet each other and new books are brought back to libraries.

The event went really well. I did a presentation of my book Dear Primo. The librarians there specially liked the artwork of the book and where able to further appreciate it because I showed some slides of the Pre-Columbian and Mixteco art that inspires my illustrations. The copies of my book at the event sold out, and I signed a lot of books. It was very rewarding.

The Popularity Papers

There were other authors at the event. I specially liked meeting Amy Ignatow. She is a fellow author-illustrator. Her book is called The Popularity Papers. It’s super-entertaining and I highly recommend it. It’s published by Abrams also.

The only dark side to the visit was that I learned from librarians in Woodbridge that up to 70% of the New Jersey public library budgets are being cut. Unfortunately this is the case in many other states. You can visit http://www.ilovelibraries.org/ to get involved and sign a petition to stop these cuts.

I have some new events coming up. I will be at the Book Expo in the Javit Center in New York City on May 25th. I will be at Books of Wonder in Manhattan on June 5th and I will be at the American Library Association conference in DC on June 27th and 28th. I’ll put more info about these events in my facebook and twitter accounts as the dates approach.

Uninter Cuernavaca

May 17, 2010

Rivera mural in the Cortez Palace, Cuernavaca

I was invited by Abraham Popoca to show my book at the Universidad Internacional in Cuernavaca. Abraham along with a group of students there runs a research center that looks into policy relating to children’s rights. They were interested in my book because of its bi-national nature.

I did a presentation of the book and showed them also another picture book I wrote and illustrated called Solar Cookies. The college students there enjoyed the books and had excellent and challenging questions. One of the students asked me if I worried that the Mexican child in the book was a stereotype, or that a Mexican child who saw the book would be ashamed of how Mexican children are represented in it.

Dear Primo’s main character are Carlitos and Charlie. Carlitos is a rural boy from Mexico, Charlie is his cousin and lives in a city in the US. Carlitos wears sandals. Charlie wears hightop sneakers and a fitted baseball hat.

Carlitos

I could understand why the Uninter student would ask that question. I have a multilayered response to it. To begin, the book is addressed to children between 4-8. And though I always attempt to create something sophisticated, for this project it was very important to focus on the contrasts between Carlitos and Charlie -much like the country mouse and city mouse story- and keep them clear and simple.

I am aware that Mexico is a very urbanized country. The Mexico City metropolitan area is the largest metropolitan area in the American continent. And I am aware that Mexico is in many ways a very Americanized country, and that the US also is a very Mexican country. But again, for the sake of clarity and simplicity I had to make the contrasts in food, environment, etc very clear, almost extreme. Yet, the point of the book is that regardless of their nationalities Carlitos and Charlie are at heart more alike than different.

There is an important reason why I decided to make Carlitos a rural boy and Charlie an urban one. Without being overt, I am acknowledging the migration of Mexican workers to the US. A large portion of these workers come from rural backgrounds and often migrate to cities in the US. They work as deliveryman, nannies, construction workers and in other service industries. That is the experience of people I know both in San Miguel Allende, where I grew up, and in New York, where I went to school.

Further, tradition and progress don’t have to be mutually exclusive. One can be can modern and up to date and at the same time have a strong sense of identity. One can be technologically savvy and at the same time be proud of ones heritage and traditions.

After the presentation I got to hang out with some Uninter students. It was a lot of fun. The students at the research center are a very close and supportive group.

***

I’m currently working on a new picture book. It is inspired by the life and art of Diego Rivera. It wil be out next spring. Although I didn’t see the Rivera mural in Cuernavaca on my visit to the Uninter, I did see it on a previous visit to the city. It’s excellent and entrance is free on Sundays, I believe.

Rancho Alcocer School

May 17, 2010

Escuela Rancho Alcocer

It was quite fitting that the first reading of my newly published book Dear Primo was to kids at my old elementary school. It was a spur of the moment kinda thing. I ran into Mario, my old principal, at el Tecolote bookstore. A few days later I grabbed the proof of my book -the book wasn’t available yet then- and took the little school bus up to Alcocer, a rural community outside of San Miguel Allende.

There are only 20 or so students in the school. They don’t wear uniforms. Students from different grades are mixed together. There are chickens, rabbits and a large vegetable garden that the students help rise. The school was closed for many years, but it re-opened two years ago. Fortunately, very little has changed since the time I attended it more than 15 years ago.

It was a very special to be in Alcocer as a guest alumni after such a long time. It was lot of fun and a good learning experience reading to the kids there. They enjoyed the book. They asked a lot of questions and put me on the spot more then once.

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…

***

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.

Go Mark Sanchez! Hot Dogs! Tacos! Burritos

January 24, 2010

Go Mark Sanchez! Hot Dogs! Tacos! Burritos!

There are 3 reasons why I made the illustration above.

1)When I was about 12 my Dad told me he was a Jets fan; therefore by the rules of nature and genetics I became a Jets fan too. Unfortunately the team has not been in the playoffs for a while, a very long while. But that just changed this season.

2) I like to make illustrations about prominent Mexican Americans (check out my illo of Astro_Jose). Mark Sanchez grandparent’s are from the states of Zacatecas and Jalisco. Almost unwittingly he has become a role model for latino’s and a source of pride for Mexicans and Mexican Americans by being the most successful Mexican American in the sport. He was the 5th overall pick in the NFL draft and I think he is the rookie of the year.

3)The whole hot dog incident was just too funny, and so was all the media attention it received.

The game was against the Raiders and   the Jets were beating them good. Mark Sanchez did apologize for that improper conduct. Give the man a break though. Wearing all that gear and looking at all the fans in the stadium chomping down them hot dogs would make me hungry too. He donated a thousand hot dogs to a soup kitchen in NJ as part of his apology.

I think someone photoshopped this pic but its the only one I could find.

Go Jets! Go Mark Sanchez! Hot dogs! Tacos! Burritos! Give him the fuerza!

Legba

January 19, 2010

Legba 1

Haiti has been in the news because of the terrible earthquake that struck the country last Tuesday, January 12th. Even before the earthquake, most of the news we got from Haiti were negative, relating to the poverty, violence or other natural disasters.

But Haiti is also a culturally rich country and that should be in the news and celebrated too. I find it rich particularly in terms of music and dance, and also in terms of visual arts.

A few years ago I did a series of illustrations inspired by Haitian art. I did these illustrations for a class called Culture and Representation.

Disclaimer: people, particularly in America, are sensitive and sometimes offended when someone from another culture depicts a culture that is not their own. I did this in my illustrations, but I tried doing it with utmost respect and with the best of intentions. I do not seek to offend anybody.


Legba 2

For these illustrations I tried re-adapting a story of Legba to a contemporary NY context. There is a large Haitian diaspora in the city and that is where I was living and studying at the time.

Legba is a loa, a spirit from the Voodoo religion, which is depicted as an old man and found at the crossroads. He is the link between the human world and the divine world. He has similarities with the orisha Ellegua in Cuba and to Exu in Brazil.


Legba 3

In the story a man (in my story a teenager) friends the wandering Legba. They stay for the night at an abandoned house.


Legba 4

During the night the man wakes up and sees Legba lighting the house on fire. They run from the flames and barely escape. The man is awe struck and asks Legba what he did that for.


Legba 5

Legba tells him that under the house there is a great treasure buried, that tomorrow when the owner comes he’ll be full of grief, but when he begins re-building his home he’ll find the treasure. The story seems quite poignant now, after the tragedy.

I need to find the root source of the story. It might in fact be from West Africa, where Legba and Vodoo have their origin.

The symbol in the last illustration is a Veve, a symbol that is drawn to call upon a loa during a Voodoo ritual.  Maya Daren captured some powerful footage of these rituals between 1947 and 1954. Here is a piece of her film: Divine Horsemen-The Living Gods of Haiti

Haiti along with other countries like Brazil and France has a rich tradition of naïf artists. That is, autodidactic artists that use bright colors and evocative, almost childlike, depictions that disregard the standards of traditional western art.

Here are some examples:


loa with leaves, from http://www.arthaiti.com


the ceremony, from http://www.arthaiti.com

I tried capturing some of the spirit of that art in my project.

I first became curious of Haiti because of my friend Dj Sabine, check her myspace out: myspace.com/djsabine. She is Haitian-American Dj that mixes traditional Haitian music (and also other African, Caribbean and Latin rythms) with house.

To see some footage of the infamous white party in Brooklyn where she d-jays click here and here. I’m on the sidelines, working it out, in the second vid.

My idea with my project was to do something similar to what Sabine does, but visually. That is, remix traditional Haitian art, primarily naïf art, to a contemporary setting. In fact I use that method to do the artwork that I do now. I try to remix pre-Columbian Mexican art (and other Mexican popular arts) to contemporary beats.

I made the illos such that they connect to one another.

Don’t forget to donate and to keep the help to Haiti flowing in the coming weeks and months! Click here for a directory of aid websites.

Sunset Park Subway

December 22, 2009
D or N to the R

D or N to the R

A few weeks ago I received an email from Monica Toledo, an illustrator and designer from the IDC department at Parsons, the department I graduated from. She asked me if I’d be interested in participating in her project. It entailed creating an image about the experience of being a Latino artist that lives or has lived in New York which she would then hand embroider. I said sure. The image at the top of the post is the one I created, I will post the one she did based on it soon.

For about a year and a half I lived in Sunset Park, in Brooklyn, where there is a large Mexican enclave. I was thrilled when I first found the neighborhood, and thrilled when I moved there. While living in Sunset Park I worked for a couple that was renovating a brownstone in Harlem. I’d ride the D train all the way from 36th Street BK to 125th Street Manhattan. I always took my sketchbook with me. These are some of the sketches I did:

D W4 to 36th St

D 59th to 125th St

D Broadway Lafayette to 36th St

I always tried writing the stop where the drawing started and the stop where the drawing ended. I got the biggest thrill from doing these drawings because I had to draw as fast as I could. I never knew where the person would get off and the drawing would end. I have two sketchbooks full of these drawings and I plan on filling more once I’m underground again.

When Monica told me about the project it seemed natural to me to draw a scene that takes place in the subway, with a variety of Latinos -the mom, the child, the workers, the hoodlum, the teenage girl, the artist- in this case all  Mexicans, riding along.

Here is the full Sunset Park story, which I think also gets at the crux of what being Mexican in NY was like for me:

“I don’t know what the hell’s the matter with her. She’s crazy, me entiendes?” says a girl in her late teens. She’s wearing tight jeans, airforce ones and is bundled in a Baby Phat jacket. With that outfit she could be Dominican, or Black, or Chinese, –or anything, really; it’s that inner City public school outfit—but her features, the flags on the stores around us, and the street carts selling tacos and gorditas assure me that she’s Mexican.

“What is you say? Que esta loca?” says a guy walking next to her. He is wearing tight jeans instead of baggy ones, old black shoes instead of new Nikes, an awkward fitting denim jacket instead of a North Face, a baseball hat that buckles in the back instead of a New Era fitted one. He is Mexican too, but unlike the girl, a recent arrival.

I walk behind them for a couple of blocks before I reach a phone. I listen to them speak Mexican slang: chido, guey, pinche; words that you don’t hear other Latinos in the City say. They mix it with New York lingo –Word? For Real?—and I don’t know if it’s the contrast of sounds, the back and forth of slangs, or the mere sight of them, but something clicks. Something feels right. I’m moving to this neighborhood.

I’m on my last quarters, but I finally reach the guy. “Sorry,” he says, “the room is taken already,” and hangs up. I look around; a mother is about to cross the street. She is holding her children’s hand. They could be the kids that sell dolls and crafts at the market, the kids that watch the goats in the ranches. But instead they are here, surrounded by brick buildings and traffic lights. There is frozen snow on the ground and they’re speaking perfect Nickelodeon English.

I thought that Sunset Park was a big Cantonese enclave, but to my surprise, at least this large chunk of it, is not. Before I take the train back to my cousin’s place I buy myself some esquites –dos pesos—from a lady on the corner. The scolding hot soupy mix of corn, mayo, lime and chile burns my tongue, makes my nose drip and my eyes tear. It reminds me of home.

***

I pick Willy, my little brother up from the airport. He’s here for a few weeks. He has an interview scheduled at the small progressive boarding school I went to. We ride the train from the A to the F to the R, and drop his things off at my new place on 54th Street. My roommate, Angel, is not home. I’m surprised; he is usually here, sitting in the couch, half watching a bootleg DVD for the nth time and listening to Reggaeton while he instant messages on his Treo phone.

I liked the space and when I saw the Virgen de Guadalupe in the living room I was excited about living with him. Angel was born here, but his mom came from Puebla. He’s been there twice. The other day we were talking about Mexican legends and that was cool, and he says that he hits the salsa clubs on the weekends and I look forward to that; but I don’t know if it’s because of all the postmodern snobbery I’ve read, or the one too many Big Macs he’s eaten, or maybe it’s just the stars and we have different personalities, but the gap between us seems to be growing larger every day.

Willy and I walk over to Fifth Ave and I tell him that I’ll treat him to some food, but really the treat is for me. He eats Mexican everyday. I haven’t had any in months. And we have choices, from 36th Street, where the cemetery ends, all way down to 64th, the BQE, it’s nothing but Mexican Restaurants, groceries, DVDs and CDs stores, with some barber shops, churches, Associated supermarkets and the occasional Burger King and Footlocker between them; a lot of commerce and pedestrian traffic, actually. It’s a pretty happening neighborhood in its own way.

We settle for Restaurante el Charro, between 42nd and 43rd, right across the Park. A girl with a DF, a Mexico City accent takes our order. Willy, short for William Tlaloc Smith Hernandez, gets some enchiladas and I get chiles rellenos and a tamarind water. On a 1 to 10 scale, it gets a 7, and I’m being generous. The cheese is plasticky, the rice and beans are a little too mushy and acrid. But the portions are good and the price is right. The check comes and I pay. I leave a good tip, the way an older brother should.

We walk up the park. The grass is thawing and yellow. Its slopes look into the Jersey industrial shore. We turn around. The sky is silver and vast. On the right, lower Manhattan’s skyscraper peek over Brooklyn. It’s a gray, nippy day. We won’t see one of those beautiful fuchsia sunsets that give the park its name; not today.

Soccer balls start to fly as we reach the top. They are all Mexicanos, all paisas, playing on a large concrete slab next to the basketball courts. We could try to pick up a game, but Willy and I decide to roam some more. The neighborhood is just a new for me as it is for him.

We walk past an empty pool and then go down the park’s west end into streets lined with brownstones. Willy tells me about our little cousin Luis, the devil. He saw him yesterday at my grandma’s before my uncle put him on the plane. He tells me of little Luis’ “Chivas! Chivas!” battle cry before he kicks your shins. Then he tells me about Norberto and his other friends in San Miguel. I tell him that this semester is rough, that I’m scratching for money, but that I finally have a job as a cashier at an Indian fusion food place in Soho.

I ask him how Dad is doing, if he is recuperating at all and Willy is saying, “So-so,” when we reach Eight Avenue. So this is where all the Chinese people on the D train that I transfer out of on 36th street end up. It’s the mirror image of Fifth Ave, but instead of Spanish, the Restaurants, bakeries and groceries have big red and yellow signs with letters I can’t read. Instead of tortillas or mole the stores sell bok choi and crabs, and instead of tacos or tamales the street carts sell boxes of Lo Mein, Mei fun and fried rice for $1.25 a pop.

I’m used to it, its three years in New York now, but for Willy its something else. He is coming from our picturesque town, where the only foreign language is the English that ex-pats and bohemian gringos –our father being one of them—speak. As we reach a corner we see a white man, big like a polar bear, in a janitors outfit roaring Russian, or I don’t know what into his cell phone and Willy says, “Its funny how all these different people are here, but they are all in their own worlds.”

***

We head back to my place, to my bare room, to my flat air bed and take it easy. We have a quiet and uneventful night. In the morning after bagels with cream cheese –Willy didn’t want tamales—we head to the park. It’s a beautiful and sunny day. He does the talking and scores us a game. This is what he does; soccer is what his life revolves around back in San Miguel. I haven’t played for years.

It’s four on four, with four medium step goals and goals that have to be scored bellow the waist. “Where you from?” says a guy in our team.

“Guanajuato,” I say, “and you?”

“From DF.”

“There are some people from DF arriving, huh?” I say. I can tell some of the other guys playing are from there also. They have that Mexico City grimy street wit and vampirey looks that the more indigenous looking guys from Puebla or Guerrero don’t have.

“Yeah,” he says, “we’re starting to come out,” and then goes, “Guanajuato? A chingaos? Where is that?”

***

We last three games before they beat us. Beto, the guy from DF, scored most of our goals, and me and Willy did all right. The only pissed off one is the Ecuadorian kid that played defense most of the time. He leaves. El cabrito, the older pale guy with the long sheep hair and the skinny legs, pushed him and fouled him one too many times.

We sit on the floor near the fence and wait for one of the teams to loose so that we can play again. I watch the goalie grab a can of beer from under a jacket, the goal’s post, and sip while the ball is away. “I was dying in there,” says Beto. “I’m all hung-over, you know?”

I nod and start thinking about my high school days, when I’d come back from boarding school and spend summers playing soccer and hanging out with the kids from my neighborhood in San Miguel. Then I start thinking about how those days are gone, about how long the train ride can feel every night; that maybe I should look into other neighborhoods where college kids are living. But then a soccer ball zooms right next to my face, and Beto says, “Orale, guey!” and Willy says, “Orale hermano! Nos toca!” They just scored; it’s our turn to go in. There’s a chilly breeze, but the sun is out. It has kept my bones warm. I stand up quickly, as fast as I can and think to myself that it’s good to be living here.

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:

p14-15

p22-23

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