In April 2004, at the time when I was doing the last few commissions as an editorial illustrator, I published in a magazine a drawing that accompanied an article titled La conexión mexicana (The Mexican Connection) by Tamar Jacoby. The text analyzed the relationship between a couple of villages in the Southwest of the State of Puebla (Mixteca) in Mexico and New York, taking as a departure point the increasing migration originated 50 years ago with the Bracero Program. One of the villages was Piaxtla, located within the group called “the ghost villages of Puebla”, that is to say, communities that are under threat of disappearance because of the massive displacement of their inhabitants to the United States.
Four years later, I had the opportunity to carry out something that I always wanted to do whenever a story I illustrated called my attention. I wanted to exceed the conditions and the format of the trade I abandoned and to break with the subordination of the images to the authors and their text. That’s how the idea of going back to that article emerged, tackling the relationship between Mexico and the United States from the case study of the situation in Piaxlta and its links to New York City.
I lived in the village for a month and a half during which I spent my time drawing tales people from the village told me, both related and not to the particular relationship with the United States. The municipal authorities gave my assistant and me a place to work in the town’s cultural center. I asked every person I met to tell me something about the town that they thought should be remembered. I ended up with all kinds of stories: legends, myths, recent events, customs, descriptions of places, etc. Almost no one thought it was relevant to talk about the “ghostly” nature of the town or the reasons why this began to happen decades earlier.
It took me a long time to realize that a lot of these stories explained the origin of the displacement of people to New York City, even if they didn’t seem to do so at the beginning. Many of the drawings I made came from beliefs related to the vigilance of the rivers and crops by the Nahuales (sorcerers capable of shape-shifting into an animal). The abandonment of agriculture due to constant droughts as one of the main causes of migration is well documented.
Selection of 34 drawings.
With the assistance of Enrique Arriaga and the collaboration of the inhabitants of Piaxtla, Pue.
Produced by Casa del Lago, Mexico city.