Artist imagines an unconquered Mexico
By Monica Rubalcava
Mexico City, Aug 27 (EFE).- Artist Angel Cabrales’ meditations on how history would have been different if Mexico had never been colonized led him to create “Axhuical” (Parallel), a ceramic and steel piece now on display at the official Mexico residence of United States Ambassador Ken Salazar.
“What is happening right now makes me very sad,” Cabrales told Efe, referring to ongoing tensions over migration.
“I wanted to do something that celebrates the land whence we come and I believe that (the US Embassy) also wanted to do that, because it’s a celebration of culture,” he said standing in front of “Axhuical.”
The piece is part of an exhibit, “The United States and Mexico: A Powerful Past, A Shared Future,” commemorating the bicentennial of diplomatic relations between the two nations.
Along with “Axhuical,” the ambassador and his wife, Esperanza, selected works by Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Dr. Atl, and Frank Romero, among others.
Cabrales, is an assistant professor of art at The University of Texas at El Paso, where he grew up keenly aware of his family’s connection to neighboring Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
“For me, Juarez was part of the city (El Paso),” he says, looking back. “We went every week. I believe that that is important, to learn how to make friends with other cultures, to make that mix.”
“That’s why I like the border so much, it has the best of both worlds,” the artist says.
When the young Angel asked his parents about the family’s origins, their responses left him with more questions.
“I wanted to know where the ancestors of my mama and my papa came from,” he recounts.
Genetic testing and genealogical research carried out by one of his cousins revealed that one of his grandfathers was a member of the Raramuri indigenous community in Chihuahua state (bordering Texas), while a grandmother hailed from the southern state of Oaxaca, where indigenous people make up a large proportion of the population.
Armed with that knowledge, Cabrales delved into the histories of Mexico’s indigenous peoples and began to ponder how those communities might have developed if not for the conquest.
With “Axhuical,” which is 16 feet (4.8 m) long and more than 4 feet tall, he presents a pair of alternate timelines running in parallel.
The top row narrates history as it happened, while the bottom postulates a “multiverse” in which the indigenous peoples developed their cultures without outside interference, prioritizing community above material considerations.
Cabrales sees his work as an expression of “Latino futurism,” which he defines as building on the best in Latino culture to transform the world.
“I think that art opens the door to speak about what is happening and what we could do, it helps to disarm the mind, and I want to open those doors,” he says. EFE