I returned from Mexico City over 1 week ago and I haven't had time to talk about my trip. We took 4 young artists from Visual Element to paint a mural at the El Faro de Oriente as part of the Mexican Hip Hop Festival. The students had a bomb time but most importantly, they experienced what it was like to leave Oakland. Sophat has never been out of the country in his life, Kong has never left the Bay. For many of them, it was first time for alot of shit. Kong danced with a woman for the first time in his life. Three of them had never dined at an Italian restaurant. What was tight is that they all opened up and absorbed Mexican culture, and the loved it. We rode in the Metro everyday we painted all the way to Ixtapalapa, we were staying in el Centro Historico so that's like a 45 minute trip.
We had some crazy episodes throughout the whole trip too. It was as if everyday we had to go through some intense stuff. On one night, when we were kicking it with the Cuban rappers, Doble Filo, 11 of us got stuck in the elevator. That's after drinking a little bit. I almost lost my cool, fucken Mexican elevators don't buzz when they are filled to capacity. The oxygen was running out, or maybe I was just imagining that. I started to get nervous but I didn't want to lose my cool in front of the students. I needed to be strong in case one of them started to freak out. Anyway, we ended up getting out after damaging the elevator. On another day, Sophat got detained by the Metro police for taggin on the damn Metro. There was an undercover narc on board, juts our luck, and he saw Sophat taggin. We all got pulled out at the Zaragoza stop. He was about to get arrested. I had to lie and say he was a minor. I felt hella bad, I knew he fucked up, but damn, what the hell was Sophat going to do in jail in Mexico. The fool can't even speak Spanish. So after some begging and some sobs, they let us go. Whack!
The spot we were painting at was in the straight hood, near the projects. One day when were painting some fools started talking shit, like "What are you gringos doing here". Well, for one, we aint no gringos, all of us are immigrants or the kids of immigrants. But its' funny, we are considered Americans abroad. If only they knew how our communities get treated in this country. I do believe though that we do have to acknowledge we do have certain priviledge, so the fact that they talked shit didn't bug me so much. They did have some points. But the boys in our crew did not take it too well so a fight was bout to break out. Luckily, I talked some sense into Estria and he kicked back. We can't cause a scene in a place we are visiting, that's just not cool. Plus we are adults. So they let it go.
On another day when we were painting, some dude was inhaling some crazy shit. Who knows what it was. But we had to stop painting and just shoot the shit with them, cause they were high as hell and we were worried they might try to jack us. You can see the video by clicking here. That brother on the far left just busted out laughing he was so high off whatever he was inhaling.
What was off the hook was Friday (Oct 8th) when the Mexican b-boys showed up and started just jamming near us as were painting. Sophat busted out with his breaking skills too and they had a jam. They all were feeling Sophat's style. It was incredibly mind-opening for Sophat and for all the Visual Element heads to see what hip hop in Mexico is like. It blew their mind that hip hop was so big. You can see the video of them breaking here. It's a large file so skip it if you don't a have high speed connection.
The mural looked super tight after we completed it. Alot of the Mexican youth were feeling it and we got a lot of love from everyone. El FARO is a unique place too, artists are always around doing their craft. They have workshops on silkscreening, capoiera, literature, guitar, paper mache, mc-ing, drawing, carpentry, paper-making, you name it. It's a dope environment and we got the opportunity to talk to folks everyday. Folks from the hood, you know, people that are struggling. It was the perfect place for us to be and for us to paint. The physical mural, the actual product was just one aspect of what we gained from this trip. This is really what being an artist for the people means, it means that you create beauty and infuse revolutionary culture into the grassroots community. On the day of the mural opening celebration, I explained the mural to the people that were gathered to celebrate with us. I explained that what this mural was about was people resisting the monster that is globalization and corporate dominance. The figures in the mural represented people from all parts of the world, we depicted Palestinians, Zapatistas, Middle-Easterners. And we depicted them walking towards victory. The top of the mural reads "Estamos en la misma lucha", translated that reads "We are in the same struggle."
What was also impressive to me was to see what I can create. Estria pushed me alot to paint, and I actually wasn't going to because I had to do so much logistical stuff. But once I started, I realized that I am born to paint. It was tight. I was nervous cause I've never painted my characters in that size. And I had limited materials to work with and we were all working under really crazy conditions. Rain, unstable ladders, high traffic, the spray paint was affecting all of us. There was limited access to everything but we had to make do. I'm really happy with how my character came out. You can see the entire mural process photos here. click here for mural pics
Sometime this week I will post some pics of us just chillin in Mexico.