Oaxaca Journal, V.8

By    Thursday November 1, 2007

While Halloween in the USA is already a sweet memory, here in Mexico things are still warming up for Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Last year at this time, Oaxaca was exploding with a teachers strike, federal troops were swarming over the town square and journalist Brad Will was lying dead in a morgue. This year, Oaxaca has, by outward appearances at least, returned to normal. The only thing swarming over the town square are tourists and locals selling carved animals and embroidered clothes.

As an American who grew up viewing cemeteries as grim places synonymous with mourning and discomfort, I feel relieved to be in a culture that converts that bleak environment into a place of celebration. On November 1st and 2nd, Mexican families spend days and nights at graves playing music, singing, rejoicing and honoring their dearly departed. Altars are set up with flowers and food, including skulls made of sugar, incense, candles and memorabilia that both commemorate the dead and entice them to return from the afterlife to enjoy the festivities.

In an attempt to get with the program, I curated a group show at a gallery in town and asked the participants, artists I've met here during the last year, to create self-portraits in the spirit of Day of the Dead. Here are some of the results:

Above, left to right by Azagra Rojo, Bernardo Porraz, Cristina Luna, and Esther GuIzar. Below, left to right by Gina Iturbe, Laura Blacona, Maries Mendiola and Peter Kuper.


This is the eighth installment of a regular communique from Peter Kuper, a cartoonist and illustrator whose work has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines, including Mad, where he has drawn "Spy vs. Spy" for the past eleven years.Peter's coming-of-middle-age graphic novel, Stop Forgetting to Remember was published this fall by Crown. A collection of "Spy vs Spy" strips will be also published this year by Watson-Guptill. His work is included in "LitGraphic: The World of the Graphic Novel," on view at the Norman Rockwell Museum from November 10, 2007 - May 26, 2008.