Oaxaca Journal, V.13

By    Friday May 30, 2008

For ages Mexicans have been the butt of jokes for their purported "Manana -- I'll get to it tomorrow" attitude. Synonymous with slow service, drawn out lunches and siestas, they're said to live their lives at a snail's pace. For a Manhattanite like myself, our move to Mexico was a potential threat - might I be forced to reduce my usual comet-like speed to the point of lethargy?

What I've found during our two years in Oaxaca is a world of simultaneity. People stroll past architecture that dates from the 1500's while talking on cell phones, and the ruins of magnificent vanished civilizations are just a short drive away. Perhaps this proximity to history is why Mexicans take more time to celebrate life as well as death with extended fiestas.

This simultaneity is reflected in their art as well. "The Big Three" as they were known - Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Jose Clemente Orozco - painted complex murals, seamlessly marrying modern and ancient history with social and political themes. Their enormous frescoes brought social realist art into public spaces throughout the world in their heyday, from the 1920's through the 1950's.

Being surrounded by so much history has made me slow down to take stock of my relationship to this world as well. My sketchbook drawings, which at first I randomly jotted down as separate unconnected images, have melded together into unified visual narratives.


Two spreads from Peter Kuper's current sketchbook. Left: A day in Oaxaca. Right: Olmec and Ol' me.

When we get back to Manhattan next month, I'm looking forward to a return to the energy of the greatest city in the world, but hope to retain the influence of Mexico. Along with an appreciation for simultaneity, I'm hoping to continue my practice of longer lunches and siestas.

That is, if I can find the time.

This is the 13th installment of Peter Kuper's reports from Oaxaca. A cartoonist and illustrator, Peter moved with his wife and daughter to Oaxaca in 2006. His coming-of-middle-age graphic novel, Stop Forgetting to Remember, as well as a collection of his first decade of Spy vs Spy strips have been recently published. Diaro De Oaxaca, a compilation of his sketchbooks and writing from Mexico will be published this fall.