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Travel

A Mexican In... Paris

Vice: Where are you from?

by Mathieu Berenholc, Baker Wardlaw, Alejandra Carrillo
Jun 2 2008, 12:00am


Abraham Cruzvillegas

Vice: Where are you from?

Abraham:
I grew up in a neighborhood that wasn’t even a neighborhood—it was land taken by immigrants. It was called Colonia Ajusco because you could see the Ajusco Mountains. It was like a moon landscape, just lava and rocks. The government didn’t think that it could be inhabited by anyone, but soon there were a lot of people immigrating from the countryside, as my father did. They took the land illegally and started constructing their houses with materials that were already there: mostly volcanic rock and used wood. It was a singular experience, being part of that community. We shared everything.

How long have you been in France?

Three years. I was invited to do an art residency in a small village called Saché. It was at the atelier of Alexander Calder, the American sculptor. I spent six months there, and then came to Paris with my wife, Alejandra, where she is getting a PhD.

Can you tell me about how Paris is included in your artwork?

I have a piece that is made from boxes and crates used in the French markets to transport fruit. After the markets close, those boxes are stacked everywhere. I spent some time collecting them. It was, for me, a fantastic material... it’s used only once, and you see these big piles. This material, for me, means Paris. The garbage here is very nice, it’s new, it’s used only once. These crates had fruit from Africa, from Mexico and Spain. It was such a synthesis of globalism through garbage, and through what we eat here. I took the boxes and painted the bases black and composed a black landscape.

French people don’t know shit about Mexico. We don’t have any cultural or historical relations as far as I’m aware of.

Hey, there was a war between France and Mexico! Cinco de Mayo is the celebration of our victory over the French. There was a French emperor in Mexico, under Napoleon III I think. After a year, the Mexicans shot the emperor. My friend Beto is from Puebla, in the countryside, and they are so proud of the fact that they defeated the French Army. They were indigenous guys, without shoes, and they won the war! I don’t know how, but they did.

No wonder they don’t teach us about it. Can you tell me some differences between a French guy and a Mexican guy?

I think we Mexicans don’t trust everybody. You cannot walk around with a nice camera in the streets because it might be stolen. But you have to look at the social, economic, and historical contexts. Obviously I love my country, but the poverty is so widespread that it’s impossible not to have violence, crime, and delinquency—these people have nothing to lose. Something good I can say about Mexicans is that we are enthusiastic. We can go beyond death, or so we think. We can get through any circumstance. Nothing is so bad.

INTERVIEW BY MATHIEU BERENHOLC AND BAKER WARDLAW
PHOTO BY ALEJANDRA CARRILLO