Culture

Meet Frederico Vigil, The Creator Of The Largest Concave Fresco in North America – Mundos De Mestizaje

When visiting the National Hispanic Cultural Center campus in Albuquerque, New Mexico, it’s easy to write-off the upside-down, bucket shape form rising from the ground. It stands alone with no distinguishing marks. There are no large crowds to hint at the remarkable secret hidden inside. Visitors will know they are in the right place when the gray asphalt and concrete beneath their feet morph into red—matching the building’s exterior.

Two, towering wood doors mark the entry into the nondescript building.

Credit: Courtesy of Ximena N. Larkin

When the doors swing open, it’s impossible to avoid looking up because the vibrant colors of the ceiling act as a magnet, drawing eyes upwards. Step into the 45-foot dome-shaped structure to get a better look, and there, in the small Southwest town of less than 1 million, the largest fresco painting in North America wraps around the ceiling.

El Torreón is the name of the structure which houses Mundos de Mestizaje.

Credit: Courtesy of Ximena N. Larkin

The larger-than-the-Sistine-Chapel fresco made by Frederico Vigil. It took the Santa Fe native almost three years to have it approved and 10 years to complete it. The aerial artwork depicts thousands of years of Hispanic and pre-Hispanic history. Depending on your cultural background, some iconography is easy to spot and place in history. If you’re Mexican, La Virgen de Guadalupe, a portrait of the beloved civil rights leader Benito Juárez and the eagle, serpent, and nopal from Mexico’s coat of arms will stand out. But walk around the room, or sit in one of the lounging chairs that allow visitors to tip back and view the work at 180 degrees, and soon you’ll realize there are hidden figures among the more popular markers of Mexican and Indigenous identity.

“I’m a mixed man with many different bloodlines,” Vigil says on a phone call. “I’m mestizo. I wanted to show the history of what that means.”

For the project, Vigil consulted with seven scholars on Mesoamerican and Spanish historical culture in order to create an accurate depiction of the past.

Credit: Courtesy of Ximena N. Larkin

He says that just by looking at the Iberian Peninsula, there’s a mix of Romans, Celts, Muslims, and Phoenicians which is all tied into Spanish identity. Then, with the Americas, there’s Maya, Aztec and Toltec. The history of these lines iS not linear. They overlap, intertwine and blend together in a dizzying ride that Vigil worked to bring to life in Mundos de Mestizaje. 

The purpose is to show the viewer how interconnected and far-reaching culture is. Islamic philosopher Ibn Rushd is depicted sitting next to Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, a Medieval Torah scholar, and physician. Chacmool, the pre-Columbian sculpture found throughout Mesoamerica shares space with George Washington and an African slave. 

“There are no purebloods, we are all mixed—or perhaps the only people who can say they are of pure blood are the Amazons or indigenous tribes that have lived in isolation,” Vigil says. “When people begin to study the past, they realize we, as a society, are not genetically one thing.”

Vigil learned the art of fresco painting from Lucienne Bloch and Stephen Pope Dimitroff. The couple might not be household names outside of the art community, but their bosses were. Bloch and Dimitroff were assistants to the world-renowned Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. 

Vigil connected with the couple thanks to the Santa Fe Council for The Arts.

Credit: Courtesy of Ximena N. Larkin

The organization reached out to Vigil to gauge his interest in a scholarship learning from the pair. Now in their 70s, the two aging artists were making strides to ensure their knowledge was passed down to a new generation of creators. Art lessons were accompanied by tales of the past that included Kahlo, Rivera, and friends such as Leon Trotsky. There, he learned the complicated and time-consuming process of fresco painting.

A surface is rough plastered with a mix of lime, sand, and cement. On average, a layer takes 10-12 hours to dry. A painter can go to work an hour into the drying process and usually has between seven to nine hours of time to complete their design. The art then needs 7-10 days between coats. If the painter messes up, they have to scrape off the layers and begin again.

“I’m a procrastinator but when the wall is wet, you have to paint,” says Vigil. “Each painting is a new experience. It doesn’t get old.”

Vigil is currently working on a new 2,500-plus square foot monumental fresco at the Albuquerque Convention Center.

Credit: Courtesy of Ximena N. Larkin

His new work tells the tale of New Mexico’s history as the oldest state in the U.S. to produce wine. He says the piece could take four to six years to complete. He’s currently in his second year.

The hours for the Torreón (where the fresco is housed) are Saturdays and Sundays from 12-5 p.m., plus it is open by appointment, which can be scheduled with Juanita Ramírez at Juanita.ramirez@state.nm.us or 505-383-4774. The NHCC presents concerts in the Torreón in partnership with the Pimentel & Sons Guitar Makers. The Torreón is available for rentals under certain circumstances and with some restrictions. 

READ: 20 Bizarre Nail Art Ideas That I Just Will Never Understand

A Mexican-American Now Holds One Of The Highest Positions In The US Catholic Church, Could This Be An Anti-Trump Statement?

Things That Matter

A Mexican-American Now Holds One Of The Highest Positions In The US Catholic Church, Could This Be An Anti-Trump Statement?

America The Jesuit Review

The Catholic Church has had a varied position in the political spectrum in contemporary times in the Americas. While in South American countries such as Chile and Argentina it has aligned with conservative governments and those in power, in the United States this centuries-old institution has traditionally been seen as a progressive force that generally innovates when it comes to the inclusion of ethnic minorities (they are, however, still pretty conservative when it comes to gender and sexual diversity, and reproductive rights).

It should not come as a surprise that the conclave of US Catholic bishops just made a pretty big decision by choosing an immigrant archbishop as perhaps the highest ranking priest in the country. He is a defender of migrant rights and can potentially be highly influential with the Latino vote come the 2020 presidential election. 

José Gomez, an immigrant of Mexican heritage was just named the next president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 

In vernacular terms, this is a BFD. Archbishop José Gomez leads the Church in Los Angeles, a key jurisdiction when it comes to important affairs such as immigration, bilateral relations with Mexico and progressive agendas that the Church traditionally opposes, such as same-sex marriage and the legalization of marijuana. Los Angeles is also the largest archdioceses in the country, in part due to the large population of Latinos and Filipinos, who are traditionally born and raised Catholic.

He was elected almost unanimously with 176 votes from his fellow bishops, with just 18 votes going to his opponent, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit, who was subsequently voted vice president.

America The Jesuit Review sums up his background: “Archbishop Gomez, who was born in Monterrey, Mexico, was ordained to the priesthood in the Opus Dei prelature in 1978. In 1980, he received a doctorate in sacred theology from the University of Navarra, in Spain. He served as a priest in Texas from 1987 to 2000”. Even though he comes from one of the most conservative congregations in the Church, the Opus Dei, he has made a career by defending the rights of the marginalized.

He is a defender of migrants and a fierce supporter of DACA, so his election could be read as a political statement.

Credit: America The Jesuit Review

Archbishop José Gomez has long defended migrant rights, which has made him popular among the Latino population of Los Angeles, one of the most multicultural metropolis in the world. Even though he had been serving as vice-president and his election followed tradition, some argue that it is also a sort of unofficial positioning of the Catholic Church against the iron-fisted immigration policies of the Trump administration, which have brought immense suffering to Latinos in the greater Los Angeles area, including forced family separations and deportations by the now despised government agency ICE. 

He doesn’t hold his words back when it comes to border affairs and the human crisis at hand.

Credit: The Intercept

As The New York Times reported, the archbishop said after his election: “We have this situation at the border, which is a tragedy. We are constantly talking about immigration, especially encouraging our elected officials to do something, and to come up with immigration reform that is reasonable and possible”. Traditionally the separation of Church and State has been pretty clear in the United States, but as some Christian Evangelical denominations have become quite tight with the Trump White House and validate its tough policies, perhaps the Catholic Church will be a counterbalance when it comes to political lobbying in defence of migrant rights. 

He was born in Mexico and now defends DACA recipients.

Archbishop Gomez, contrary to many men of the cloth, is very direct when it comes to his political position. In the eve of his election he read a message for DACA recipients from the pulpit, just as the Trump administration is fighting to reverse the program and as the president has called some DACA recipients “criminals” on Twitter.

The message read: “In this great country, we should not have our young people living under the threat of deportation, their lives dependent on the outcome of a court case. So, we pray tonight that our president and Congress will come together, set aside their differences, and provide our young brothers and sisters with a path to legalization and citizenship”.

As we said, he doesn’t hold back. This is an elegant way of opposing the POTUS without being confrontational. He also believes that there is a Latino wave in the Church, given that the Pope is Argentinian: “The fact that the pope is a Latino makes us feel a responsibility for the church. He has been a great blessing for me and for the church. For Latinos, it’s easy to understand some of the wonderful things Pope Francis is doing to reach out to people”. 

FOMO Alert: Ugly Primo’s Party In Los Angeles Showcasing His Art Gave Everyone A Chance To Celebrate Him

Entertainment

FOMO Alert: Ugly Primo’s Party In Los Angeles Showcasing His Art Gave Everyone A Chance To Celebrate Him

uglyprimo / Instagram

Ugly Primo has been capturing Latino pop culture moments in his vivid illustrations since early 2018, illustrating the “Suavamente” Elvis Crespo into fabric softener and Cardi B as a “Farti B cushion.” While we have no idea what Ugly Primo looks like, since he hides behind an actual cholo puppet, we know that, for the first time ever, Ugly Primo showcased his work.

Ugly Primo invited everyone to the Primos Playhouse to, well, party. Ugly Primo’s Instagram bio has long advertised himself as a “retired quinceañera DJ,” and people finally got to hear him spin. After DJ sets by J Valentino, 2DEEP, Mija Doris, and Brü, the puppet, or the man behind the puppet, took to the stage. Best of all: it was free.

Of course, Ugly Primo’s version of a gallery was called a Playhouse, so you know it was fun.

Credit: @uglyprimo / Twitter

Held in downtown Los Angeles, a free DJ event with dope art is my kind of night. Our favorite primo tweeted that, “There will be exclusive merch, art installations, music by some friends, and drinks for my 21+ borrachos. Hope to see you there!”

Ugly Primo is kind of *excellent* at creating unique merch.

Credit: @uglyprimo / Twitter

It seems like the world’s coolest puppet is pretty close with San Benito, and worked with the trapetero to create on-brand chanclas for Bad Bunny fans. They’re reportedly too holy to be weaponized for the chanclazo. You may have seen Ugly Primo’s art on up-and-coming artist Cuco Puffs’s most recent album cover, too. It’s weird how Ugly Primo is everywhere, but nobody has seen him.

Ugly Primo might just be our favorite primo after the artwork he’s gifted us this last year alone.

Credit: @uglyprimo / Instagram

During the height of Nio Garcia, Ozuna, Darrel, Nicky Jam, Casper Magico and Bad Bunny’s “Te Bote” classic, Ugly Primo blessed America with an auspicious illustration. In an effort to motivate his fans to get out and vote, he released an image of a very orange Donald Trump at a podium stickered with “Yo voté,” followed by a “Te bote” stamp of disapproval. His blessing on the midterms did give us Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. We need more illustrations, Primo.

If only a Mercado de mucho, mucho amor existed.

Credit: @uglyprimo / Instagram

Internationally-acclaimed astrologer Walter Mercado may have passed earlier this week, but he’s been long honored by Ugly Primo. For Mercado’s haters, they love the idea that his predictions and, “sobre todo, mucho, mucho amor” was up for sale. For everyone else, we loved what Mercado was selling – his genderless fashion sense and exuberant love for his fans.

When Cumbia legend Celso Piña passed, he was immortalized in vibrant colors as well.

Credit: @uglyprimo / Instagram

The cumbia artist, known as El Rebelde del acordeón, passed on August 21 at just 66 years old from a heart attack. The Mexican accordionist pioneered a fusion of tropical salsa sounds with cumbia and regional mexicano.

When Cardi B was freely expressing her flatulence on the ‘gram, Ugly Primo immortalized the pop culture moment.

Credit: @uglyprimo / Instagram

“Farti B is steaming hot. Swipe for some 💨💨💨,” Ugly Primo captioned his June edition to his works, alongside a hilarious anthology of Cardi B’s most recent fart sprees. “Damn, I farted but that was a very low fart, so y’all can’t hear it. It’s one of those farts that like, they don’t really stink, it’s just air,” Cardi told her Instagram fans back in June 2019. “I gotta fart so bad. I’m about to air it out. I farted, I farted, I farted, I farted,” Cardi said. “Oh it STANK. You smell it, Ashley? It’s gonna hit you though. You smell it?” she asked, cackling.

Ugly Primo has helped us envision a world made for Latinos, here in America.

@uglyprimo / Instagram

Ugly Primo’s artistry is embedded in Latinizing mainstream items, like slapping “Tigers of the North” on a box of frosted flakes, with a guitar playing tiger and more. We get to imagine what a Trader Jose’s might look like, and even though Los Angeles is plentiful with Hispanic grocer’s, Ugly Primo uses the brand recall of a national chain to make that experience feel like the true cornerstone of American identity that it is. We belong here. We’re not going anywhere.

LA, if you’re looking for a party, it’s at the Primo Playhouse.

@uglyprimo / Instagram

Let’s show Ugly Primo all our support, hope we meet Ugly Primo in the felt (or flesh, let’s be real) and see what “exclusive merch” he’s drawn up for us.

READ: Ugly Primo Is One Latino Artist Everyone Who Loves Pop Culture Should Know About