Mexican Artist Says Día de Muertos Taught Him to Illustrate ‘Life in a Different Way’
Moments spent honoring our family can be powerful and profound. That’s why a tradition like Día de Muertos means so much to so many. It is a revered commemoration of people’s ancestors and legacy. Día de Muertos is also a prime example of the richness and beauty of Mexican culture.
If given the chance, many would do everything within their power to show the world the pride that comes with showing the beauty of Día de Muertos. This was a reality for digital illustrator Joaquín Nava. The artist partnered with PepsiCo and Rockstar Energy Drink for their “Proud Hasta Los Huesos” campaign. He designed limited-edition specialty cans depicting iconic Día de Muertos designs.
Nava tells mitú, “Well, being a part of the Rockstar Energy Drink campaign was really an incredible honor and a great opportunity to connect something that it’s in you.”
Nava admits that Día de Muertos has helped him look at life through a different lens
Growing up in Mexico, Nava understood the importance of Día de los Muertos and what it represented to his culture. From the ofrendas to the cempasúchil laid out, each aspect of the tradition carries a special meaning for the Mexican community. Other countries in Latin America also commemorate the day with their own traditions.
Like many Mexican children, Nava first learned about Día de Muertos at school.
“Well, I give you the first approach, it’s mostly through you — you find out about it mostly through school because it’s the first time that somebody really makes you do something like that,” he shares. “I remember growing up in Mexico, obviously, and you see the deep connection that people have with the celebration.”
Even as a child, Nava gravitated toward the colors and joy surrounding the celebration. He cites that “celebrating the ones that passed” alongside friends and family helped him “see life in a different way” as an adult.
“Now, as an adult, you start to see the pictures of the people, and you start to remember,” he adds. “You start to see the ofrendas everywhere, and you can’t help to — I guess the celebration becomes a little bit more of an internal thing.”
He continues, “You start to remember people way before Día de los Muertos comes. And that’s, I mean, it’s a whole month of remembering people. That’s, I think, the most important [thing].”
Nava’s creative expression has allowed him to pay homage to his Mexican roots
Undertaking the challenge of designing something reminiscent of your culture for a national campaign around your country’s biggest honored celebration can seem daunting. But Nava didn’t feel any added pressure to deliver unique artwork, especially for Día de Muertos.
“I will say yes [I felt pressure], but that’s the same for every piece that I do. So, it was not a surprise because I’m like that with everything. I mean, even if it’s just for me, it’s going to be a lot of pressure, and it will be worse because I will not have a deadline,” he quips.
Nava expressed he initially felt concerned about collaborating with a company as big as PepsiCo and Rockstar Energy Drink. Wondering whether he’d be another “hired hand.”
“My only concern was always when you work with companies, the big companies, you do hope you are able to express yourself instead of just being like a hired hand,” he asserts. “And in this case, it was just that — I mean, I was able to really do everything I wanted.”
Nava continued, “And then, when I realized that it was going to be that kind of a piece, all of the pressure was off because I knew that I was going to be able to put myself behind whatever I do. It’s not going to be something, like, just clichés all over the place.”
Nava hopes that his fellow compatriotas feel seen by the designs he created for Día de los Muertos
The Mexican illustrator wanted people to enjoy his culture, albeit a small portion. His goal was for people to look at his designs and feel that it is an “authentic” representation of the beauty of Mexico.
“I really hope that when they see this Proud Hasta Los Huesos campaign and all of the designs that they connect with it because, like I said before, this thing was a great way to put out my creative heritage [out there],” Nava tells mitú.
The artist believes that when you authentically demonstrate yourself, you can “connect with people.” His reasoning? They’ll be able to look at his designs and know that it was “made by somebody from Mexico” and not the marketing department.
“It’s really authentic [that way], so hopefully it will be that they see a little bit of their own heritage without being very specific to the celebration, but to their actual upbringing and all of that,” he asserts.
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