“Eltro lado”. The Mexicans’ perilous journey to the American Eldorado is on display at Cosmopolis thanks to the Comal Association. – Fragile

“In this engraving, I wanted to tell you what happened to one of my uncles who was going to seek happiness in the United States.” explains Alondra Alonso Alvarez, who exhibits about thirty lithographs at Espace Cosmopolis entitled “Mihuida”translation my plane.

His uncle had wanted to cross the Rio Grande. He had undressed and put his things in a bundle, but the current swept the bundle away and he found himself naked in the desert. This sadness and this desolation, she wanted to rediscover it by imagining a scene where a man stands bent over, alone, facing the huge river.

“To draw it, I asked a friend to put himself in the position of a man mourning the disappearance of a precious treasure” says Alondra.

Alondra’s uncle Alonso Alvarez found himself naked in the desert in front of the Rio Grande

A young mother crossing the desert. She is trying to reach America with her baby in her arms.

A little further on, a young mother, lost in the middle of nowhere, flees with her baby in her arms.
“I designed this scene to show the tragedy experienced by all these migrants who risk their lives to cross the border.says Alondra. “I am the mother of a two-year-old girl and I would not like to have to live in this situation” she continues.

In column, risk their lives

And then there are the death convoys where men try to climb up on the roofs of “exist”, that’s what the Mexicans call the trains that allow all these illegal immigrants to escape police control. There are also these pillars of women walking in single lane in the desert.

Migrants try to escape by boarding a freight train … unless they try to cross the wall that separates them from the United States

“You knowsays Alondra, describing this work, many die of hunger and thirst in this ordeal. It takes weeks, even months, to get to the wall. So they give themselves courage by going in rhythm..

Alondra Alonso Alvarez has never been through this hell. “I’ve been to Texas many times but like the rich on a tourist visa” she admits. But she feels in her flesh all this suffering and this misery, because in her family, everyone has tried their luck to go “Al otro lado”in French on the other hand, where money flows freely, in the land of flourishing capitalism.

Alondra comes from Ojuelos de Jalisco, a small village where most men left wives and children to work in the United States. Her brother currently lives in Texas. His cousins, his nephews and his uncles too.

Alondra Alonso Alvarez taught her subject as an engraver at the School of Visual Arts at the Cultural Institute of Aguascalientes in Mexico.

“My father spent his entire career in construction in Dallas, but when he never managed to get regularized, he did not receive a pension. So he returned to the village. He sacrificed himself to pay for our studies and offer us a comfortable home ”.

The American dream, but at what price

For yes, on the other hand, the American dream works. Those who manage to cross the border and work hard and with low wages always do better than staying home. There they harvest fruit and vegetables, work on assembly lines at textile factories or on construction sites as workers. Since the dollar is worth twenty times more than the peso, they get a little richer, but at what price!

On the other hand, in the United States, they perform small jobs that are hard and poorly paid.

With this exhibition, Alondra Alonso Alvarez hopes to touch the public on the fate of these migrants, who are abused by immigration services but also by “coyotes”, the smugglers who often leave them in the middle of the desert after taking their money.

They march in column to keep the rhythm and give each other courage.

“I am not a political activist” she acknowledges. “I do not want to stop this phenomenon, which is global. But I hope to be the little grain of sand that raises awareness of what lies behind these crossings of the desert.”

It happens that the newspapers are moved by the situation when there are massacres in the detention centers or when they follow the lives of caravans of 15,000 people. But these dramatic stories are quickly forgotten. By drawing inspiration from photo reports and transforming them with his talent, Alondra intends to take a new look. Admittedly, these works are powerful and thought-provoking.
This exhibition is also a recognition of her work abroad and her know-how as an engraver, which she learned at the School of Visual Art in Aguascalientes.

“It would be easier to manufacture these with new technologies” she acknowledges. “But the rendering would be less good. There would not be so many details. In fact, engraving forces me to structure my thought.”

Alondra is eager to bring to life the techniques of these ancestors that she teaches her students today. She uses many materials to make her lithographs: copper, wood, sugar and boiling water, wire mesh….

Atmosphere of death and desert

His approach is highlighted by the soundscape of Pavel, a Mexican who landed in Nantes 3 years ago after studying cinema at the University of Mexico, UNAM. Pavel especially captured sounds in the Potosi desert, cries for help in prisons and mixed everything with a synthesizer to recreate sometimes the fear that migrants felt, sometimes the sweetness of the hope of a better life.

At night in the desert, migrants warm themselves around a campfire.

Not to forget the decorations made by Comal, the association founded in 2006 in Nantes and which brings together 280 Mexicans. At the foot of the engravings showing the hostility of the desert, the organizers have drawn a ribbon of sand on which are strewn abandoned personal items: suitcases, jewelry, shoes, clothes … And upstairs they have reconstructed, with wire mesh and silhouettes of police officers , Ursula’s world, one of the most feared detention centers for migrants. They are kept there in cages. Parents are separated from their children.

In the desert, during their crossing, migrants scatter their clothes, their suitcases, as evidenced by this decor depicted by Comal.

“They are brilliantAlondra remarked, talking about the organizers. “I was afraid to bore the public with my engravings. But with these decorations, which are 100% in my state of mind, they give even more power to my works.”

Comal and Mexican culture

For a month, Cosmopolis will live on Mexican time with karaoke nights, concerts, movie screenings and round tables. Promoting Mexican culture has been Comal’s goal since 2013.

“Before I took over the chairmanship of the association” explains Fernando Gonzales Villareal, a Mexican who has lived in Nantes for 10 years, “society was turned against itself. People needed to meet to celebrate the country’s holidays. And now we are trying to share our traditions with the people of Nantes.

Fernando Gonzales Villareal, president of Comal, wants to share his Mexican culture with the French.

Thus, in 2018, Comal organized an exhibition about the feast of the dead. The association, which bears the name of a frying pan used to make tortillas in, also goes to schools to spread Mexican culture. She continues to welcome new arrivals and assist them with their administrative procedures.

“We want to shine, but remain financially independent” would like to point to Fernando, who works as a logistics agent in L’Odyssée, the culture hall in Orvault.

Leave a Comment