Pos­i­tive iden­tity

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - LUIS GA RAY The Long Road Long Road Pasatiempo, Long Road, and The

When Nicaraguan-born artist Luis Garay im­mi­grated to Toronto, Canada, in the late 1980s, he in­tended to pur­sue a ca­reer as a painter, but he found suc­cess as an il­lus­tra­tor and au­thor of chil­dren’s books. He chan­neled his ex­pe­ri­ence as an im­mi­grant flee­ing a war-torn na­tion into The Long Road, the story of a young Latin Amer­i­can boy find­ing a new life in an adopted coun­try. Im­ages from The Long Road are in­cluded in Cre­ation Myths of Me­soamer­ica: Popol Vuh and Quet­zal­cóatl, open­ing on Fri­day, May 6, at the Santa Fe Art In­sti­tute. The ex­hibit fea­tures art­work based on the myths and leg­ends of the Me­soamer­i­can cul­tures of Latin Amer­ica in­clud­ing those of the Maya and Aztecs. On the cover is Cu­a­tro Caminos, an acrylic with pen and ink from 1999; cour­tesy Santa Fe Art In­sti­tute.

Nicaraguan artist Luis Garay was a teenager in the early 1980s when the con­flict broke out between the San­din­istas, who had wrested po­lit­i­cal con­trol from the dic­ta­tor­ship of Anas­ta­sio So­moza DeBayle, and the con­tras, many of whom were loyal to the for­mer regime. Garay was a high-school stu­dent in the city of Granada when he be­gan study­ing art at four­teen. By the age of sev­en­teen, he had fled the coun­try to es­cape t he es­ca­lat­ing vi­o­lence. “They used to say mil­i­tary ser­vice is pa­tri­otic,” Garay told “but par­ents don’t ac­cept it in that way. ‘You’re my child and I want to pro­tect you.’ It was not pa­tri­o­tism. It was oblig­a­tory mil­i­tary ser­vice. So that’s is why I left.” Garay’s ex­hi­bi­tion Cre­ation Myths of Me­soamer­ica: Popol Vuh and Quet­zal­cóatl opens on Fri­day, May 6, at the Santa Fe Art In­sti­tute. Garay first lived in Costa Rica and then in Toronto, Canada, where he now has cit­i­zen­ship. His jour­ney is re­flected in The a chil­dren’s book he au­thored and il­lus­trated, but it is not an au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal ac­count. It is drawn from his own ex­pe­ri­ence as an im­mi­grant only in­so­far as his story is a com­mon one, not just in Latin Amer­ica but the world over. “There are sit­u­a­tions you face in your life when you be­come an im­mi­grant. Any­one can be one,” he said. The story fol­lows a boy named José who lives in an un­named Latin Amer­i­can coun­try. When a civil war breaks out, José is forced to flee with his mother. They head north to be­gin a new life in a for­eign coun­try.

The ex­hi­bi­tion in­cludes orig­i­nal il­lus­tra­tions from sev­eral of Garay’s books, in­clud­ing The Long Road; Popol Vuh: A Sa­cred Book of the Maya; Myth, Legend, and Story of Quet­zal­cóatl, the Mys­te­ri­ous Feath­ered Snake. “The Long Road was my first book. I did this book when I ar­rived in Canada in 1988. That was when I started. There was a pub­lisher who saw my work and said, ‘I want to do some­thing with you.’ But I went fol­low­ing the dream to be a painter not an il­lus­tra­tor. When I was a stu­dent in Nicaragua, we didn’t have that cul­ture of read­ing ex­cept at school. When he asked me to do a chil­dren’s book I said, ‘ What? This is not pos­si­ble. I am an artist,’ or some­thing like that. I was of­fended, but I was ig­no­rant. Then he said, ‘Let’s try to do some­thing dif­fer­ent than what we do in Western art for il­lus­tra­tions.’ ”

wouldn’t be pub­lished un­til 1997. By that time, Garay saw the en­deavor from the per­spec­tive of op­por­tu­nity. “We’re go­ing to tell sto­ries about im­mi­grants,” he said. “We’re go­ing to tell sto­ries that we never tell. When I write, I like so­cial is­sues — a child who de­serves at­ten­tion, chil­dren who have to go to work ev­ery­day. This, to me, is very im­por­tant — to bring it to the first world, to those cities that are do­ing well eco­nom­i­cally. There’s an­other story on the other side of the world that they don’t know.” Sto­ries like

pro­mote un­der­stand­ing of the chal­lenges

con­tin­ued on Page 30

Luis Garay: The Par­adise, acrylic, pen and ink, 1999; top, The Lords of Xibalba or Un­der­world, acrylic, pen and ink, 1999; both im­ages from the book Popol Vuh; all im­ages cour­tesy Santa Fe Art In­sti­tute

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