It was the year 2012 when I discovered a very interesting likeness between China and Mexico. When I had the pleasure of being invited to build and sculpt an art piece in honor of the sister city relationship between Tijuana City, the economic capital of Baja California, Mexico and by the way the only city in Latin America with two direct flights from China, and Changchun City considered to be one of the Automotive epicenters of the world where between FAW and several other Chinese car manufacturers, over a million vehicles are produced per year. Our offering to the city of Changchun was my sculpted representation of "Cihuacoatl" which was offered at the XIII International Sculpture Symposium in Changchun, China. Cihuacoatl means Mother goddess in 'Nahuatl', a native language in ancient Mexico, before the Spanish arrived. I heard about the contest leading to the symposium in Changchun, which was offered because of the sister city relationship to Tijuana, inviting sculptors to submit proposals for a large format sculpture. As it turns out, Tijuana and Changchun had been sister cities for years, but the relationship was not precisely in active status so Changchun reached out to Tijuana for a cultural project that would spark back that relationship, which would hopefully and eventually lead to new joint ventures.
Having grown up in Mexicali, the Political Capital of Baja California, a city in northern Mexico with the largest Chinese population per capita in Mexico, and having had my first formal arts teacher being a Chinese watercolor master from China, I was always drawn to Chinese aesthetics as well as philosophy, so I immediately I jumped into the opportunity to participate and compete to represent Tijuana at Changchun's Sculpture Symposium . I thought about what subject matter was best suited for a piece that Mexico would give to China, after all it was to be carved in stone so it had to be something important. I had been studying Ancient Aztec, Olmec and Mayan aesthetics mainly through painting with a series called the "New World Codex", so I thought this to be the perfect opportunity to bring this into the three dimensional realm. One of the things that I had learned while studying ancient Mexican culture was the emphasis on the Goddess aspect parallel to the God aspect, which was a contrast from the traditional father figure oriented religions in the orthodox western culture. This seemed a good time to not only share a Mexican Goddess with China, but also to strengthen the concept of the restoration of balance between male and female forces in the world. So that was how the concept was decided and the rest happened very quickly, I carved the model, submitted the pictures and in a matter of weeks I was headed to China to carve the large white marble Stone which was provided by the Changchun government.
One of the first things we did upon arrival after all the wonderful reception and festivities, was to visit the site where we were going to sculpt and choose our stones. The stone I selected was not available in the dimensions I required so it was ordered and it would arrive in a couple of days, so after finding out we had some free time before sculpting, my translators asked me where I wanted to go visit first and of course the first thing that came to my mind was, "take me to a Buddhist temple".
We took a cab to downtown Changchun and got to a large temple, the size of a whole block, four corners around. When we went in I noticed the place was full of people engaged in celebrations, chants and prayers. I asked if the temple was always this busy with such festivities, and after asking around, I was told that this particular temple was the temple of Guanyin and that this particular day was her birthday, thus the reason for it being full of people celebrating. They pointed to a big sculpture of Guanyin in one of the courtyards and told me a brief story about this Chinese Goddess, which to my surprise was like the Chinese version of the Aztec Goddess Cihuacoatl whose image we were just about to start sculpting; they were both Mother Goddesses of humankind, they had modeled the first humans out of clay, and had similar traits like having a head piece, and being known for a compassionate nature.
This was of course a very big and Joyful surprise, knowing that our ancient cultures actually shared such similarities that dated further back than a thousand years, suggesting that there may even be common roots or even possible communications. I felt a deep sense of peace, like a warm welcome from Guanyin and Cihuacoatl, which in a sense represented the same motherly energy of the Earth, where no boundaries really exist, only a wide variety of representations of that same infinite universal flow. I knew then that everything would turn out alright even if I had never carved such a big piece of marble stone and my stone had not even arrived yet. Sure enough, the stone arrived a week later and having started one week before everyone, we also finished a week before, as everything flowed so smoothly. It was a wonderful experience and we were really treated like honored guests in one of the greatest displays of hospitality that I have ever experienced. I hope to return to China one day and visit this white marble Mother Goddess which now stands in the garden of the Chanchun municipal building, representing a bridge of stone between both cultures, both countries and mainly between human beings which are all essentially alike.
Mexican Visual Artist