A Family Picture: The Art and Words of LA FAMILIA MEXICANA

In one of her poems entitled “Family Reunion,” Sylvia Plath wrote these verses:

“A whirpool leers at me,
Absorbent as a sponge;
I cast off my identity
And make the fatal plunge.”

This words caught my attention and made me think about how the family, despite our personal opinion, plays an important role in the process of the creation of our identity. The presence or absence of this family can, exactly, cast off our identity and, at the same time, create it, construct it.

The role of the family is fundamental in the process of the creation of the individual memory, the family is part of our personal history, and the interaction with some specific members — good or bad — creates a special kind of memory, a story, and a picture.

The book La familia mexicana, published by the French publishing house FLBLB (managed by Grégory Jarry and Thomas Dupuis), is a collection of stories wrote and drew by a group of Mexican artists who were directed to transform their memories into short stories. An important characteristic of this book is that the reader can find the translation of this stories into French. The same book contains the version in Spanish and French and if the readers turns it down, he can read the translated version of it.

Created by words and images combined, these stories show portraits, postcards, and paintings in the comic language that ultimately represent the essence of the family. Although these stories are not all happy memories. Even when the reader can perceive a sense of melancholy, some of them are ironic, cruel, and violent.

For example, the short story “Mi abuela Eufrosina” by Rodrigo Betancourt tells the story of how a grandson helped his grandmother to die. Without regrets, anger, or guilt, he takes action and acts according to his own believes.

Another one is “Los panchos del tío Pancho” by Paulina Suarez. With simplicity, but a very subtle sense of parody, this short comic questions how a person with a medical condition is treated by his family and how he can manipulate the situation into his favour. It is important to emphasize that the author does not judge or tries to set an opinion, she just expose a situation and creates an atmosphere where the reader can explore a small part of a bigger story that is not presented, but the reader can suspect.

The comics of this collection allow the reader to connect to their autobiographic stories and mitigate the urge to invade the privacy of a quiet room of another’s home.

Through the pages, the reader is introduced into a fictional space, where the stories from the past take place in the present. The story “Mi abuelo José” by Alfredo Ballesteros creates a metaphor with the paper and how this can be resignified by people through time. Alfredo Ballesteros, better known as his pseudonym Verde agua, tells the story of this grandfather, a poor man who selled paper to survive and how, many years later, the artist, also sells paper but with drawings. Verde agua creates a connection between the past and the present, by creating a metaphor where the tradition of selling paper is inherit but its meaning was transformed.

Following this idea, La familia mexicana is not just paper. It is a piece of comic literature that becomes visible. It’s the blur image of a memory and transforming of a simple scene, a common day, and the daily life environment into a poetic image.