I’ve never been to Spain, but I kinda like the music. And soon (with apologies to Three Dog Night), there will be another excellent reason to plan a visit there, especially to our sister city.
New Mexico artist Frederico Vigil, whose murals are found throughout New Mexico but most famously at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, would be the first to encourage a trip to Alburquerque – our Spanish tocayo, or namesake, with the extra “r.”
He’s over there right now working on a large mural intended to celebrate the “intertwined history of our town and our Sister City in New Mexico,” according to the Spanish news website Baylio.com, which reported on the artist’s arrival on Aug. 5.
The mural itself will contain features from both the Old World and New World cities, such as San Felipe de Neri Church here and the Castle of Media Luna there.
The Baylio.com report included a video message from the mayor, Angel Vadillo, who sent out a greeting to the residents of our Albuquerque as well as his compliments to all who have made the mural project possible.
It’s hard to tell who is more excited about the project, the artist or the people of Alburquerque.
“We are treated as Wonderful as can be! AND MUCH MORE!!” Vigil wrote in one of the many emails he has sent to me from Spain.
And when I spoke with him by telephone Wednesday, he said, “All you have to do is say you are from Albuquerque in New Mexico and you are treated with deep respect. They understand the genetic and historical connection.”
If you haven’t been down to the Hispanic Cultural Center at Fourth and Bridge to see Vigil’s fresco “Mundos de Mestizaje” in the torreón, well, it’s really worth the visit.
It might save you from having to go all the way to Spain to see one of Vigil’s major works. Or it might inspire you to make the trip.
Vigil describes his Albuquerque mural, which opened to the public in 2010, as a “vision of Hispanic history through fresco.” At 4,000 square feet, it really is huge – especially for a mural in the round. I could describe it for you, but you might as well go see it for yourself; admission is free, so there’s no good excuse not to. Call the cultural center at 246-2261 for the hours.
The fresco Vigil is working on now in Alburquerque is smaller, but still an impressive 462 square feet. It will be in the Salon de Plenos, where the city government meets.
Vigil says it “is a most beautiful room” filled with ornate wooden furniture and the city’s oldest and finest artworks on canvas. He says the room “is used for all official and special meetings, proclamations, visitations and also for weddings.”
Vigil left for Spain on Aug. 1 and started working on the fresco almost immediately after his arrival in the city. No slacker, he’s already finished the third coat of plaster and put the grid on the wall.
“After the sinopia, the cartooning – and then, the painting,” he says.
Vigil expects work on the project to take about five months. It will be dedicated next August during the city’s Festival Medieval. Vigil says he feels fortunate he arrived in the city in time to attend this year’s annual festival.
“It’s a well-known festival. You have parades and processions, sword fights, horse activities; and a majority of the people dress up in medieval fiesta garb,” he said.
Staying in Spain for five months painting a mural is not cheap. The entire project’s cost is expected to be about $75,000, Vigil says.
Funding is an international effort. The Spanish city is providing room and board as well as supplies and labor.
“I’m eating very well; a lot of beef and fish,” Vigil says. “We usually eat at around 2 p.m. and then again at about 9.” And he says his apartment has a great view of the local castle.
Our city of Albuquerque has chipped in $25,000, and several local people have donated about $15,000 – spurred on by Ed Lujan, who was instrumental in getting the National Hispanic Cultural Center built, and Clara Apodaca, a former president and CEO of the center’s foundation.
“We’ve raised about $40,000, but I am dedicated to doing the mural no matter what,” Vigil says.
The Atrisco Heritage Foundation is contributing its services as a fiscal agent for the fundraising here, and if you go to its website – atriscoheritagefoundation.org – there is a button you can click on to make a tax-free donation, if you are so inclined.
Incidentally, while the two cities’ names are almost identical – we dropped the extra “r” in the 1800s – they are not otherwise much alike. Albuquerque, founded in 1706, is a mere youth compared with its namesake, whose origins are said to go back to 590 B.C. We have petroglyphs; they have cave paintings. Today, our Spanish counterpart is an agricultural town with a population of fewer than 6,000.
“It’s a very small, wonderful town; very low-key,” Vigil says. “Everybody knows everybody.”
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