Only an invisible line separates the United States from Mexico, and the two countries have lived harmoniously for decades. Recently, the mayor of San Diego declared that the southernmost counties of that city, together with all of northern Baja, are codependent upon each other economically, socially and creatively; he dubbed the region “CaliMex.”
One individual who personifies that union in the most joyous fashion is Enrique Chiu, a resident of Tijuana, originally from Guadalajara; he’s the artist whose work decorates that otherwise hideous tin wall that is supposed to separate our two cultures.
Enrique recently had his work on display at one of Ensenada’s premiere cultural and civic centers, the notoriously famous Riviera. An admirer of his work gave me his contact information, which I pursued with vigorous anticipation.
The man is an artist whose work is so positive and energetic that neither one of the governments dividing our two nations has ever tried to suppress him in any way. His work is nonpartisan, and celebrates the gift of life with colors bright and joyful, with messages that unify disparate cultures and express with uplifting energy the passion and cohesion that unite human beings in a manner that supersedes the spoken language.
Enrique told me that he became interested in art at a very early age. He grew up in Guadalajara, a city rich in culture, a metropolis blessed by museums, a rich history and an optimistic attitude toward the future.
He traveled to the United States, where he continued to study art, music and history. Always, during his travels, he expressed his impressions in paintings that caught the spirit of individualism while opening the door to human dignity and respect. His love for life is so contagious that his followers are numbered in the hundreds, if not thousands; his work attracts and energizes children as well as adults. His images are expressions of joie de vivre, “the joy of life,” and to see his work is to feel the happiness and hopefulness of humanity at its best.
From Long Beach, California, to Guadalajara, Mexico, Enrique has opened workshops for children, and encourages everyone, regardless of age, to express him or herself with vigorous and joyous respect and gratitude for the life we have been granted on this magnificent planet.
I was teasing him about his Mexican first name and his Chinese surname, and he responded with the good nature that one would expect from an artist whose life is his work, and whose work brings joy and unity to the human family: he said “I am an artist, altruistic, social and committed to things that can make changes in society.”
He went on further to tell me that he is a Mexican with Chinese and Spanish grandparents. How fortunate are we to have such a unique individual living among us; how beautiful and unifying is his art.
Next time you travel north to the United States, remember that although political differences will always challenge us, art will always unite us. Beauty, passion and joy are gifts that human beings treasure and revere.
Those treasures that we share will allow us to forgive our differences.
When you see Enrique’s art on any one of the panels he has decorated, remember that the man is expressing himself in a manner of peaceful coexistence and a presence of mind that encourages the future of our species in the simplest, purest and most innocent manner; that simplicity and innocence has driven artists throughout human history to create works in whose shadows we shall forever stand in awe.
Enrique Chiu’s love of humanity flows from within his heart to the panels on which he designs his art. Those panels are reminders that although our differences may be many, our similarities are our common bond.