Antonio Ramírez was born in 1944 in México City, the youngest of nine children in a working class family. He quit school to work, but at age 14 he enrolled in the National School of Painting and Sculpture (“La Esmeralda”), where he studied at night. From then on, for a period of more than 25 years, he combined the work of making a living with the work of painting.
In 1961, when he turned 17, he left home and traveled toward the southeast of Mexico, working in the village of Arroyo León, in Veracrúz, teaching children and adults to read and write. There he saw with his own eyes the injustices and humiliation suffered by poor campesinos and native peoples. The people of Arroyo León went shopping each week in a nearby village named Nuevo Ixcatlán, an indigenous Mazatecan community. That’s where Antonio met Domitilia, whom he married.
In 1964 they moved to Mexico City, working in factories and workshops, and painting at night. Then they immigrated to Yucatán, where Antonio worked two years for the National Indigenous Institute taking film shows and folk theater to the Mayas of the region.
In 1967, they were back again in México City where they witnessed and participated in the marches and meetings that led up to the populist Student Movement. The feeling of frustration and impotency that seized the youth of that generation didn’t escape them.
In the 70s Antonio and Domi moved from place to place, piecing together a living. Throughout this time, they worked intensely with a leftist group. They participated actively in supporting tenants’ and squatters’ organizations in Mexico City. Among other activities, the group (either as a collective or as individuals) painted numerous political street murals and also published anti-capitalist pamphlets which criticized the compromising left.
In 1983 Antonio, Domi and their four children moved to Guadalajara where they now live. This time in Guadalajara has been very important for the development of Domi and Antonio’s artistic work. Antonio has lived exclusively on his work as an artist and no longer has had to divide his time between art and the other activities required for the livelihood of his family.
In 1985, in Mexico City, a group of friends (Antonio and Domi among them) conceived the idea of creating a collective portfolio of serigraphs with the city being the unifying theme. They discussed the necessity that the images that they created would reach out to everyday men and women, people on the street. They agreed that the political propaganda of the left suffered from the absence of a hugely important ingredient: the artistic element.
In 1986, the Colectivo Callejero (“the streetwise collective”) established residence in the city of Guadalajara where they opened an alternative cultural center which they named “Crack.” Its brief life was the focus of intense artistic and intellectual activity. The purpose of the center was not to advertise the work of its founders, but to promote an alternative art scene which had political and aesthetic principles similar to those of the Colectivo Callejero.
When the EZLN marched out of the Lancondon Jungle on the first of January 1994, the Colectivo Callejero immediately identified themselves with the Indian rebels’ struggle. Since then the Colectivo has centered its activities almost totally on supporting the words of the Zapatistas with artistic images. This stage began with publishing a 1996 calendar, but as time passed, the Colectivo looked for projects more complex and ambitious. Thus they decided upon an editorial project: a series of books that illustrated the words of el subcomandante Marcos, in particular the stories of el viejo Antonio.
In 2000, working on a large commission from the University of Guadalajara, Antonio completed a mural al fresco in the Jalisco city of Zapotlán el Grande. The work measures 135 square meters and is titled “The Dream and Nightmare of Power.” The fresco pays artistic homage to the Zapatista movement in Chiapas.
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