My artwork – and my life – was darkish and surreal. Then I moved to Canada

This primary-person column is by Calgary artist Claudia Reyes who moved to Canada from Mexico. For extra data on CBC’s First Particular person tales, see FAQ.

I used to be born and raised in Mexico. Once I speak to individuals in Canada and so they discover out the place I am from, they usually say issues like “Oh! It is such an exquisite place! It is magical!”

However why are so many fleeing?

I’m an artist and a responsive individual. I can inform if my surroundings is wholesome or not. Fifteen years in the past, when the violence round me turned excessive, I began portray as remedy; black and white, surrealism. My world was so darkish, a grey veil in every single place I appeared, and it mirrored in my artwork.

In Mexico, hazard is at all times shut. I noticed individuals being kidnapped on the street in entrance of me and heard the screams of a person being murdered exterior my home. I turned paranoid, at all times checking the reflections in store home windows to see if I used to be being adopted and by no means talked to others in public.

Once I hear my new neighbors dream of vacationing in Mexico, I usually keep in mind one time particularly after I went to a buddy’s home in my hometown of Monterrey.

I used to be simply standing watching my buddies taking part in in a storage band, when there was a loud bang. The subsequent factor I knew, I used to be thrown to the ground. Closely armed males in black garments and balaclavas requested so many questions and kicked my legs and ribs repeatedly.

Claudia Reyes painted her hometown in black and white to depict how dystopian life in Mexico felt to her. (Claudia Reyes)

I felt pissed off and impotent – simply mendacity there on my abdomen at gunpoint for 3 hours, not figuring out what was occurring and never daring to ask. Once I heard the sound of the protection on the weapons being launched I assumed I used to be going to die.

Minutes later the boys advised us to go away the home with them. I shivered once more as a result of normally when that occurs, you do not get taken to jail. Somebody took footage once we walked exterior. Two males lay down, machine weapons educated on the entrance to the home.

Then instantly a army official approached and mentioned merely, “We acquired an nameless tip that there have been individuals being kidnapped right here.” And so they went. No excuses, no nothing.

It is dystopian. Greater than 100,000 individuals are formally listed as lacking in Mexico, and never all from organized crime. It appears like you could possibly be killed by your personal authorities at any second.

Ultimately it was an excessive amount of. We had to surrender going out, driving or touring. The kidnappings and drug cartels felt nearer and nearer and I heard horrific tales involving family and friends. It did not really feel like I used to be alive anymore.

Six years in the past my husband obtained a job in data know-how in Canada and our lives modified utterly.

I keep in mind the primary time I set foot in Calgary. On the airport, in a hall, there have been two strains of individuals. I did not know what was occurring, so I used to be cautious.

However when the volunteers mentioned, “Welcome to Canada! Welcome to Calgary,” it was such an exquisite shock.

A woman stands near an isolated mountain lake.
As her concern and anxiousness eased, Claudia Reyes embraced life in Calgary and started touring and mountaineering once more. (Yolanda Garcia)

My concern started to subside after I noticed ladies on the road strolling alone at night time with out worrying about being molested, stalked, raped or kidnapped. I lived in downtown Calgary and went to Prince’s Island Park for a protracted stroll day-after-day. Being in contact with nature helped rather a lot. I turned conscious of my environment however in a standard means, not in a paranoid means.

After we obtained a automotive we traveled to locations I discovered talked about by on-line mountaineering teams – visited Kananaskis and Banff, walked across the ice fields in the summertime and located snowshoe trails within the winter. We tried kayaking and we now have chased the northern lights.

Lastly we be at liberty to get pleasure from life once more. My artwork additionally slowly modified.

A collage of two paintings in vibrant colors.  To the left a fox and to the right two white owls on the side of a frozen lake with the northern lights in the background.
Artist Claudia Reyes began portray colourful nature scenes after her concern steadily disappeared. (Claudia Reyes)

Once I moved right here I took a break from portray as a result of I wasn’t certain what to color. My mind was confused. Once I began once more, I used to be stunned to see myself utilizing colours. Nature made me so comfortable and I painted animals – a fox, an owl – and even a winter panorama with the northern lights.

On August 2nd I’ll lastly turn into a Canadian citizen.

Generally I hear individuals in my neighborhood complaining about essentially the most absurd issues – just like the magpies making an excessive amount of noise. However while you develop up in a spot of such hazard and uncertainty, a rustic like Canada appears like paradise. Even the magpies sound fantastic.

We’ve got a magical place right here.

Telling your story

CBC Calgary is internet hosting a collection of non-public writing workshops throughout the town to assist group members inform their very own tales. Take a look at our upcoming alternatives at

Extra from our workshop in Calgary’s Northern Hills space:

About the author


Leave a Comment