I was a bit nervous when I rang the doorbell at César’s place. This was going to be my first photoshoot for DEPICTED, and I really had no idea if this was going to work out. The idea for the project was there, but so far I had mostly worked with (more or less) professional models, and I just wasn’t sure if I could get into the flow as I usually would. I can’t even remember if we started with the interview, or if I started with taking pictures in his nicely decorated apartment. However, everything went much better than I could have dreamed of. César turned out to be a very interesting conversational partner, and taking pictures with him came about very naturally and was also great fun. So when I finally headed back to Ostkreuz station, I had a feeling of certainty about realising my vision for this magazine.
Were you born and raised in Mexico?
Yes, in the north of Mexico, in Monterey. It’s an industrial city. It started in the 1920s, or even before, as an industrial area. Many people from central and southern Mexico migrated there. It’s really warm. In the summer the temperature rises up to 50 degrees. The place is surrounded by mountains; that is why it’s really hot. They are beautiful and huge. I actually lived a part of my life in the mountains. Close to my city, there is a lot of desert, but at the same time there are beautiful woods, too.
At what age did you decide to leave Mexico?
I already had plans to leave Mexico when I was around twenty. When I was sixteen, I started to travel around Mexico because I wanted to see different things. My city was quite conservative at the time, but not anymore, so I was really looking forward to leaving it. I used to travel in Mexico, hitchhiking, and then I discovered that this was something I really enjoyed, and I started to love it. Before, this was not on my mind. It was rather similar to: you have to work for the rest of your life, stay here, have a family and that’s all. Your life is done, already being set in stone.
Then I started to get involved in the punk scene, and for me it saved my life because it showed me that the world is ours – it is waiting for us to discover it. I started to meet a lot of people from different parts of the world, so I became obsessed with travelling. The decision to come to Europe was made when there was a crisis in Mexico because of troubles with the mafia and drug dealers, and my city was one of the most affected cities at the time. So it was really chaotic, and it was sad to see how Monterey started to change.
Would you say it was dangerous?
It was super dangerous. What happened is that while walking on the streets, you could see guys passing by with AK47s, shooting at each other. And also random people were dying. Once I saw one guy getting shot, and I went like, “fucking hell”. This actually was the moment when I decided to get out of there. I wanted a better future for myself and my family, and to get to know Europe. Breathe some different air.
Did you come right away to Berlin?
Yes, I came straight to Berlin. It was really funny because I couldn’t speak English at all, and when I told my mother she was like, “Germany? Why?” and I said, “I don’t know”, and I just booked the ticket. I had some addresses of some house projects and squats. I am lucky to be part of a scene where everybody helps each other out.
That’s pretty awesome, because most immigrants don’t have this support and end up in refugee camps at first, so that’s a great advantage to be in a scene like this.
Yes, it is a big advantage to have the security that these places exist, where help is provided, and to have the possibility that when you knock on a door, you can ask for support. I was very well welcomed. They said, “Come in, you are welcome. You can stay here.”
After this, all the pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place. When you have the focus on the things you actually want to do, nothing can stop you because your focus is there; your vision is there, and you’re ready to create your own future in the present. So it will be done. You have to be fluid in life; let the flow take its course, and it will take you wherever you want.
This is also my experience. The more you surrender to the flow, the better it will be. The more you are answering your fears, the more you get stuck in unsatisfying situations.
Definitely! People need to start believing more in themselves because this is the key to feel better. The best thing is, as you said, to surrender to the flow, not to be afraid of the things you don’t know, because the fears are stopping you from developing.
I think that is what stops most people, because they are afraid to get out of their comfort zone.
Yes, the comfort zone is very dangerous. We have to lose this ambition of having everything under control, and we need to lose the fear to change our life. It doesn’t matter. You are not going to lose anything you don’t need. Instead you will win a lot, because you will get to know yourself better, knowing what serves you, and what doesn’t. At the end, you will have the experience and knowledge that you don’t need as much as you thought.
When you came to Germany, what were your first impressions?
For me it was very surrealistic, a culture shock. But also very funny because, coming from Mexico, which is very colorful, people are constantly talking, laughing about everything, and they like to enjoy life a lot. And here it felt like the opposite. I mean, it is not – it just felt like it at first.
Anyway, it was really shocking because when I came out of the train station the first thing I saw was a drunken skinhead with a Sterni [a local beer] in his hand, and he was screaming and cursing. I was shocked and scared. I thought he was very angry. Another thing is the German language. It sounded really rough to me. I am quite a sensitive person, so I thought people in general were angry, and that they would start fighting each other, but I was too afraid to ask what was going on.
The first bus I had to take was in the middle of the night, and I wanted to ask where we were. I went to an elderly man, and I touched him on the shoulder. For us this is normal, but he looked at me like I was a criminal. So I said sorry, but he just looked away and didn’t answer my question. I had the feeling that people were colder here. It doesn’t mean they are bad people, it’s just a different mentality and socialization.
People are mostly nice, but they don’t express it so much.
Yes. When I started to speak English better, I understood the German way of communication better. A nice thing about the city is that you meet people from all over the world. Berlin changed my mentality and my perception of the world a lot. It’s a magical place. I made a lot of good friends here, and I started to think that German people are actually really nice. And when you establish a friendship – let’s call it a real friendship – then they are with you for the long run.
What are the downsides of living in Berlin?
Berlin offers you everything and even more. It’s too much, too many people, it’s just too much to choose from. At one point it sucks out your energy. Everybody wants something from you. It’s like a bomb raid of ideas, of things to do.
I think it’s a little bit understandable that people try to focus and try not to make too many commitments because it will be too much. You only have so much time in your life, and you can only have so many friends. If you have too many friends, you are stressed, and you either have to let them down, or you are meeting your friends all the time. And then you don’t get your stuff done. You have to find a balance.
This is exactly what happened to me. The party was killing me in the end. You can party every day; you can always find someone; there is always [makes a popping sound] – a beer! At one point I thought, “What am I doing? Did I come here just to party or what?”
You can have a period in your life like this. I had this too, but at some time you have to come to your senses and stop. And the other thing is: when you party every day, it gets really boring after a while.
Yes, it’s the same routine. You get bored of the party, bored of the people, bored of the places. It’s not fun anymore. This happened to me. I got stuck in my bubble. But as you said, you have to stop and learn to say no.
I think this is also a process of becoming an adult. Because when you are a teenager you don’t care; when you are twenty you don’t care, but if you get past a certain age, it changes.
I know so many people that started to be more selective with friends, and it has to be like this because otherwise it consumes too much energy, and the situations are repetitive. The same talks, same topics, the same blah blah. At some point you don’t feel like listening to this anymore. I have my point of view, and I want to share it with people that are on the same page. It’s just about knowing where to place yourself, which people you actually enjoy hanging out with. In my experience, if I find people who think the same way as I do, I enjoy life even more. At some point I thought I was missing something, like the feeling of having fun, and enjoying myself outside with others. When I spent my time with too many people, it consumed all my energy. There was so much negativity, and as I said before, it felt the same all the time. But then I found the people who harmonize with me, and things felt right again. I feel like thinking positive really helps you in all areas.
Apart from being a musician, you are also engaged in other art forms.
I do tattooing and illustrations. My father and my grandfather were both artists. My grandfather was a well known painter. He painted with oil and did murals, and he was also a musician and played traditional music in a trio. My father was also a painter and worked more in the publishing business. He created advertisements, and he also sings in a band. So I got my inspiration from there by growing up in this environment. I never had so much support from my family when it comes to art, so Ideveloped it when I came to Berlin. I started making illustrations, and then I got support from a friend and known artist. When she saw my drawings, she gave me reassurance and the power to focus on this to get some benefit and some money out of it. We are all on the search for what our inner self can do, or what our higher self can bring us, and I see art as the best expression of mankind. Through art you can find yourself, who you truly are, and it is also the best way to express yourself and to release your traumas. When you find what you like to do more on the level that you enjoy it, rather than seeing it as work [claps hands] – well done, my friend! I also started to concentrate on tattooing, which is also something that I see as a ritual because it is an exchange of energy. You are opening the skin, and this means for me that energy is flowing. I put symbols on the skin which can empower people. This ceremony of tattooing is how my ancestors did it, and I feel that I am committed to doing it, to bringing this tradition to Europe and to my friends. With these arts I like to show my culture – this is my main point, to show what my culture can offer to you. And it‘s working really well. I get positive feedback from people, and I think I will do this for a long time.
So you are talking about the Native American cultures.
I combine different native cultures – the Mēxihcah [Aztec], Maya, and Inca cultures – and also others like the Egyptian, Sumerian and African cultures. But mainly from the ancient Native Americans, in general from all the Abya Yala. This is the real name of America, and it is divided into Anáhuac and Tahuantinsuyo.
What are the aspects of this kind of spirituality?
Spirituality is something that mankind has been searching for since the beginning of times. It is about knowing ourselves better – where we come from, where we’re going, and what we are doing here. It‘s something that I am also searching for because I come from places where cultures were highly developed. They greatly developed this content with nature, and they understood the forces of nature really well. Sadly, we have been losing this knowledge because of technology, because of the destroying influence of modern society.
We brought a lot of diseases and alcohol. And capitalism.
Capitalism. Definitely, my friend, this is the worst! So now there is no balance anymore for mankind. These cultures had this balance with nature. They understood that we just came here for a brief moment. We have to work all together to develop ourselves, and we have to understand that nature is there, but we’re not the owners of nature. Nature is who rules this. So this spirituality comes to this point, through certain ceremonies. This can be meditation; it can be rituals, or whatever you may call it. You can go outside and stare at the moon or stare at a tree, and you can just be at your place, drawing, or singing, or being at a concert and headbanging. It is about finding the point where you can release yourself and connect with yourself – this is the main point of spirituality. These ancient cultures also did it with the help of medicinal plants, and certain states of meditation. This is what I am dedicating myself mostly to because it caught my attention. Before, when I was in Mexico, I had an interest in it, but it wasn’t as big as it is here and now. Because I was here alone, I had more time to think about it, and to see how rich my culture is and how this culture can actually help us. It can bring so much to the world, not only my culture, but all indigenous cultures. I’m really focused on the medicinal plants because I have discovered that they are there to help us to see beyond the borders of our perception. There is no entity and no higher god but yourself; you are the one who sets the boundaries and who can break these boundaries. The medicinal plants help us a lot to find out who we truly are. They give us a lot of power and strength because in the ceremonies you go through certain states, and you actually fight with yourself. You have to defeat yourself to actually know what you are capable of doing, and how far you can go. Once you do this, my friend, it is amazing. You break a lot of boundaries, and you feel a release afterwards and understand the effects and causes of nature even more. Also you will understand others better, and will respect others more because nature tells you that we are just one. It‘s just one thought and one mind where we all come from, and this is the higher, collective consciousness. It tells us that we have to support each other better and always help each other. If we don’t do that, mankind is going to collapse, because what can be the future of mankind if we don’t believe in each other? We have to learn how nature works, how nature is connected. Nature is a network of different beings working in a collective way to develop, to go to a higher level. This is what the ancient cultures understood; this is what I like to share with people. Also with the band. We are warriors. Warriors, but not in the sense of fighting and killing each other. In the ancient cultures we called ourselves warriors. Spiritual warriors.
It is a spiritual term, like with the samurai in Japan or the kung fu fighters in China.
Exactly. The meaning of warrior was “those who defeat themselves”. Life is a path, and there are a lot of borders and obstacles, so a warrior is someone who defeats all this. In our culture there is something that is called the Necoc Yaotl, which means “The enemy of yourself”, and the warrior is the one who defeats the Necoc Yaotl. That‘s why I use the term warrior, and I also like to call the people on our albums and at the concerts warriors. “Warriors rise again” – rise again, throw all this bullshit from society, from the government, from this educational system – throw this out, and let’s fight again to find ourselves, to rise again and fight for the same cause. This is also found a lot in epic heavy metal. In the lyrics there are a lot of terms with metaphorical meanings, for example about the awakening of the mind. Listen to MANILLA ROAD – they have a lot of amazing lyrics, and they talk a lot in an epic, spiritual way. But they are hidden there, so you have to understand the true meaning. So this is connected to heavy metal and also to punk, which also has a lot of spiritual aspects. It goes hand in hand. For me, it is important to connect these ancient cultures and to bring it to this new age – with the punk scene and with the heavy metal scene. This is not spiritual bullshit. This is just the truth, and the truth will benefit all of us. We can learn to work together, and that’s where I want to take it.
(C) DEPICTED Magazine 2020
No usage of the photos without permission.
This interview was published in the sold out print issue of DEPICTED. It is still available as an eBook here:
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