In Black Panther (2018) we see how a culture evolved and thrived without the help of globalization. As science and technology improved the way of life for the people of Wakanda, a fictitious city located in Africa, where the Black Panther is the king, this isolated and utopian society has kept its culture, traditions, and adapted them into a modern way of life. The movie makes me wonder what would have happen to ancient cultures in America if they hadn’t been colonized? Would their improvements in science have put them ahead in the current Fourth Industrial Revolution? Sadly, we’ll never know, but at least we can imagine it. This is the exact idea of a Mexican artist whose illustrations depicts a parallel future where an apocalypse has arrived and only super high-tech Mayan scientists and badass cyber Aztecs can protect us from annihilation. He tells a fictional story with no words, only images, just like the Aztecs and the Maya did with their hieroglyphs.
Raúl Cruz, aka Racrufi, has spent the past 25 years creating incredible characters that combine two very distant perspectives: technology and ancient civilizations. With a twist on a dystopian reality, his illustrations borrow Aztec and Mayan elements to create steampunk characters like cyber warriors, spaceships, and mutant robots. His technique has turned him into one of the most influential exponents in science fiction and fantasy with regard to Mexican culture. Instead of stone and rock, his characters are made out of steel; instead of skulls, he draws helmets; and instead of hand-made tools of bone, his characters use heavy machinery and advanced weaponry. An association that some would think illogical and impossible, while others would it call creatively original and cool.
Every single one of his illustrations tells a different story that leaves room for many interpretations. In a way, his works are a call for more creativity in the field of fantasy in Latin America. When you think about it, this theme makes complete sense. Indigenous civilizations were scientifically more advanced in science than European ones. For example, the Maya had already invented a numeric system (including the number zero), they built observatories to monitor the stars, and knew how the sun’s position could affect agriculture. Meanwhile, Galileo Galilei was convicted of heresy by the Roman Inquisition for supporting the idea that the Earth orbited around the sun. Nevertheless, the Inca were highly knowledgeable in engineering, and the Aztecs had a sophisticated mathematical system – oh, and a gigantic stone calendar– among many other things. So, to me, this sci-fi scenario could have been possible, if these civilizations had been allowed to continue existing, but we all know what happened…
Racrufi is currently living in Mexico City, and his work has been displayed at different galleries and universities in Mexico and the United States. His inspiration comes from anything and anywhere: people, landmarks, history books, etc. He carries around a scratch paper notebook in which he is constantly illustrating new characters. I believe he sends a message of knowledge and heritage and he wishes to show the world the wisdom of his roots as well as his perception of Latin American culture. When we allow others to interpret these ancient civilizations as primitive and uncivilized, we are discrediting their astronomic and engineering improvements that, until today, are still a mystery for archeologists. In Racrufi’s illustrations, we can find an alternative reality where timelines and history are blurred.
Images by: @raacrufi
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