Madrid – Despite the saying to the contrary, the sword is mightier than the pen, but while one causes pain, the other has the ability to stir dreams of hope, as is the case with "Viva la vida" (Long Live Life), a collection of sketches about residents of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico's murder capital.
"This Mexican city is home to 1.5 million people, and not all of them are traffickers. There are people who live and work, children who go to school, and there are people who die from natural causes. That's the message we wanted to get across," artist Edmond Baudoin, co-author with Jean-Marc Troubet of the book "Troubs," said.
"We go wherever men try to achieve their dreams. We travel a lot around the world, and the border issue is something that had always attracted us. In addition, I always remember that saying of Roberto Bolaño: 'Ciudad Juarez is the border of borders,'" Baudoin, who was born in Nice, France, in 1942, said in an interview with Efe.
The idea was to travel to the Mexican border city and make a deal with residents, trading dreams for drawings.
"We were there in the months of October and November 2010. The people told us about their greatest wishes and we, in exchange, did a portrait," Baudoin said.
This raises the question of whether you can dream under such adverse conditions?
"I believe that men did not stop dreaming even in the concentration camps. The current situation in countries, however, makes me uneasy. There is something in the consumer world that can monopolize everything and kill dreams," the artist said.
"In Ciudad Juarez, we heard about the same dreams as in Madrid or Paris. Everyone in the world wants the same thing: a better future for their children, to not lose their job ... Simple things. Except the children, no one dreams of going to the Moon. Man, generally speaking, only aspires to die being better than when he was born," Baudoin said.
The personal and emotional come across in the sketches created by the two artists, who traveled around the city in the daytime and headed to their hotel in the evenings to record what they experienced.
"There were frequently very emotional meetings, the artist said.
"Usually, the foreigners who go to this city do so to investigate the murders, the death. We were investigating life, and that was something new for us, like the expected arrival of spring," the artist said, adding that he had not been able to forget the words of an 11-year-old boy.
"He told me that he wanted to 'live to be old.' It was something really emotional," Baudoin said.
Death does not discriminate based on gender in Ciudad Juarez, but it has macabre preferences, and thousands of women have been killed in the border city in recent years.
There has been much speculation about who is behind the killings - organized crime groups, satanists - but Baudoin has a much more plausible explanation.
"The women are dying due to the other border, the one that still exists between them and the men. The young women who work in the 'maquiladoras' (foreign-owned assembly plants in northern Mexico) are doing great work for the liberation of the South American woman," Baudoin said.
"Their grandmothers and mothers did not dare take this step, to leave the village and leave their family behind to go work in a factory. They often live alone, and a woman alone in Ciudad Juarez gives bad ideas to certain people who remain anchored in the past. In addition, the murder of a woman may be the test for entering a gang. It's terrible that things like this happen," the artist said.
Baudoin, a prolific author, has published two nearly consecutive books in Spanish, with the launch of "Viva la vida" coming close on the heels of "El vendedor de estropajos," a graphic novel that featured a story by historian, archaeologist and writer Fred Vargas (Frederique Audoin-Rouzeau).
The novel tells the story of Pi, a tramp who ends up being the only witness to an attempted murder.
The reader learns about the sorry existence of Pi, a man whose body bears many scars, via the questions of precinct chief Adamsberg.