Hugo Crosthwaite
El Pelado, 2013


Acrylic, ink, graphite on canvas

127.00 x 73.00 in

322.6 x 185.4 cm

Unique Work

Signed on reverse

  • "El Pelado" represents the underdog, the clown, and is the central character of the Carpas performance. Pelado is a slang term invented in the 1920s to describe a certain class of urban poor in Mexico. "Pelado" also means a person whose head has been shaved or whose hair has been cut very short, referring to the custom in jails and assistance institutions to cut the inmates' hair in order to prevent lice and other parasites. In addition, it has come to mean a person who is broke and in financial straits. The Pelado is the central character in the Carpas theater and is the Mexican national clown, a penniless underdog that brought the popular concerns and spirit ignored by official society. But in the canvas“Carpa” drawing, the pelado is portrayed as the Mexican migrant worker. This central figure is presented as running forward through the desert holding a walking stick (a common symbol of travel) and balancing a bleached human skull over his head. This symbolizes the balance of life and death, with the inverted skull referencing life and success in the endeavor as opposed to failure and death. The figure has images tattooed on his body that present the ordeals and tribulations that the character has faced as itprays to the “Virgin of Guadalupe” for safe passage. These tattooed images mirror the Mexican retablo paintings, devotional images painted on tin that are created in gratitude for miracles. The writing on the figure translates as follows: “I give infinite thanks to San Toribio Romo, the saint of wetbacks, that besides the blows and beatings that I received from La Migra, I was able to cross the border to go to work. In gratitude, I offer this Retablo”. The aesthetic of this piece mirrors that of the old printed religious stamp, that features a catholic saint or martyr, but in this case the devotional image is that of the migrant worker who with great bravery and wit, like a modern day Pelado, travels long distances, survives and overcomes great dangers and exposes the corruption of unjust and immoral laws.

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