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Jaguar: Rodrigo Carapia (video)

A documentary short about the Mexico City-raised, Madison-based artist.

Photo: Artist Rodrigo Carapia stands at the center of a mural that depicts the face of a jaguar, The mural has a background made of swirls of various shades of blue, and in the foreground are the green branches of a plant.

Rodrigo Carapia’s favorite animal is the jaguar, which in Mexico is synonymous with power, strength, and protection. These are all attributes that Carapia identifies with and strives to capture in his work as a painter, and he frequently draws on the jaguar as a symbol of Latin America’s strength and resistance.

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In 2008, at the age of 17, Carapia immigrated from Mexico City to the U.S. When he arrived in Madison, the self-taught artist had to adapt his street art to muralism and switch from spray paint to brushes. His work here has included the first mural at the Dane County Juvenile Detention Center, a black panther and jaguar mural during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests painted behind the Overture Center for the Arts, and contributions to the Dane County’s Centro Hispano Esperanza mural. His experiences as an immigrant, who comes from a vulnerable neighborhood in Mexico City, drove him to help incarcerated youth and others through his art. 

In a new documentary short, Jaguar, I explore Carapia’s world and the experiences that have shaped his art.

Carapia’s story is accompanied by Señor Loop’s song “Quieras o no,” from the Panamanian band’s 2013 album Vikorg.

I chose this song because it perfectly combines alternative rock with catchy Latin American rhythms. Señor Loop’s use of vivid electric guitars, a vibrant cowbell, energetic drums, a bright trombone, and Lilo Sánchez’s distinctive voice will get you dancing immediately.

I wanted to complement Carapia’s strong personality and art with music that takes you directly to Latin America. So, I explored the possibility of integrating music into the story that rhythmically portrays the Latin American essence.

The art and the music merged perfectly. The electric guitars set a serious tone at the beginning. But then, the cowbell and trombone bring in a natural vibrancy that adds life to Carapia’s bright jaguars. 

But this all ends up being a wild experience because of the combination of nature, immigration, art, and music. It’s also the first time I got to include a renowned Latin American band’s music in a documentary. This was just a wild impulse to include my favorite song by Señor Loop, which takes me back to when I interviewed them in Costa Rica and they talked about having no expectations throughout the creative process and simply enjoying it.

That’s what happened here. No expectations were set and everything flowed, so that you can now enjoy a wild story about a jaguar in Madison.

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