Journey to Mexico: Revolutionary Messages & the Tarahumara
On 10 January 1936, the poet, actor, and dramatic theorist, Antonin Artaud departed Europe on a journey to Mexico that would take him from the streets, cafés, and lecture halls of Mexico City to the remote mountains of the Sierra Tarahumara. The journey would last only ten months, culminating in some six to eight weeks spent among the Tarahumara (Rarámuri), but it was a profound turning point in his life.
Artaud didn’t just leave Europe. He fled it. “I came to Mexico to escape European civilization … I hoped to find a vital form of culture.” The vital form of culture that he sought was one wherein individual and communal behaviors were rooted in the soil of a place, wherein the rituals of religion reinforced a connection in human lives between the earth and the sun.
But Artaud’s search for a vital form of culture would not be a simple one. His appeal to indigenous culture would first require an intense and intricate effort at aesthetic, religious, political, and philosophical decolonization. And this intellectual work would not be without a psychological cost.
Journey to Mexico collects very nearly all of Artaud’s writings related to his voyage to the land of the Tarahumara: the writings he prepared prior to this journey; the pieces he published in Mexico and the lectures he delivered there; the essays, letters, and poems that he wrote in the years after his journey, reflecting on and reframing his experiences. A selection of letters written before, during, and after the trip conveys the very personal — the physical, emotional, and financial — challenges of the journey.
Artaud’s Journey to Mexico takes us far from home to the limits of art and anthropology, myth and religion, to confront the legacies of colonial conquest and the possibility of decolonization in a desperate search for a “vital form of culture.”
Journey to Mexico: Revolutionary Messages & the Tarahumara (2024)
Translated by Rainer J. Hanshe
Edited, introduced, and with notes and a chronology by Stuart Kendall
Forthcoming 4 March 2024.