Ideas never develop in a straight line. This is especially true in the process of making art. Those that are sufficiently compelling not to be jettisoned at the onset are subject to countless revisions, mutating so many times that they frequently end up having little in common with their original concerns. Such was the case of La Pierde Almas.

It occurred to me that the microcosm of the cantina offers an especially interesting stage upon which the theater of the human experience could, at any hour of the day, be intimately observed, playing itself out under the powerful, magnifying influence of mezcal.

The original idea entailed the production of a group of studies in situ that could later be translated to large canvases back in the studio. With this in mind, I put together a miniature kit, containing only the most essential drawing materials, so as to be as unobtrusive as possible while at work. I chose to use parchment as the support for the drawings because, apart from the exquisite texture of its surface, it was tough enough to withstand almost any abuse that either draftsman or barman could have contrived. Having cut out several rectangles to correspond in scale to the canvases I had recently stretched in the studio, I was now equipped for my voyeuristic mission and began to frequent some of my favorite haunts with a new sense of duty.

Working in situ is always a pleasure because of the heightened lucidity that the uniqueness of place induces. The smoke-filled chambers of the cantina are no exception and indeed have their own special appeal. To be cloistered within those meter-thick walls enamelled a ravishing green the color of dying chlorophyll and dazzlingly tattooed by generations of flies into a copro-galaxial chart of the cosmos; to dog-paddle through a cumulo-nimbus of tobacco fumes from the urinal to one's table; to inhale the pungently sweet perfume of broad-shouldered transvestites mixing with the reek of industrial-strength floor cleaner... who can resist a cantina? Each new darkened doorway, broadcasting its umber ness out to the sunny street, is more seductive than the last.

However, it didn't take long for me to realize that, by insisting upon documenting what I saw, I was painting myself into a corner in which the depth of truth that art is capable of sounding would be compromised by the doctrine of fact. Verisimilitude versus veracity. I decided instead that I would, at least on canvas, invent my own cantina. Art feeds on life, but should never imitate it.
Before you open for business you have to have a name. I chose La Pierde Almas after an epithet given to a cantinero I knew long ago who ran a tavern high on a windy hill outside a village called Santos Degollados, forty minutes north of the city of Oaxaca. His nickname was El Pierde Almas or, 'the loser of souls'.

This book started out simply enough as a catalogue. But, soon that idea also fell by the wayside, eclipsed by bountiful fate which fashioned an intersection between my life and the lives of two wonderful writers who happen also to be authorities on the subject of cantinas: Guillermo Fadanelli and Ulises Torrentera.

The paintings and drawings comprising the series La Pierde Almas represent a first filament, which was eventually interwoven with the stories, authored by my esteemed friends, to form a braid. Each strand, whether it be made of images or words, stands clearly on its own, but plaited together - echoing, but never illustrating one another - it is hoped that they will create a unique thread to guide you, Reader, Beholder, like Theseus, ever onward, toward the nether regions of our colective cantina experience, toward the Minotaur: the horned, archaic and corrupted innocence that lurks there.

Jonathan Barbieri, 25 November 2001