Nathan Durapau, 24, Pirate’s Alley artist.
“I was born and raised in Mexico. My parents were missionaries and I spent the first 12 years of my life there. We lived in a lot of areas. I was born in Matamoros, which is in the state of Tamaulipas, in the northeast. It’s on the border, a pretty big city. My birthday is Halloween, so Day of the Dead stood out for me personally, but my family didn’t participate at all because it didn’t fit in with their belief system.
We also lived in a town called Calnali. The name translates to the house on the other side of the river. Every Day of the Dead they had a full cultural spectacle. People ran around with purple, red and yellow dyes, and small little bags filled with flour. If you got caught on the street they’d bombard you and throw dye and flour on you. My family and I would just lock ourselves up in the house for a couple days. We wouldn’t go out, we weren’t allowed to participate in that.
As a kid growing up I adopted my parent’s belief system. I just didn’t really separate myself from any religious ties. Later we moved to Laplace, Louisiana, because my father had family in the area. I met this girl at a summer art program in Chicago and we fell in love. We started talking, and had this long-distance relationship. She lived in Portland. Eventually I was like, ‘I need to be with you, this whole distance thing sucks.’ Her parents allowed me to move in there, so I finished my last year of high school in Portland. Some things were really different, like recycling.
It was about being with the girl I loved, but it was also about separating myself from the aggressive religious scene I’d grown up around. One big thing that stood out for me with the religion was individuals telling other individuals how to live their lives and have relationships without having any idea about the nature of that relationship. Like that I couldn’t have this relationship with the girl, even though she was on the other side of the country and we were just talking. It wasn’t physical, it was spiritual. But when I left my parents just stood back and allowed me to make my own decision. They were completely okay with it.
Death is a big part of the Christian religion. One of the main motivations in being Christian is to save your soul. There’s a big fear factor. As I grew up and developed that became a huge detraction. I don’t think any religious culture should motivate their participants with fear. You have all these beautiful wonderful sugar-coated guidelines on how to interact and deal with other people, but if you don’t follow them you’re going to burn for a very long time!
I moved to this city in January of 2013, so it will be about three years. New Orleans is much more open toward all sides. You will have experiences in this city that are very vibrant. I don’t know…it’s peculiar. This city isn’t just black and white, it has more of a gray area. It blends the two so dramatically, the light and the dark. I don’t think individuals who are not from here recognize that so well. I think there’s a large separation between the real magic in this city and the sold magic. You will find fake magic on every corner, but you won’t find the actual magic until you live here.”