Joel RAMOS MAGDALENO
Birthplace: Zamora, Michoacán, Mexico
scholarship holder of AMFPA since: 1999
Painting Method: Mouth painter
I was born on September 4, 1967 in Zamora, Michoacán, Mexico.
During vacations in March of 1989, I was invited by some friends from the University to go to Acapulco. When we arrived we changed into our bathing suits to go swimming in the pool. When I jumped in, head first, I did not notice the depth of the pool and my head hit the bottom.
The pain was so intense that suddenly everything became dark and I did not recover consciousness until I arrived at the hospital. After many days of unconsciousness, I finally learned the medical diagnosis: I had suffered a fracture of two cervical vertebrae, C-4 and C-5 turning me into a quadriplegic.
After my accident I had to face many problems. Firstly, I had to accept myself in this condition. Later, accept the fact that I would be laying on a bed and finally, confined to a wheelchair.
When I returned home everything seemed different. It was no longer that peaceful and familiar place I knew before. Now, every doorstep, every door, every stairway, represented an obstacle for me. My disposition changed and I became tough and aggressive. I experienced a lot of friction with my family because I disclaimed the accident.
It was worse when it was time to eat because a refused to accept that I could not do it by myself. It was exasperating not being able to accommodate myself in bed to sleep the way I wanted and having to ask my brothers to help me. I did not like going out to the street because I was ashamed that others would see me in a wheelchair. Inside and out, my life was empty.
One day, a young group of prayer from the church invited me to join them in their spiritual activities and, with little convincing, I accepted. As the days went by my faith started awakening again until, once more, I opened my heart to God… and everything started to change. First, I accepted my situation and learned to coexist with my family. I started praying every night asking God to give me another opportunity in life to do something useful, to help me get rid of the feeling of being a burden to others. It had been four years since my accident and I felt that my family was somewhat tired of having to pay for my medications and constant doctors’ visits. And God heard me: sitting on my water bed one day and with pillows all around me to protect me from falling, my three year old niece came to my side with a notebook and a pencil and asked me to draw something for her. I answered that I couldn´t because it was not possible for me to move my body. Then, with the most natural and innocent smile on her face she placed the pencil between my lips and said, “well, do it with your mouth”.
At first I laughed at her words but she insisted and I thought that she would feel disappointed if I didn´t try it. So I did what I could. Maybe it was not the best drawing but she loved it and for me, this opened a whole new path to a different world.
That afternoon I spent time scribbling page after page. From that day on and during the next six months I practiced drawing day after day and each time it looked better and I could also do it quicker. Another incredible event happened soon after that. One afternoon we had a knock at the door and my mother told me that a young boy was asking for me. When he came into my room I realized that I did not know him. He then told me that he had seen me on several occasions in my wheelchair in the street and that he wanted to give me gift. He then gave me a kit with paints and brushes. At that very moment I convinced myself that painting would not only be a factor in my recuperation, but the principal motivator in my existence.
Soon after, one of my brothers paid for me to take painting classes offered in a private school. The University of Zamora granted me a scholarship to study four courses for six months each: two in oil painting, one in acrylics and another in watercolor. In this last course I received highest honors.
It was in 1993, four years after the accident, when I started painting formally. Even though my first paintings were not the best, everyone that saw them was amazed to learn that I had painted them with my mouth. This started giving me much confidence in my work and in my daily life.
Finally, in 1999 I contacted the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists, where I was accepted as a member in 2000. From that moment forward, my work has become known in many parts of my country and abroad. I have met other painters with my same disability and, by getting to know them, my life has been enriched considerably. Besides, I am now in charge of my own budget and can purchase materials and my medicines. The support received from the Association has been priceless.
Currently, not only do I paint, but I also offer classes to students with normal capacities. This makes me feel good about myself.
When I go out in my wheelchair some people recognize me as “the painter”, they greet me caringly as well as offer many congratulations for my work.
All this has been very encouraging and helps me to overcome the health crisis that I have to face with certain frequency.
My life now has an objective and a reason.