I establish a conversation with the canvas — it’s a beautiful relationship. It’s just humble, beautiful — then you begin — a world begins to form and not created by my will and my ego, but by a magical relationship in which at one point I feel the presence of a — some light around me that it’s guiding the whole situation. It’s just so much harmony at one point in my work, that it’s the greatest joy, the greatest feeling to know that you and the canvas are alone in the world and it’s just that relationship that is so mysterious and it’s so deep.
Alberto Mijangos was born on July 25, 1925 in Mexico City. His father, Alberto, was a native of Oaxaca, and his mother, Isabel Escobar, was a Spanish-descent aristocrat and opera singer from Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua. Mijangos’s father, who had worked as a military paymaster during the Mexican Revolution, ran a thriving piano business, which began to fail in the early 1930s. Alberto Mijangos, his two sisters (Maria and Isabel), and his parents had to move from a luxurious home to a middle-class neighborhood. His embittered father, forced to take a job as a government bureaucrat, began to drink heavily. Alberto Mijangos after ending 6th grade was sent by his father to work in a post office. When he was fourteen years old his mother died and his father kicked him out of the house.
A strong childhood memory was having encountered Diego Rivera at work on his epic mural “The History of Mexico” (1929-35) at the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City; Mijangos recalls that, having run out of water, Diego Rivera used his own spit on the wall to mix the paint for his fresco. Mijangos learned that he liked to draw and decided to become an artist. He enrolled in the national fine arts school, the Academia de San Carlos, in Mexico City and studied for two years (1942-1943).
Mijangos left San Carlos to briefly serve in the Mexican Air Force. Subsequently he worked creating windows displays for store fronts in Mexico City. Even so, Mijangos felt the pull North towards a different life. He hitchhiked to Reynosa, crossed the river into Texas, where just outside of McAllen he picked oranges for three weeks, making at most $1.25 a day, while sleeping in a hole in the ground. He was deported from the United States numerous times, but persisted in crossing the Border.
Determined to achieve his dream of becoming an artist, the immigrant found work as a dishwasher in Edinburg, Texas. Intent on improving his situation, he worked on his English. He secured a small apartment where he painted portraits and bullfighting scenes. When Mijangos’ boss admitted that he was paying him less than the others for the same work simply because his Mexican origins, Mijangos quit on the spot. He traveled to Galveston, secured a job cooking in a restaurant, and painted decorative murals in local nightclubs.