The Rocky road from a small town in the southwest of Mexico, via Veracruz, encounters with the deadly hurricanes of the Atlantic ocean, across Vietnam, Thailand, India, to the foundation of his brand Gitano Elemento in Serbia. Life story full of magic and dreams.
Ruben Antonio Gomez (31) was born in a small Mexican town Tapachula on the border with Guatemala. He was raised, by his own admission in a typical Mexican way, conservatism, traditionalism, religiousness, under the shadow of all-encompassing poverty. At 15 he already felt that something more is out there, still intangible at that time, but he could feel it. Without the internet, promises, guideposts, just pure intuition.
He goes central north, to Veracruz, to work on a tuna fishing vessel. At that point he connected with the ocean in the most profound, bare way, that changed his perception of life. In the midst of hurricane season, Ruben, then 17, was a part of the 4-way captain crew, accompanied with 30 sailors, faced the hurricane, which by all means supposed to be their last life postcard. Instead of escaping it, they went right through it.
“Each upcoming second I experienced as my very last, and those seconds lasted for seven hours, you continuously felt that you are going to die”.
I was one of a few having that had control over the boat, so I had to be focused, and be the one who will calm others. It was hard to articulate and transfer that kind of energy, with all the hysteria, panic around.
People were trying to jump over the deck, rather facing certain death then handling the notion of helplessness. I still have a feeling that I died that day, at least a part of me did. In those crucial moments I promised to myself, that if I ever get back to mainland, I’ll start a new life” – Ruben reminisce meditatively calm.
So he never went back to the boat. He started traveling, working in hostels, bars, street selling jewelry.
“I was hoping for this. It may sound too modest, but growing up in obscurity, just that notion that I could travel was something unprecedented, against any logic, a miracle. And in miracles I’ve had always believed, I embarrassed them as a form of my own religion.
After the near-death experience that I faced, I renounced all of the material aspirations that made me do things I wasn’t enjoying, so I focused on my dreams, and the magic started unrolling. Sometimes I just didn’t have a clue how I managed to get to certain point, wishful thinking, magic, you name it, the feeling is unique under any label.
1. Miracles are more universal than any known religion, without the claps and limits, just belief and dreams?
Magic is not something esoteric, it’s rather super realistic for me. I feel it physically, not just in my mind. It may sound like a cliche, but sometimes things are happening without any preordained pattern, common sense. I don’t think I’m the special one, we all are in some forms. We all have that opportunity, power to create magic, but only a few use that tool.
I think it it’s just about time, at a certain point in our life, the portal will open, you’ll just need to find it, the substance.
2. What is the supstance for you?
Passion. To be able to find it you have to go in the right direction. After finding what you love, passion connects instantly. After the ocean episode, I found out that the crucial part of my understanding of life is my own impulse about the inevitability of death. I knew I will die, we all know it in some intellectual way, because somebody told us, ‘cause we read about it, but when you can really smell it, feel it next to you, it’s a something else completely.
You suddenly realize that life is too short and there is nothing to lose. Why doing something that you not enjoy? Fuck everything, pursue what you feel and love. The artistic child in me bloomed later, I wouldn’t say that I carried it since I was a kid, it came with the time. Our work defines us. My jewelry becomes me, my energy, history.
Nothing can give you more knowledge then silence.Ruben Antonio Gomez
After the Mexico peregrination, survival, quest for inner self, he fell in love, so he went to Vietnam at the age of 22. “When you are on the move, inertia takes over and pushes you forward”. He binds with the spiritual world in Asia, where he stayed after the end of romance. So he went to a Buddhist monastery on Thailand, where he discovered meditation and philosophy.
“Full introspection. It gave me needed answers. I saw a part of me I had never seen before. I was looking for spiritual self, but I didn’t get a feedback. I was hoping for a master, guru, higher person, but what Buddhism thought me is that the master is inside myself, but also outside, in another person, animal, three, mineral. Everything that raises your consciousness. What held me the most is to appreciate everything around me, to learn, and to acknowledge positive in everything”.
3. Today we lack appreciation for the things we have. We yearn, long for the things we don’t have, and that’s the trait of a kid. How to balance?
That is a normal human impulse. Those 5 senses are horses alike. We have to train ourselves so we can be able to control them. Those senses are pushing us forward, it’s a basic animal instinct. By just following those senses we wouldn’t differ from little chickens. Living in a big city is a huge stimulation, if you’re not aware of it, you could end up to a dead end, destroying your life. We have to know that all we see, smell, feel, is not all we need to possess.
My mind was also colonized with a lot of bullshit, but meditation helped me a lot. I don’t what to sell some cheap new age theory, but meditations are not just lotus positions with joint fingers.
Meditation could be anything that brings to us inner silence, listening to music for example. Nothing can give you more knowledge then silence. We lack it in cities, cause out there we’re the part of a chain, system, we always have to do something, which is not a bad thing, unless we lose individuality. Who talked about depression 40 years ago? Everything became faster, so we tended to lose connection to ourselves.
After 3 years spent in Asia, a new chapter of his love book took him to the Netherlands. Integration was almost a Sysiphus task for a foreigner, which took its toll on the relationship. He went back to Mexico to visit his parents and instantly felt disconnection, not in the form of underappreciation of his motherland, but in the way of his openness towards the whole world, opportunities, perspectives.
“Maybe I just grow up” speaks almost with a nuance of guilt. His pittoresque life canvas was again painted with love. He founds Emilija, Serbian native girl, with whom he achieved his lifetime dream – India. From Belgrade (Serbia) he headed to Goa. Emilija joined their pilgrimage later.
I always felt that I have an Indian blood. If I follow some intellectual path, I could even find rational proof to it. Many Indians went to Turkey, which conquered Spain, who did the same with Mexico, so maybe there is some genetic basis to my obsession, states with a smile. The modern part of India wasn’t my primary goal, but Goa was the only place at that time where I could provide some source of living, where I could manage to exist and work. I was always lured by untouched, sacred and spiritual part of India on the north.
There is a dualism in India, beautiful monument on one side of the street, and starving kid, on the other. Modern India, which is getting stronger globally get along and coexists with old India, ancient traditions, knowledge. There are still places totally disconnected from everything known in the modern age, mostly in the north part, such as Rajasthan.
My disappointment with India is due to an occurrence happening throughout the world, even the ancient and traditional societies didn’t resist it. I call it spiritual performance.
Spirituality has nothing to do with the money, if you put some proxy in the middle, you lose everything. Five thousand for yoga meditation? Absurd.
India is my key inspiration though. It is where my lifetime flirt with art became all time love. All of the primal, purest materials I found in Rajahstan, the land of the gypsies. Crystals, stones, leather. Perfect spot for the foundation of my jewelry and clothing quest called Gitano Elemento. Since I’m a nomad, the name came naturally.
I felt the need to create, the inner child in me needed to play, explore. Everything was born there for me. I met a girl Divia, she taught me techniques how to work with fire and silver. She is actually the only girl in India who makes jewelry, because in India there are still professional segregations, through predestined sexual roles. She wanted to do that anyways, against all of the critics and odds and became really successful.
I choose Serbia as my base, from where we go to different festivals across Europe. So far we went to Germany, Czech Republic, Romania, Italy, Switzerland, Greece. Tour, Emilija, and I. This year we will be accompanied by a friend of ours, which will really help us a lot. In other European countries, I haven’t felt that bond, hospitality.
Serbians have that latin soul, Belgrade reminds me of Colombia. People are passionate and friendly. Given that I will stay in Serbia, I think that I will only have clearer impressions in time.
As a Mexican, I felt a tremendous connection them, while witnessing the level of celebration when Mexico scored against Germany at the World Cup in Russia. Serbs favor underdogs. In Serbia, people are spending an enormous amount of time complaining. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t like to relativize, but in regards to what I have seen in my life so far, in many countries people live much worse, and I do not mean extremes like India, but take Mexico as an example.
6. Our perception of Mexico, as it may sound trivial, is expressed through symbolic of cartels, food, Corona beer, survival, defiance, toughness, mariachis, maybe Tijuana, for those who went to States.
Every single part of Mexico has its own magic. North is completely different from the south. This is the thing about the media, the narrative is always negative, that sells. Mexico is romantic in a tough way. Serbia is like a subtle mirror of it. Emigration stats are pretty much the same.
Mexico is carrying a big cross due to narco cartels. In the 90’s it was Colombia, now it is Mexico, El Chapo fuss, border issues with the USA as well. The reason is obvious, we live next to number one drug consumer in the world. Somebody needs to supply that market. If it’s not Mexico, it would be some other country. This is not an excuse, of course, it’s just a fact.
7. Is it almost a common occurrence for a youngster to connect with the drug dealing in some form, like Napoletans are intertwined with Camorra, or Sicilians with Cosa Nostra. Movie Sacario greatly presented that scenery?
It depends where you are and where you were born. There are no Brazil like favelas, but we have barrios.
In Sinaloa (north), that kind of living is almost inevitable. During the time in Veracruz, the war between two cartels was on-going. Once, we were drinking a beer on a terrace like this in Belgrade, and we witnessed a car shoutout few meters across us.
A week after that I was driving a car with a friend and his girlfriend. Ten guys stopped us, making a barricade, and pulled us out of the car, pulling the automatic weapons at us. They pressed my face with the rifle, making almost an instant imprint. The girl was left alone. They didn’t shot at us thankfully, just checked our phones, identity cards, finally leaving us alone, when they got convinced that we are not the ones they were looking for.
I got my first ink at 17. Few palm trees next to the sea, eternal nostalgy and association to Tapachula. I like symbols. My cheekbone tattoo represents my bond with the moon. It was a moment of silence in India. Moon helped me a lot. Lunations can give different information, moods. The last collection of mine was a bit aggressive, dark. That side of me I was trying to repress, but it is me as well, it is the part of the human concept, polarity. It was my own way to integrate that dualism.
9. Working with crystals?
I choose them and buy directly from the mines. For me its crucial to have them cleaned, so they can be free of any kind of intention, energy. I use the full moon to clean them on the ground, creating a ceremony for them. I wouldn’t say that my pieces are a powerful because of me, but because of you. I see them as a tool. Crystals are not just for decoration, pieces of jewelry, they are magic tools, bringing you desires, yearnings, they are tubes, channeling our energy.
10. Mexico food and music recommendations?
I will recommend Chilaquiles. Kind of Mexican salad with a tortilla. But Mole is the thing, traditional Mexican recipe. It’s like a salsa, but really consistent. To cook it, requires a lot of skill, dozen of different ingredients inside, culinary masterpiece.
I like the new music fusion wave coming from Latin America. Ancient sounds mixed with the electronic music. Nicola Cruz for example. One of my favorites at the moment is a Pedro Canale from Buenos Aires, with a stage name Chancha Via Circuito, electronic cumbia pioneer. He gathered all of the forgotten Latino sounds, creating a unique musical story.
11. Your inspiration today, and where do you see yourself in the near future?
Inspirations are changing. At the moment I’m totally out of creative frequency, unfortunately, I’m more focused on logistics. My last collection muse was the Moon.
My mother told me while I was a still a boy: “Ruben, if you want to make it, don’t share your dreams with others, only then they will come true”. I stick to her words, so far, so good.
Gitano Elemento: https://www.facebook.com/gitanoelementostore/
Vitraž | Pavle Jakšić