Felix Camilo Ayala, RIP

By Tyler Cowen

He was an indigenous, Nahuatl-speaking Mexican painter in the “Naive” tradition, working on board, amate paper, and ceramics.  Some of you will know that I was his biographer, along with his two brothers Marcial Camilo and Juan Camilo, both painters as well.  I spent many hours interviewing Felix Camilo (and his friends and relatives) about the events of his life, so it is especially sad for me to see such a tragic final episode, namely death by Covid in his mid-sixties.  He simply was not able to breathe any more, and then he died.

Felix was less ambitious than his brothers, but he had a natural eye for a lovely scene.  Pretty much everyone in San Agustin Oapan, his home village, liked or loved him, and such general popularity there is rare.  He worked hard to avoid faction, to stay on good terms with all, and to raise his children after his wife passed away almost thirty years ago.

Here is an update on the coronavirus situation in Mexico:

Officials reported 1,219 deaths Saturday, which was a near-record for one day, and 463 deaths Sunday.

Mexico has now seen over 1.64 million total infections and registered over 140,000 deaths so far in the pandemic. With the country’s extremely low testing rate, official estimates suggest the real death toll is closer to 195,000.

Here is some basic background on Felix Camilo, his village, and my involvement with it.  These days, one of my friends in Oapan estimates that about two percent of the village has died from Covid, and about half of those are relatively young.  There are many comorbidities and no medical care to speak of.

Here are a few other Felix Camilo images.  He was never a famous painter, but he played a significant part in capturing and communicating a culture that is vanishing rapidly.