Jim Vogel

El Fronterizo

Oil on canvas panel in antique carved wood frame (frame collaboration with Christen Vogel), Image: 18"h x 32"w, framed: 24"h x 39"w, Item No. 18523,


In early Spring of this year we were driving north through San Luis Valley in Southern Colorado when I spotted a Crested Caracara in the sagebrush. It was being harassed by two big ravens. The Caracara was far north out of its native range, the southern border of the U.S. being its northern most reaches. The image stuck with me and I started ruminating on this beautiful bird.

The Crested Caracara is considered the original national eagle of Mexico, (although now it appears as a golden eagle on their flag and seal) and was highly revered by the Aztecs. It is the bird that marked the place where their capital Tenochtitlan should be built. Prior to the U.S. taking over New Mexico in 1848, the Mexican territory included southern Colorado, so I saw the caracara as visiting its historic homeland (the farthest northern reaches of it), thus the title “El Fronterizo”. 

I composed the painting using the seal of Mexico with the bird perched on a prickly pear cactus clutching a rattlesnake. Instead of surrounded by the blue of Lake Texcoco, I placed it at the base of the San Juan Mountains of southern Colorado. The Caracara is looking off to the right because I imagine the two ravens are just off the painting plein waiting to apprehend this migrant and send it back south.