Venerable American Indian Artist, Rainbow Hawk...A La Paz, Baja California, Institution
Rainbow, Beard and Hat, Waits in the Callejon
Rainbow Hawk: Artist or Enigma?
The town of La Paz snuggles on the Sea of Cortez side of the Baja Peninsula, Mexico. It is a peaceful place, as its name suggests - Paz meaning “Peace.” It’s history has featured oyster pearling: it once was the number one place in the world for the shiny adornments. That is no more and agriculture is in prominent place, with fishing and tourism also benefiting the economy.
Of late, many travellers looking for this special type of laid-back and tranquil ambience, have begun to call La Paz home. One such, has been a fixture in the Callejon, by the La Perla Hotel, for as long as many can remember. His “office” is a table and chair in one of the cafes which line the sides of this often draughty alleyway. Which, depends on whether Rainbow is in favour or not with the latest owner, who will weigh-up whether his assistance to put chairs out and take them in at night makes up for the occasional food he accepts, and the chair and table he occupies. Rainbow, with no little justification, claims he brings more customers to the establishment just to see him, and, ipso facto, they buy food and drinks.
Rainbow’s past is a hazy as the sun that sets across the bay on a winter’s night. He admits to prison, what for, we can only guess, but pot is the most likely: growing it, selling it, just smoking it whenever he feels like it. He does keep some sort of a lid on this today, but marijuana, or moto in local lingua franca, is easy to find and cheap to buy.
Rainbow looks more like a cheeky Irishman in Belfast pub, but he claims to be mostly Indian, I can’t recall the tribe. He will also intimate he has been any place in the world you have, just don’t question him too hard on the details. He also claims to be a musician, but I have never heard him really play any instrument.
His claim to be an artist is backed up by more evidence. I have seen him work for hours making a line drawing in pencil by doing thousands, if not millions of dots. He then copies these and keeps the original as a master to use again and again. Rainbow values these works quite highly and has sold many of them, eking a tenuous living from the sales. But there are long passages where nothing sells and Hawk depends on hand-outs from friends and local establishments. Sometimes he has gone 48 hours without sustenance to the point of collapsing where he sits. Just last year, Rainbow lost a loyal and trusted friend, his dog, Ricky, an Australian Cattle Dog I believe. Ricky - and his “wife” Bruja (meaning “witch” previously deceased) had been with Rainbow through thick and thin and bouts of starvation for perhaps 15 years. These days, the pair had lived in scruffy rooms until the back rent accumulated so much the latest landlord was forced, kindly and reluctantly, to act. In the First World we pay lip service to human rights, meanwhile perpetrating every kind of mean and greedy trick on our populations. Generally, in Mexico, a person’s so-called rights; his ability to live, succeed or fail, is respected, no matter how far off the beaten track he strays.
See footnote for more on this..
Before he moved to the comparative luxury of a cheap room, Rainbow and his dogs lived in an old station wagon (estate), finding a place to park at night. Again, the local police left him alone to enjoy what rest he could. But the old Ford finally gave up the ghost about ten years ago, forcing Hawke into rented accommodation. Not that he would often poney- up with the moolah.
For the last about 8 years, Rainbow has been involved with Greenpeace and other ecologically minded warriors. He has always claimed to have started the Rainbow Peace Movement in the States and this year he held a convention of the hippie set in La Paz, I was sorry to have missed this.
You can find Rainbow Hawk on Face book and his various activities in various locations on the search engines. I never hear from him these days, which does bother me because I helped largely in his support for some years (from 1999 until 2003 actually). Remember all those breakfasts, Indian?
But I will say Rainbow Hawk has been good value. He did point me towards a few stories when I was a reporter in Mexico and he is always there! Like one of the statues on the La Paz malecon (seafront).
So do buy the old boy a coffee and a snack when you pass through the Callejon by the old La Perla Hotel. You’ll find him good value, even if a pinch of salt is needed now and again…and I don’t mean on your breakfast egg.
Footnote: This was brought home to me vividly one New Year’s Eve, when my wife and I became stupefyingly legless in Ensenada (North Baja). As we left the restaurant and climbed into the car, my wife vomiting all over the seats, the police arrived, politely but firmly removed the ignition keys, and called us a taxi. The next day I went to retrieve my car only to find it had been cleaned thoroughly and all traces of the vomit removed. And they refused payment, graciously bidding us “Vaya con Dios.” (Go with God) Can you imagine that happening in grim UK or the USA? Ha! We would have been in cuffs and spent the night in a cell.