Javier Martínez Pedro was born in 1963 in Xalitla, near Iguala in the Mexican state of Guerrero. Along with working in the fields, at age 13 he began drawing, a family tradition that his three sons have continued in the meantime. In 2000, he fled to the United States in hopes of a better life, but after working for two months on a plantation, he returned to Mexico because he had been badly treated because of his ethnicity. He and his father grow watermelons; in addition, Martinez Pedro earns money with illustrations drawn on paper he produces himself from tree bark.
Typical motifs of his work in this unusual artistic technique, for which he has won national and international awards, are scenes of everyday rural life, like farm work, weddings, and festive processions. He came to the attention of the publisher of his literary debut when she bought his pictures at the market in Mexico City. In about four months of work, he created a fanfold book on a single piece of tree bark paper, folded nine times, whose text, based on a poem by the Mexican poet José Manuel Mateo, is read vertically from top to bottom. Bound in linen, this work of art thereby stands in the tradition of the Aztec codex, a pictorial script in use from the 14th to the 16th century. »Migrar« (2011; Eng. »Migrant: The Journey of a Mexican Worker«, 2014), tells the story of a family’s journey from a rural, idyllic Mexican village to Los Angeles, told by a small boy, unfolds in the literal sense of the term. When the boy’s father, who has already emigrated to the United States to find work, no longer sends money home and the boy’s mother finds no work in the village, either, the rest of the family has no choice but to flee as well. Even if they finally manage to reach the USA, it remains uncertain whether they will find the boy’s father and a future there. Critics praised how »Migrar« conveys also visually how small and lost the figures feel on their odyssey and that the pictures’ wealth of detail entices the reader to decipher their often concealed meaning. The jury of the Bologna Ragazzi Award also underscored that the unusual way the book must be read is implicitly accessible to children.
Among the other awards that »Migrar« has received are the Antonio Garcia Cubas Prize and the White Raven of the International Youth Library (both 2012). The Mexican edition of »Migrar« was followed by editions in Spain, Poland, the United States, and France, whereby the last-named version of the book is colorized, unlike the original edition. In 2015, »Migrar« came out in a German-Spanish bilingual version. Martínez Pedro lives in Xalitla.