"El Ombligo De La Luna" / PREMIERE / Daniel Peña / INTERVIEW

Daniel Peña is a longtime skater and activist from Mexico City, strong of peregrinations in zine and garment production and, since 2017, the mastermind behind Milquinientosveintiuno - or "1521" - his current point of focus, having put together a team of homies with a common interest for urban skate aesthetics and general creative processes. "EL OMBLIGO DE LA LUNA" is the brand's newest (and first official) audiovisual offering, originally introduced to LIVE by mutual connection Jesse Narvaez and now available for y'all to watch, and stare at now ever-so-foreign skies but also study the variety in architecture, approaches and styles Mexico can put on display. And of course, we also caught up with Daniel himself in order to learn more, resulting in this interview, below!
 
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LIVE Skateboard Media: Yo Dan, how are things? First things first, this new montage of yours, "EL OMBLIGO DE LA LUNA" that you are presenting today is a Milquinientosveintiuno production which, according to the almighty Instagram, has been around since 2017 and focuses on skateboarding around the streets of Mexico City, is that correct? Are you originally a local from that area? If not, where are you from, and in general, what is your background in skateboarding and videography like? 
 
Daniel Peña: Hi! Everything well here. Yeah, that's correct, we focus on the streets for skating, nothing new [laughs].
 
I'm from a town near Mexico City, like, the suburbs. I've been skating since 2003 and started taking photos around 2007, 2008. The curiosity came from watching videos like "MOSAIC", "INHABITANTS", "MINDFIELD" - you know, because of how artsy they looked, so I decided to get a camera to experiment with angles with my friends who skated at the time, walking around the city and catching some details - every day.
 
I started with a 35-millimeter half-frame camera and Polaroid SX-70; I wasn't interested in working with a digital camera. For me, it was easier and cheaper to use film and get results.
 
Years later, I became more interested in large format photography, took a film photography workshop and decided to start something with my photos - at first I was considering a simple blog, then I met a friend who invited me to make a little zine - we ended up making six issues.
 

"Milquinientosveintiuno is
the current prism of
everything I know
how to do"

 
In 2015, I meet Adán Belío - we were both out of board sponsors at the time, and we talked about starting something as a crew since he was working with a VX-1000 camera, putting it to great use and I had a photo camera. So we decided to create our own content and experiment with different formats, like Super 8 cameras and film.
 

Adán Belío, frontside 50-50. Ph.: Daniel Peña
 
LSM: Your Instagram bio also mentions As de Paz and 1303 Zine, how affiliated are you with both projects exactly? What would you have to say about their level of activism, and what they aim at bringing to the table of alternative culture in your scene? More especially, is there a vision those entities are trying to develop? In addition to making skate videos, what other creative outlets do you have to keep busy?
 
Daniel: Yes, I've been working on those projects with two friends - 1303 is a zine that recaps our photography works as well as other contributions from artists from Mexico: paintings, paper collages, etc. 1303 is on stand-by right now, but I hope to bring it back to life soon.
 
As de Paz is a clothing brand intended for those who are in the streets: skaters but also non-skaters, writers for instance.
 
I have been working on both projects since their inception, but right now my focus on those is low as I'm more onto doing things for Milquinientosveintiuno [1521].
 

"One company that reflects
all the national identity and
throws Mexico City
over the bridge"

 
As of late, 1521 has actually been keeping me busy - it's the current prism of everything I know how to do, and developing it as a skateboard company is the goal.
 
LSM: Onto the main dish of the day, now - "EL OMBLIGO DE LA LUNA". Not the first Milquinientosveintiuno production by any means, right - may you please tell us about the previous ones? Now, how did the gathering of those completely unsuspicious four minutes and twenty seconds of sharp VX and smooth skating come about; where did you film - are all the spots in Mexico City? How would you describe the local scene, and how does skateboarding tend to be viewed culturally there - from your experience, both from the skaters’ and the non-skaters’ perspectives? How did you end up filming with those skaters in particular, are they just the good homies who’re always on the sesh, people you handpicked because you especially liked their style, official team riders - what do you have to say about them, and your experience filming this video altogether?
 
Daniel: Yeah, this isn't the first video, but this it's the first officially branded video, in a way.
 
Before that one, we made two montages in order to gather some experience in everything about the process: using the VX-1000, Super 8, taking the photos, editing it all, searching for the right music, etc...
 
Those montages were also to scout the people who could potentially be part of the team. Then after those, we decided to give the thing a more serious dimension, released our first board and made an accompanying video to showcase our new company - one company that reflects all the national identity and throws Mexico City over the bridge.
 

Daniel Peña, fastplant. Ph.: Zair Baltezar
 
Yeah, all the spots are in the City and nearby areas.

In terms of overall vision, the Mexican scene is pretty strong now - there are a lot of new kids ripping all the spots, create media and other stuff.

The perspective here for skaters is getting more open and easier with more brands, more people involved, more parks; for the citizens, skateboarders are acceptable, only in some zones of the City, if you go to skate you can get in troubles with people or the police but nothing dangerous. The locals are familiar with skaters these days.

Our early team is small: there is Benny Santa Cruz, Adán Belío and myself. I think we have things in common, like a shared taste for spot search and all the other minutia that makes 1521 look the way it does.

We are from Mexico City, we know the area very well, we love our culture as Mexicans and we think we can combine this with skateboarding to make great things.

"Here the scene is growing,
today - everybody is
making things"

I feel that we work really well the way we do it which is, nothing serious, and just thinking of it as a thing to do - grabbing the board and going to hit the streets. This is that we do, and have been doing every day since the beginning - it's all about going skating and conquering spots.

The experience of working with those guys is, for me, the best; we feel really satisfied with this new era in our lives and I hope that keeps going better and better. 

LSM: You got in touch with LIVE to share "EL OMBLIGO DE LA LUNA" via our mutual connection Jesse Narvaez. How did that one come about, for you? More generally, how familiar are you with the other scenes around Mexico and what would your words be on the current state of skateboarding in your country in general? A few months ago, we presented "VIDEOSTILL", a full-length video from young skate filmmaker from Guadalajara, Dom Diaz - have you heard about it, and how do you feel about new generations everywhere in the world still embracing the VX-1000 / Mini-DV and film formats despite all the modern technology available at hand? How hard would you say it is to be a VX filmer in Mexico? Any regional or national independent brands, productions, artists and links you would recommend checking out?
 
Daniel: Jesse and the Loophole Wheels guys were in Mexico sometime in the late winter - I met them through Adán who had already met them five years earlier.
 
I explained our intention of doing a video presentation for 1521 Skateboards to Jesse and he really supported us - he liked our work and said "hey, I have a friend at Live Skateboard Media, he can get the video featured on the site", so that was all a bit spontaneous.
 

"It's important that everything
you make will be made
the best possible way, and
the way that you choose"

 
Like I was saying earlier, here the scene is growing, today - everybody is making things, contests, videos, photos, teams... It's great to see how, step by step, Mexican skateboarding is starting to make noise around the world.
 

Benny Santa Cruz, gap to frontside lipslide. Ph.: Daniel Peña
 
Yeah, I heard about Dom when he appeared on LSM - I've never met him, but I found his video interesting and noticed that he works with film cameras too, and that is great.
 
I think it's important that everything you make will be made the best possible way, and the way that you choose; Mini-DV/film cameras or H.D./digital is a thing that comes down to personal taste. Obviously, everybody knows the difference between both ends of the spectrum, and how the analog side needs to stay alive as long as possible, because a lot of people grew up watching videos that were made with Mini-DV cameras and the feeling of working with the original technology from when one was a little kid is great, so those tend to prefer sticking to the VX, Super 8 and film cameras now.
 
Admittedly, here it's a little hard because getting VX-1000's can be expensive, you need to have them imported, but once you have them then the tapes are easy to buy, and cheap.

As far as recommendations, I can think of my two friends Daniel Vigenor and Joel Tlacaelel - both are skate photographers and I love their work, as well as my friends over at Jungle Skateboarding from Querétaro, for sure!
 
LSM: Alright Dan, shout outs time! Any more projects up in the air, any plans for the future, any productions, happenings or really anything we should expect next? Thanks a lot for doing this!
 
Daniel: Thank you for the time! Yeah, the next step is to continue working on 1521 Skateboards full time and make more graphics - we are planning on making a full-length video sometime in the near future so, for that, we're going to need to skate a lot, in other cities and hopefully, other countries! Get a new members on board for sure, and write our history.
 
Thanks again and see you later! Cheers.
 
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Bonus content: for more of the same guys, please do yourself a favor and check out "HUIXQUI" by George Toland!
 
 
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