Mexico is known for its rich history and vibrant culture, and tattoos have been part of that culture for millennia. When the Spanish conquistadors arrived on the coast of Mexico in 1519, they discovered that the Indigenous peoples were covered in tattoos—permanent imprints of the gods they worshipped and their achievements in battle. At the time, tattooing was widely practiced in Central America among the Aztecs, Incans, and Mayans. Unfortunately, colonization—which included the pillaging of the land and torture of its people—brought an end to Mexico’s tattooing rituals. That is, until relatively recently. Now there’s a new generation of Mexican tattoo artists who are celebrating their culture using ink.
As tattoos have become more popular around the globe, Mexico has seen an increase in tattoo artists, many of whom are using the art form as a way to reconnect with their ancestral heritage. These artists practice a wide range of styles, from Chicano (a black and grey style that features Latinx iconography and was popularized in U.S. West Coast prisons), to minimalism, blackwork, New School, and embroidery. So whether you’re simply searching for some great new tattooers to follow, or you’re a Latinx individual looking to support up-and-coming artists from your community, here are 13 talented Mexican tattoo artists to keep on your radar.
Ancestral revival is one of the major recurring themes in Lalo’s tattoos. The owner of Los Diablos studio in Mexico City specializes in incredibly intricate single needle tattoo designs that often depict deities and other figures from Mexican mythology. In the above piece, for instance, he’s tattooed Coyolxauhqui, the Aztec lunar goddess, in his signature fine line, black and grey style.
2. Fernanda Álvarez
Fernanda Álvarez is one of Mexico’s pioneers of embroidery style tattooing (a style that we’ve predicted will be one of this year’s top tattoo trends). Embroidery-inspired designs can be very difficult to tattoo because doing them realistically requires a masterful understanding of light and shadow—and how to create the illusion of light and shadow by layering inks. Álvarez is a pro, though. Most of her designs are centered around nature (she does a lot of floral tattoos) and she actually splits her time between Mexico and the United States.
3. Fran Ruina
New takes on American Traditional style tattoo design are becoming increasingly popular thanks to artists like Fran Ruina. The Spanish-Mexican tattooer is a resident artist at Tia Juana Tattoo in Tijuana, where he combines classic old-school imagery—like the pinup girl, panther, and flaming heart—with more modern compositions. Plus, his signature style includes red, green, and ochre accents (to his otherwise black and grey designs) which really makes his pieces pop.
4. Jonathan Crump
Clean, bold lines and layered dotwork shading are staples of Jonathan Crump’s tattoos. His signature blackwork style lends itself perfectly to his equally dark imagery which often includes little cherub-like demons (like in the head tattoo above), mysterious-looking Greyhounds, snakes, and birds of prey.
5. Lilian Raya
Mexico City’s Lilian Raya, resident artist as Mano Sacra Studio, has made quite a name for herself in the tattoo community over the past few years. She has also amassed an impressive 301,000 followers on Instagram, all of whom are as obsessed with her style as we are. It’s hard to look away from her brilliantly colorful, anime-esque pieces (including the Harry Potter-inspired tattoo shown above).
6. Diana Bama
Diana Bama’s designs are both delicate and bold; a quality created using her unique single needle blackwork style. Her tattoos often depict nature, the female form, and the relationship between women and nature. She’s best known for her striking portraits of nude women surrounded by wolves, rabbits, and snakes, which she tattoos at Not A Gallery, a multidisciplinary studio in Valencia, Mexico.
7. Daniela Ene
Of all the Mexican tattoo artists on this list, Daniela Ene is the only one who exclusively does hand poked pieces. Formerly based in Mexico City, Ene recently relocated to Germany (she’s now a resident artist at UNIKAT in Berlin) where she tattoos her signature minimalist designs. Her tattoos often include pops of blue ink, celestial imagery, and fiery female figures with flaming heads.
‘Trippy’ is one of the first words that comes to mind when you see Karla’s tattoos. The artist, who works at Mano Sacra Studio in Mexico City, practices a range of styles but most often combines bright, psychedelic-esque watercolor design with simple linework or dotwork to create fun compositions like the above smiley heart piece.
Working at Los Diablos studio in Mexico City, Hache, better known as “Doctor Hache,” does everything from small minimalist tattoos to massive full back designs, all in his signature ignorant style. His tattoos are sometimes crass (he once did a piece of a young girl with a butt for a face), but purposefully and unapologetically so.
10. Tamara Santibañez
We couldn’t create a list of Mexican tattoo artists without including at least one who practices Chicano style. Tamara Santibañez, resident artist at Brooklyn’s Saved Tattoo, was trained in American Traditional design, but in an interview with Bustle she said that the style never really resonated with her. She was always much more interested in the black and grey Chicano style that had been popularized in the West Coast, so she tried it out. While many modern Chicano style artists create pieces that are highly realistic, Santibañez does hers differently. Her signature is Chicano iconography (like the crying women and clown-painted faces) drawn in a more illustrative style.
11. Roxi Satni
In her bio on Instagram, Roxi Satni describes her tattooing practice as her “love reflected in your skin”. It’s a short, simple statement, but one that nonetheless speaks volumes about the amount of effort and care she puts into each one of her designs, many of which are inspired by nature and Aztec culture. She currently travels between Los Angeles and Mexico for work, and does a mix of hand poke and machine tattoos.
Piña is another one of the Mexican tattoo artists on this list who is actually based in the U.S.—in their case, in Oakland, CA. The tattooer’s super cute designs often make use of vibrant gradient coloring and illustrate nostalgic-inducing pop culture characters like Moomin, SpongeBob SquarePants, and Lowly Worm from The Busy World of Richard Scarry.
Along with the rest of the team at Funky Town Tattoo (where they’re a co-owner and resident artist) Piña is also deeply committed to creating an inclusive tattoo experience for people who have felt like outsiders in the industry for far too long. On the crowdfunding page for the shop, they described it as “a tattoo shop that is truly by freaks for freaks…Queerdos, trans angels, babes of colors and anyone who’s ever felt like they fit better outside the confines of social norms.”
13. Daniel Rivero
Clearly inspired by the work of abstract and cubism artists, Mexico City’s Daniel Rivero (AKA Topo Cocom) combines Picasso-like compositions with old school, American Traditional linework and shading in his designs. The result is a very eclectic style. While his subject matter varies, like Piña, his tattoos often illustrate famous characters from pop culture including Mickey Mouse and Raphael from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.