Chagoya was born and raised in Mexico City but has lived and worked in the United States since 1977. Throughout his career he has integrated ideas and imagery from indigenous Mexican history and culture with his contemporary political perspective on the place of immigrants in the Americas. Chagoya has frequently used his work to critique how history has been written by cultures that have colonized or obliterated others. He has termed this, “reverse anthropology” and he uses complex visual and textual narratives to reexamine traditional accounts about culture and inheritance.
In "Road Map" Chagoya uses humor in order to interrogate the place of the United States in the global community at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The print is designed to unfold like a personal roadmap and to retain its folds as a grid over the image. The map shows the United States wildly disproportionate to the rest of the two landmasses of North and South America. It also dwarfs the other contents and glows green either with seething envy or radioactivity. Distributed throughout the map are icons representing symbols of military might (hand grenades, fighter jets, tanks), perceived threat (Osama Bin Laden, Arabs with prayer rugs, caricatured illegal aliens), and resources (oil wells). Simultaneously humorous and deadly serious, they question the culture of nationalism. For instance, the bust of a soldier is altered to double as the Virgin Mary (he wears her blue mantle) and image of Christ (with stigmata and sacred heart). Chagoya suggests that America fosters a religion of “might makes right” and makes saints of soldiers, regardless of the cause or mission.
Two cartouches, in the lower corners appropriate and alter a traditional image of America personified (in the lower left) and a grotesque cartoon-head that is mad with drugs, toxic waste, and aggression. They function as representatives of the culture who has done the mapmaking and a political warning to those who may tread into its territory. Indeed, the title "Road Map", appropriates a recent phrase/buzzword as applied to an attempt to “democratize” areas of the world that are seen as out of control, dangerous, and on the extreme opposite of America’s (or the Bush administration’s) philosophy.