Show Reviews

Pain Show – Por Vida

Photos courtesy of Kevin Loredo (@unicatbirdwhale), Nora Castillo (@living.plant.based), Lab 451 (@lab451)

Por Vida International Tattoo Art Festival – Laredo, Texas
February 9-11, 2018

You’ve heard of Tex-Mex. Well, Laredo, Texas, which sits on the border of Mexico in the far south of the state, truly is a place where you can experience a fusion of cultures. And the Por Vida International Tattoo Art Festival is where you can experience a unique blend and diversity in tattooing.

Gabe talking to a Tattoo Artist at Por Vida

“We have a little bit of everything. The funny thing about Laredo is that is it when you come to Texas there’s Texas-Mex everywhere; there’s red gravy and cheese on every plate. But when it comes to Laredo, it’s like we’re trapped in a little bubble,” says organizer Gabriel Rodriguez from Laredo’s own Por Vida Tattoos. “We say it’s an international tattoo artist because we get a lot of tattooers from Mexico. We have the most amazing black and gray guys that do the realistic style, and we have gangster styles, and then we also have the heavy traditional, really bright, color stuff.”

“The city across the border, Nuevo Laredo, is a lot older than Laredo, and there aren’t that many tattooers, so there’s huge market of people that come across to get tattooed,” Rodriguez adds.

Por Vida (aptly meaning For Life) is less of a convention and more of a party with some 75 artists representing 50 shops. Among those attending were Oscar Montes (Lost Harbor Tattoo, Wilmington, California), Donna Klein (Taylor Street Tattoo, Chicago, Illinois), Alex Kass (Electric Panther Tattoo, San Antonio, TX), and The Mak Evans from Illuminatink Tattoo, one of the most popular tattooers in Neuvo Laredo, Mexico, who does the most amazing realistic work.

A.B. Garza, an independent tattooer from Austin, TX, swept the awards with first places in Best Black & Gray, Best Portrait and Best of Show.

Along with tattooing, Por Vida featured taco trucks, music, fortune tellers and even live wresting with lucha stars from the Laredo Gateway Professional Wrestling (LGPW) league.

“It’s legit. It’s a party,” Rodriguez says. “These are all just normal things that happen here, and we wanted to show them off. It really is a little magical. The food is awesome. The people are really cool. Any tattooer who comes down here will find out that it’s something a little different.”


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