Sindicalismo 89 takes place in a building of the same name, a real apartment complex located in Mexico City. Inés Estrada defines this web of residential boxes as a “dysfunctional hive” where “lives coexist in a comfortably natural state of chaos.”
The story focuses on three very different types of city dwellers who inhabit the building. There’s Mecha and her roommate Pau, two young stoner women. Across the way live the loud Lopez family made up of Paco, Yoni, and their impatient mother. And then there’s the little old lady who lives alone with her yippy lap dog companion, just trying to live peacefully among the youthful hustle and bustle that build up outside her blinded windows.
This idea of comfortable, natural chaos reverberates through out the stories of Sindicalismo 89’s characters as they go about their days and deal with problems that range from the inane (“I want mojitos!”) to the more serious (the building is flooding.) Most of the comic centers around Mecha and Pau, the free-wheeling girls who seem to spend more of their time looking for boys to bone, throwing parties, and getting high. The privilege of their carefree fun is laid bare later in the comic when the darker, dangerous realities of Sindicalismo 89’s city setting come to light.
Most of Sindicalismo 89’s pages are formatted in pages of six uniform square panels and Inés Estrada rarely deviates from this in the comic, but this choice suits her interior-driven narrative. What Estrada is great at is drawing feverish excitement, whether it’s in hectic movements or conveying the emotions on the face of a character. When Ms. Lopez gets mad at her sons, her head becomes cartoonishly large, drawn double-faced in a successful attempt to animate her rage as she looks from son to son. When an acquaintance of Mecha and Pau is sobbing, she’s drawn with her face practically oozing tears, her eyes wavy slits. Estrada’s characters get so bug-eyed that sometimes their eyes even pop out of the sockets.
Even in drawing the building’s very noisy essence, Estrada is sure to capture it all. The comic opens with the yelling of a couple fighting and Pau and Mecha turn on music to drown out the sound. Every single utterance, from Yoni’s masturbating moans to one woman’s sobs over her lost Shiba Inu, is given prominence on the page. Even the intricacies of a toilet flushing a phone away are detailed with every “plop,” “flush,” and “sss.” Speech bubbles of outside noise seep through the doorways into interiors. Each character in Estrada’s comic seems to vibrate, the noise of their business leaving nothing to the imagination.
Are the tenants of Sindicalismo 89 comfortable in this collective chaos they live in, or are they really they’re just numb to it? What Estrada’s comic does best is give a frank portrayal of the hardness one acquires when living in a big city. You can hear a couple fucking next door, but you also sleep right through it. A gang has murdered a kid in the neighborhood, so you take a second to reflect, but then you move on. You get paranoid at neighbors staring into your apartment window, but you deal. It takes too much effort to go to the beach, so you smoke a joint and watch a movie.
But there’s a sense of humor to Estrada’s take on all of urban life’s interruptions. In one scene, the seemingly innocent old lady relays a story to her dog about a bizarre past sexual encounter. “I wanted to die from embarrassment,” she says, but she finds the story only gets funnier the more she remembers it. And even if some of the events that happen in the cramped corners of Sindicalismo 89 won’t get funnier in time, the point is time will go on, and its inhabitants will move on to new anxieties, boys, and parties right along with it.