Posts Tagged ‘friends in mexico’
I got back last week from another trip to el DF. It was warm, comforting, and just a little unfamiliar. Here’s a short piece I did for NewYorker.com on my stay there.
Photo via The New Yorker
Julián Cardona, a Mexican photojournalist from Ciudad Juarez, has become storied for his gritty yet haunting photos of drug-related violence and the effects of globalization in northern Mexico and on the U.S.-Mexico border. He has been called both an artist and a storyteller, a skilled photographer who is giving Americans and Mexicans alike an inside view of what is like to actually live in a town that has also become storied for all the wrong reasons. Some of his latest work is featured in Vanity Fair.
“This was no voyeur trying to capture the grotesque. This was no circus. This was a photographer trying to convey what his landscape was like. These were photographs of home.” – Benjamin Alire Saenz, curator of the CUE Art Foundation, on Julián Cardona
Photos via Vanity Fair
“The apparent indifference of U.S. authorities to the many accusations of torture made against Leyzaola (Tijuana police chief) is somehow less puzzling. It is essential that the police start kicking ass in Mexico, and what’s a bit of waterboarding between friends, particularly in a national-security crisis?”
–from an earlier draft of this compelling, illuminating story on Tijuana in this week’s The New Yorker by William Finnegan.
(Subscription required to read the entire piece. And, sadly, that last line was mostly cut.)
Photo via The New Yorker
Now that I’m based in New York for awhile, this blog will shift more to observations of African and Latin people/doings/events/scenes in the United States, along still with thoughts on migration, travel, and the crossing and mixing of cultures.
The first of which is Mexico+Afuera (subtitled “Contemporary Mexican and Mexican-American Voices”), a current photo exhibit that takes a look at the work of three photographers — Chuy Benitez, Dulce Pinzon (whom I profiled here), and Monica Ruzansky — who are either Mexican or Mexican-American. The event’s description says:
“Each artist has a distinct approach: Pinzón, with her poignant portraits of Mexican immigrants in New York City who are heroically supporting families back home; Benitez, documenting decisive ‘minutes’ in his stitched, panoramic images of Mexican communities in Houston; and Ruzansky, capturing the rhythm of life after dark in Mexico City, illuminated only by car headlights. Whether addressing sociopolitical issues or inspired by memories of home, all three serve as conduits, connecting us to geographically disparate areas of North America with their work.”
Ruzansky’s collection is based on road trips she took through Mexico City at night.
The images are both startling and familiar, in a way, to most who have been to Mexico City.
Benitez’s amateur charros, or cowboys, in Houston are one of his most endearing photos.
Ordinarily, I love foreign coins: their strange inscriptions, their unfamiliar weight, their sometimes odd sizes. But what’s interesting about foreign coins is the way, after enough time, they also fool you. Rummaging around in my wallet, my hand grasps a coin I think is a quarter or dime, but turns out to be a 5-peso or 200-shilling piece.
At first, I was amused — I got a little feeling of secret pleasure when I picked it up or if I didn’t notice and accidentally gave it to a cashier who handed it back to me, confused — it was my proof that I haven’t always been here, a responsible, rooted member of New York society. Now, however, the coins have become annoying. Despite how many times I try to purge all of my purses of the foreign money, it still emerges: in hidden pockets, ripped seams, anywhere I could look for change to pay a bill. And when I’m in a hurry the last thing I want is 30 pesos instead of $2.25 for my subway pass. I clean and I empty, yet again, and the coins glare back at me, shiny and resilient. You can’t get rid of us that easily, they seem to be saying.
I’ve been staying in an apartment with possibly the best view of the tallest building in Latin America — and now I’m on way back to the States. It’s been hard to pinpoint, the reverse culture shock I’ve experienced since moving to New York.
It’s weird to say that I’ve even moved to the States after four years away. Because though it’s been nice being back and seeing old friends, meeting new people and going to new places, I’ve also experienced a number of what I call culture aftershocks.
Like how orderly and predictable transportation is: the subway, the buses, even the car traffic to a great extent. And how sanitized and over-purified other things are: the water, the food, the environment. And how reserved and detached people are: almost tripping over themselves as they run through their disciplined daily routines. It takes an enormous amount of effort not to pull acquaintances in and kiss them on the cheek when I see them, instead of the awkward hovering we do when we run into each other. I already miss the feeling of pushing through a tangled crowd, eating a taco spilling chorizo that I bought from a street stand while fielding enthusiastic calls of “Morena!!” and dodging careening cars, buses and pedestrians as I revel in the messiness of my complicated home.
Mexico is a complicated place when it comes to a lot of things, especially violence. When I passed through security at the airport in New York on my way here, the security agent looked at my boarding pass and told me to “be careful.” When I entered New York back in April from Mexico City, the customs man asked me why in the world would “I want to go to such a dangerous place.” I tried to explain to both that Mexico City is actually not more dangerous than, say, New York or Washington, DC and that most of the violence is concentrated on the border, but my words went over their heads. To most Americans, Mexico equals violence, period.
But though most of us who have lived here know the difference between the drug-related violence and normal petty crime, there are always surprises. This past week’s armed attempted robbery of a major grocery store took place in the expatriate and rich-friendly neighborhood of La Condesa, a place I love to walk and bike around. A drug-related drive-by shooting in La Condesa and the assassination of a drug case witness in a Starbucks in the nearby neighborhood of Del Valle also occurred in recent months. A friend, Nick Casey, wrote about the case of two Americans arrested in a border city. They were allegedly tortured in a situation where they claim the Mexican military planted suitcases of marijuana in their truck and then fraudulently arrested them for it.
I suppose that the point is that the line between drug-related violence and petty crime seems to be quickly blurring. Though rich enclaves will always be the target of criminals, places once thought to be relatively safe are no longer relatively safe. Being foreign in Mexico is not a bulletproof vest from being taken advantage of by a corrupt military. And, sadly, there is still no end in sight.
Photo via The Wall Street Journal
And just like that, I’m back in Mexico. For a little while, anyway. Back to get the last of my things, say goodbye to friends and soak in the last vestiges of my life abroad.
Photo by Alejandro De La Cruz