Although it was my objective to become la China Poblana, in my memories of Puebla, my China Poblana, is Diana and I cannot thank her enough for all that she did for me.
I believe that we should not fear to ask someone for help, after all, it is only a question and there are many possible responses. In a small convenient store of Xochimilco, I get my hair done because I said, “I know this is going to be a strange question, I noticed that you have a beautiful braid and was wondering if you would mind braiding my hair?”
To become La Chalupa I needed to get on a chalupa and this sweet man made it happen, by letting me onboard and giving me the opportunity to experience a moment of his world. I felt surrounded by the love of humanity and I am grateful to everyone who made this moment possible; the woman who kindly took a moment from working to braid my hair, the gentleman who let me on his chalupa, the tour guide who showed me the sites of Xochimilco and let me steer the trajinera and my dear friend who helped me capture these photographs.
Becoming the loteria card of La Chalupa and capturing a story in a place that predates the Hispanic period that is still in use today by the locals and tourists is important to me because I believe we should preserve places like Xochimilco for future generations to celebrate its wonderful heritage and for the survival of its rich habitat of plants and wildlife. Unfortunately, without persistent national and international support of conservation, Xochimilco is at risk of disappearing. These pictures capture a visible past and present that should not be lost.
Originally in La Loteria, it is a man depicted practically falling over from drunkenness. I wanted to represent a modern female drunkard, a woman who goes for a drink after work to let loose and enjoy herself. I selected business attire of an untidy shirt and tie to address the issues of gender and class stereotypes of alcohol consumption in Mexico, after all, it is at the top of alcohol consumption in the world, affecting both women and men. The experience I had drinking at this little cantina in San Angel is another story in itself, and every time I look at this picture, I smile because I recall how wonderful it was. Again, I was blessed with such kindness and generosity and I am thankful to the bartender who was open to allowing me to take pictures, to my friend and aunt who helped me and most importantly kept me company and to my cousins who allowed me to rifle through their wardrobes.
In becoming la Adelita I felt it was necessary to understand how significant the role of the female soldier was in the history of the Mexican revolution. I wanted to play the role of the romanticized Adelita, this female revolutionary soldier who overtime throughout numerous depictions became known for her beauty and her loyalty to man but at the same time, I felt it was relevant to possess the strength that she embodied as a female soldier. I had never fired a firearm before but in order for me to relate to how it must have felt for the Mexican women who decided to step outside the boundaries of the expected roles of women in their society at that time and take a firearm in their hand to fight in the Mexican Revolution, I needed to fire one myself. I signed up at the local firing range in Switzerland on the day of Tir Federal en Campagne which is open to the public. A Swiss army cadet let me borrow his target rifle and quickly explained how to use it and helped me place myself in the prone position and there I was looking through my line of sights and ahead at my 300 meter target number nine and suddenly the competition began and the announcer tells us over an intercom how many shots we had to fire and how much time we had. It was not the feeling of firing off a rifle for the first time that gave me a rush of sensations but the sounds of other firearms going off around me over and over. It was in that moment that I imagined what the sounds of war were like and how these women in the revolution had to fight under the pressure of guns being fired at them and how their bullets took lives while mine only made holes in a target. At the end of the competition, I was given my score of 52, passing and not so bad for a first timer.
This picture is taken at El Monumento a la Revolución and the reason I took it here is to honor the female soldiers of the Mexican Revolution for their bravery and for standing up against the oppression women were facing at that time. The Mexican Revolution was a war of both men and woman.
At the Zona Turística San Pedro, Cholula, I met a dancer that goes by the name of Esquincle. I told him about the loteria project I was doing and how it was a celebration of my Mexican heritage and I asked him if he would be willing to let me use some of his traditional costumes and feather headdresses to reinterpret the card of el apache and represent the dancers like him who perform dance to honor and celebrate their ancestral roots. Within minutes of me explaining to him what I wanted to do, he took me to see his studio where he stores his colorful traditional costumes, instruments and the objects he uses in dance and ritual performances. We met early the following morning and he adorned me with makeup, headdresses, jewelry, and different costumes some articles that he borrowed from a female friend and collectively the three of us, Esquincle, a close friend of mine and myself collaborated on the cards of La Danzante and La Curandera. I felt that the ancient gods and the universe blessed me and sent me two spirit guides to help me realize these loteria cards. I am honored to have had the opportunity to meet Escuincle and to be enriched by the knowledge he shared with me and abundantly grateful to his generosity and kindness.
Taken on the stairs of the University of Gaunajuato, I wanted to address that everyone deserves the right to an education and like stairs we can overcome obstacles one step at a time embracing the idea that change and educational improvement are possible. For years I dreamed of the day that I would produce a body of work and create art in my beloved Mexico and here I am living that dream.
El bolero y la aprendiz, Don Jose teaches me how to shine shoes and then I get to shine his.
The story of an elderly man who has to continue to work to survive because his retirement income is not enough. He tells me as I shine his shoes that he earns more in a day as a bolero than he did before and works fewer hours. Like in other parts of the world, poverty among the elderly is a serious problem in Mexico and it is common for them to work after the age of retirement.
Don Jose, like an artist, has specific materials to carry out his work; a chair for his clients that he made himself on wheels so that he can easily transport it along with a small wooden taboreh that he sits on while polishing, his palette of waxes, paints, brushes, a leather chamois and his preferred cleansing soap, jabón de calabaza.
So often we walk by or perhaps we stop and get our boots or shoes polished but do we really observe the meticulous performance and care the bolero puts into his work. I wanted to learn and experience the work of a bolero myself because it is a knowledge and a tradition of Mexico that I respect and after this experience and learning from Don Jose now even more.
If you get your shoes shined in Mexico, please pay them more than the usual 20 pesos and help Mexico keep the work of the bolero from being forgotten and underestimated, after all they are helping you look impeccable.