Entering Mexico from its Northern neighbour, The United States is not something that its inhabitants take lightly. Crossing the four states (California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas), with their man made Berlin-esque walls, volunteer Border Patrollers who present more like a sanctioned vigilante mob and the prodigious Rio Grande dividing the two countries along lines far more allegorical than simple geography instills a fear of the ‘unknown ‘, to the south much like American Foreign Policy does in broad terms the world over. The stigma attached has become so ingrained that the word ‘Mexican’ has been adopted world-wide as a colloquial term for unwanted neighbours.
Mexico is certainly not without its problems. When Felipe Calderon was elected President in 2006 and subsequently intensified drug enforcement operations, as many as 35,000 civilians, drug dealers, cartel big wigs, journalists, law makers and armed forces personnel have been killed in a brutal armed conflict that has gone well beyond the confines of what is traditionally a very insular underworld. However, if we are to look at this in comparison to the rate of deaths by firearms in The USA we see an almost identical mortality rate year to year where upwards of 30,000 die each year – drug war or no drug war. Taking into account heads per capita, one is more likely to end up dead there than in Mexico.
So it was with a degree of trepidation that I crossed the border. Of course such jitters were quickly allayed and this journey through 20 odd states of became one of great endearment, fascination and wonderment for this country and all the diversity in its land and people.
From the stereotypical desert landscapes of the North and its Huichol people, the tourist bastions and hot-land outposts of the Pacific coast, the frigidly cold nights and dramatic mountains of the central highlands to the dissident southern States of Chiapas and Oaxaca, the steaming Gulf Coast and up into the Yucatan Peninsula, this is the Mexico that I saw. A land rich and proud in culture, of people true to their roots yet equally impressionable, people who use their feet and their hands in a pre-industrialised fashion, who sit and watch, who truly retire in old age, whose kindred are absolutely family and whose fascination and admiration for their northern neighbours is curiously apparent.
With all the geographical features that The United States and Mexico share – The Rio Grande, The Sierras and The Gulf of Mexico, it’s rueful that the two (or at least one of the two) maintains such a tangible divide based largely on superiority and fear.
As much as this body of work is an observation of The United States, its people and their world view, the land in these photographs is that of Mexico and the people Mexicans.
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