This is the informal border crossing between Mexico and Guatemala near Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico. People cross from Guatemala to Mexico to buy inexpensive products because of favorable exchange rates They then return to Guatemala. This trade is condoned by both countries and even though there are checkpoints nearby neither country has an interest in stopping this traffic.
It is only when people fleeing from Guatemala to Mexico move inland that they are stopped at Mexico checkpoints and detained or sent back home. This process of inland checkpoints and detention is known as the “vertical border.” It is designed to prevent migration to the United States long before the migrants reach the northern border of Mexico.
Since 2006 between 28,000 and 45,000 people have been disappeared in Mexico. Called “Desaparicidos,” they are people who have been caught in the crossfire in Mexico’s war between organized crime, most notably the drug cartels, the police and the military. They have been abducted and murdered by persons unknown, but probably by the police or the cartels using weapons that most often originate from the United States. Oftentimes their bodies are dumped into mass graves. Sometimes when a family member asks too many questions other family members become desaparicido as a warning.
Recently families have begun coming together in informal groups to search for their loved ones. They have learned to identify the signs of mass graves. Within the past few months a mass grave with 106 bodies was discovered in Morelos State. Families have begun the long process of carefully exhuming the remains and trying to identify the bodies. Not trusting the state forensic anthropologist they have hired their own. So far they have identified two of the remains. Since Mexico does not have a functioning DNA data base to identify the disappeared people the families must identify the bodies by the clothing or shoes that the person is wearing. Sometimes the local and state governments delay giving permission for the families to dig for the remains. On at least one occasion the mass grave was destroyed while the families were waiting for permission to exhume
Sugar skulls grinning
The dead are with us again
The Day of the Dead is the day when the spirit world merges with the corporeal world. In the Central Highlands of Mexico it is celebrated by decorating graves with flowers, usually marigolds, and by altars honoring the dead in public places and in homes. These images were taken in Amealco, El Bote and San Ildefonso, primarily indigenous towns near Querétaro City.
Katrinas are the ubiquitous symbol of El Dia de Los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) in Mexico. They are sculptures of skeletons, most often female, usually but not always, dressed in Victorian clothing and sporting a Victorian era hat. I was in Amealco, Mexico, a small city in the central highlands, this year on El Dia. These Katrinas were part of an altar in the courtyard of the Hotel Amealco where my partner and I were staying.
The tradition in the Almealco area is for families to decorate graves of deceased family members with flowers, most often marigolds, and to visit the graves on El Dia. I will post images. I will share some of the images I took in a future post.
While we were teaching the students at the Learning Center in San Ildefonso I naturally could not resist the temptation to photograph the kids as they were photographing each other and their surroundigns.
This is a collage of photos all taken by students (except the group photo) in a class of 4th – 6th grade children during a photography course in an education center in a small, rural village not far from the state capital of Querétaro, Mexico. Following the text is a slide show of their photos. Most are unedited, and any editing that was done was by the students. (ahh the wonders of digital photography).
My partner and I worked with the children and their teacher, herself an accomplished photographer, for three weeks. The class used a basic Vivitar point and shoot camera. The lessons focused (pun intended) on the basics of composition, lighting and exposure. We reviewed the photos with the students after each photographing session and taught them basic editing – cropping, brightness and contrast – using the Picasa editor. They loved taking pictures of each other and their environment, including the village market on market day.
The education center is part of Las Obras de Catalina run by progressive Catholic nuns which also provides services to adult members of the community. The education center provides supplemental and enrichment opportunities for 60 students each day and serves each of them a hot meal, which for some is their main source of nutrition.
The Center also operates a summer camp for 4th – 6th graders staffed by volunteers who offer an instructional and arts training curriculum based on the UN Earth Charter.