naipes

naipes, 2022, mixed media

A mixed media piece dealing with the post-genocidal legacy of the Spanish invasion of Mesoamerica through the medium of “naipes”. These images are accompanied by three text quotations:

“It’s important to begin with the coining of the term genocide. Raphael Lemkin first used the word genocide in his book Axis Rule in Occupied Europe (1944). Lemkin spent an entire chapter defining the term, breaking it down into pieces that would help to clarify what genocide is, how it evolves, and the various forms that it takes on. Lemkin laid out multiple conditions that may lead to genocide, which included Colonial expansion, three method types (physical, biological, and cultural), each with multiple techniques… two phases—genocide as an event as well as genocide as an ongoing process, and multiple other facets and considerations for each genocide such as information on the “genocidists,” propaganda, victim responses, outsider responses, and the aftermath.”

“What’s more, Lemkin’s unpublished notes and essays show that he also based his original definition on the colonization of the Americas, and specifically Spain’s notorious treatment (otherwise known as the “Black Legend”) of the numerous tribes that used to occupy Central and South America.”

“Lemkin left behind copious notes, outlines, and unpublished articles on the indigenous Inca, Maya, Aztec, Caribbean peoples… The cultural genocides are all remarkably similar. Lemkin, in any of his notes that have been made available, does not acknowledge the component of disease responsible for killing the vast majority of the population; however, there is no real need to since he is not claiming physical genocide (which relies on violence and death-tolls to be measured) outside of some documented events of massacres and shifting populations around for the encomienda communities that the Spanish set up. Disease may have hastened the loss of cultural identity, but the fact remains that the indigenous populations were forced into encomiendas/haciendas, had to give up their religion and language, and had their sacred artifacts and locations desecrated. This had little if anything to do with rampant disease (aside from workers in encomiendas being relocated to replace communities wiped out by disease) and cannot be ignored.”

-Kristina Charleston “Reframing the Debate: Spain’s Colonization of the New World as Genocide”

“Entre 1545 y 1558 se descubrieron las fértiles minas de plata de Potosí, en la actual Bolivia, y las de Zacatecas y Guanajuato en México; el proceso de amalgama con mercurio, que hizo posible la explotación de plata de ley más baja, empezó a aplicarse en ese mismo período. El «rush» de la plata eclipsó rápidamente a la minería de oro. A mediados del siglo XVIII la plata abarcaba más del 99 por ciento de las exportaciones minerales de la América hispánica… en tres siglos España recibió suficiente metal de Potosí como para tender un puente de plata desde la cumbre del cerro hasta la puerta del palacio real al otro lado del océano.”

“Entre 1503 y 1660, llegaron al puerto de Sevilla 185 mil kilos de oro y 16 millones de kilos de plata. La plata transportada a España en poco más de un siglo y medio, excedía tres veces el total de las reservas europeas. y esas cifras, cortas, no incluyen contrabando.”

“Los metales arrebatados a los nuevos dominios coloniales estimularon el desarrollo económico europeo y hasta puede decirse que lo hicieron posible.”

-Eduardo Galeano “Las venas abiertas de América Latina”

“Los navegantes de Cristóbal Colón se entretenían al jugar cartas durante el trayecto del viaje y de igual manera, los pasajeros que viajaron de Europa a las Indias eran jugadores apasionados que se valían de los naipes para matar las largas horas que la nao recorría hasta llegar a su destino…”

-María Isabel Grañen Porrúa. “Hermes y Moctezuma, un Taror mexicano del siglo XVI”

la independencia de méxico

la independencia de méxico, mixed media (2022)

A mixed media piece using iconography that details Mexico’s situation as a site of violence and control dictated by its proximity to the United States.

The first image is of a caged Mexican flag resting in a cactus. The eagle on the flag perched can be seen with a serpent in its beak.

The second image is of an Otomí-Mazahua rag doll perched in a Bougainvillea tree. These dolls also known as “Marias” are handmade and traditionally sold for income by indigenous artists to tourists in Mexico. The doll has a pistol laid across her lap.

The third image is a dead cat underneath the shade of an avocado tree.

agua coca-cola

agua coca-cola, mixed media (2022)

Agua Coca-Cola is a mixed media project made from polluted river water from the Río Cuautitlán in the State of Mexico bottled in a Ciel plastic bottle. Ciel is Coca-Cola’s Mexican bottled water brand and has been sold throughout the country since 1996.

Coca-Cola has a long standing history of plundering Mexico’s clean water reserves for production of its products while the country suffers from water pollution in its natural waterways from discharge of domestic, industrial, agricultural and mining residues by multinational corporations and industry. Millions of Mexicans face water scarcity in various regions of the country.

tepeyac

tepeyac, ciudad de méxico (2022)

A visual photographic survey of Tepeyac Hill, the site of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the purported location of an apparition of the Virgin Mary to an indigenous man named Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin in 1531.

The image of the holy apparition is said to be imprinted on his tilma (cloak) and hangs in the modern day basilica to this day. The basilica is the most-visited Catholic shrine in the entire world and ranks as the world’s third most-visited holy site. Millions of pilgrims flock to venerate the image every December 12th on the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Our Lady of Guadalupe in Extremadura was one of the three Black Madonnas in Spain in the 14th century that was venerated and enshrined in the Royal Monastery of Saint Mary of Guadalupe in what was then Castile. It was one of the most revered Marian shrines at the time. Following the Spanish Conquest of Mexico in 1521, the Marian cult was exported to the Americas and Franciscan friars quickly moved to leverage syncretism with pre-existing indigenous religious belief sytems and deities in Mexico as an instrument for evangelization and colonization.

Before the Spanish invasion, Tepeyac was host to a temple to the earth mother goddess Tonantzin Coatlaxopeuh. The temple was pillaged and destroyed by the Spanish conquerors and a Catholic chapel was soon built in its place in honor of the supposed apparition of the Virgin Mary on the very same spot.

arcángel

arcángel, san miguel del milagro, tlaxcala (2022)

Photography documenting the site of a supposed apparition of Saint Michael the Archangel in 1631 to Diego Lázaro in Nativitas, Tlaxcala. The site is rumored to have a holy well of water as a result of the apparition with curative properties and is visited by thousands of religious Catholic pilgrims every September.

The Tlaxcalans, while initially fighting the troops of Hernan Cortés, eventually allied themselves with the Spanish invaders to fight against their enemies the Aztecs. They helped the Spanish topple the Aztec empire which led to the subsequent genocide of countless indigenous people and imposition of Catholicism across the country. In return for their pact with the conquistadores, the Tlaxcalans were afforded their own sovereign autonomy and were spared from the destruction and pillaging by the Spanish forces.

The Tlaxcalans, along with various indigenous groups colonized by the Spanish in Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Colombia and the Philippines carry on the curious tradition brought over by the Spaniards in the 16th century of festivals featuring “Moros y Cristianos” which are re-enactments of mock battles between Spanish Christians and Moors (or Aztecs in some variations) that range from brief sword dances to large street theatre lasting several days.

The dances were used by the Spanish to show indigenous people the “power” of the Christian god and their supposed military might during the “Reconquista” period on the Iberian Peninsula. The dances often feature elaborate costuming, spoken word, choreography and masks.

niño doctor

niño doctor, tepeaca, puebla (2022)

Photography documenting the site of the veneration of “Santo Niño Jesús Doctor de los Enfermos” in Tepeaca, Puebla during the coronavirus pandemic. The small statue is a Catholic depiction of a small baby doctor Jesus that originated in 1942 during the inauguration of a new hospital in the area.

The church in which the statue is housed receives pilgrimages every year from sick and infirm devotees who are convinced of the child’s supposed curative holy powers and who seek to gain its favors. The image of the “niño doctor” is celebrated with offerings every April 30th on “Día del Niño”, a holiday in which children are celebrated across Mexico. In a surreal twist, the church of the “Santuario del Niño Doctor” currently serves as a Covid-19 vaccination site.

tlatelolco

tlatelolco, ciudad de méxico, (2021)

A photography series documenting Plaza de las Tres Culturas, the site of the Tlatelolco Massacre carried out by Mexican Armed Forces against civilian protestors on October 2, 1968.

The massacre was assisted by the CIA and followed a series of large demonstrations enacted by the Mexican Movement of 1968 which protested the Olympic games being held in the city that year.

A broad coalition of Mexican students across the country had garnered widespread public support for political and social change. They protested the immense sums of public funding used to build Olympic facilities. The movement demanded greater political freedoms and an end to the authoritarianism of the PRI regime, which had held power since 1929.

The U.S.-backed PRI government headed by President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz violently repressed the student movement as they grew in momentum. The massacre took place ten days before the opening ceremony of the Olympics, which were carried out normally. Estimates of the actual death toll range from 300 to 400, with eyewitnesses reporting hundreds dead and over a thousand people arrested.

este méxico triste

este méxico triste, ciudad de méxico, (2021)

A visual photography series surveying Chapultepec Castle, a site of much of Mexico’s turbulent history and colonization. The castle was built for leisure on a hill in the forest of Chapultepec during the colonial era by the Spanish viceroyalty occupiers of Mexico. The hill was a sacred site for the Aztecs.

Construction began in 1785 during the government of the Viceroy of “New Spain”, Bernardo de Gálvez. It was abandoned after the Mexican War of Independence and converted into a military academy for cadets in 1833 during the first Mexican republic.

In 1847, the “Niños Héroes”, six young cadets, died defending the castle during the invasion of United States military forces at the Battle of Chapultepec during the Mexican-American War. Mexico lost half its territory to the United States invaders as a result of the war. These young men are honored with a large mural on the ceiling above the main entrance to the castle.

It is the only castle in North America that actually served as a residence for royalty. During the French imperialist intervention in Mexico, which established a return to monarchy, Austrian Archduke Maximilian I and his wife Carlota were instated as “Emperor” and “Empress” of Mexico and lived in the castle from 1864 until Maximilian was executed in 1867 and replaced by the Restored Republic under the rule of President Benito Juarez.

The castle underwent several structural changes during the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz (1876-1911) and was a symbol of the decadence and corruption of the ruling class during the Porfiriato. When Díaz was overthrown at the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution, the castle remained the presidential residence until 1939 when President Lázaro Cárdenas decreed a law establishing Chapultepec Castle as the National Museum of History.

teotihuacán

teotihuacán, estado de méxico, (2021)

A visual survey of the pyramids of Teotihuacán during the coronavirus pandemic with photography documenting the maintenance of the pyramids as well as more subdued tourism of the ancient ruins which are the most visited archaeological sites in the country. Known as the “birthplace of the gods”, Teotihuacán was once the largest city in Mesoamerica at its peak around the first half of the 1st century.

altar

altar, mixed media, 2020

An altar I made for Día de Muertos in 2020 dedicated to the lives of children and adults that were cut short due to state violence and the coronavirus pandemic. The altar is composed of various food offerings and snacks for children. Along with refreshments, books, religious items and flowers.

In 2021, photography of the altar was featured in “Día de los Muertos” Art Exhibition at Nepantla Cultural Arts Gallery in Seattle, Washington as well as in “Honrando a los Muertos” Art Exhibition by Freedom Arts Collective at Local Distro in Nashville, Tennessee.

The central space of the altar holds a place to honor the memory of those who have passed on from this world. Pictured below are three migrant children who died in I.C.E. custody. From left, Felipe Gomez Alonzo (8), Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez (16) and Jakelin Caal Maquin (7).