día de muertos, mexico city, mexico
A series of photographs documenting día de muertos celebrations in Mexico City, 2022.
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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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.
hoy no circula, ciudad de méxico – estado de méxico (2017-2022)
“Hoy No Circula” is an environmental program started in 1989 to improve the air quality of Mexico City and the the State of Mexico, which surrounds Mexico City on three different sides.
The program consists of prohibiting the circulation of 20% of vehicles from Monday to Friday based on the last digit of their license plates. In 1992, the United Nations declared Mexico City the most polluted city on Earth. Since then, Mexico City’s air quality has improved but still faces significant challenges from pollution.
xochimilco, ciudad de méxico (2021)
A photograph series documenting Xochimilco Ecological Park in the southern Mexico City borough during the coronavirus pandemic.
Noted for its trademark “trajineras”, boats similar to gondolas that ferry visitors and tourists alike, the park and surrounding canals are some of the few areas left in the Valley of Mexico that still retain a significant number of “chinampas”, pre-Hispanic artificial lake islands constructed for agricultural use by the Aztecs.
The area was declared a biological reserve by the Mexican government in 1984 and and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.