National Highway - PhMuseum

National Highway

Melba Arellano

2008 - 2017

Guerrero, Mexico

Some of the most vivid and exciting memories from my childhood happened along the Acapulco-Zihuatanejo National Highway. As a young girl, my family and I drove through it to go to school, and on weekends we would drive its entirety from Acapulco to Zihuatanejo on the west coast of Mexico. The things that I would notice along this Highway were not just ordinary roadside travel stops like for most people. Instead, these places became the most revered spaces of the trip, exhibiting an array of curiosities as a type of extended outdoor linear museum.

The day before I was to enroll to study medicine at the university, I was traveling along the Highway and right in front of me, an accident occurred. I felt paralyzed by the horrific scene, so much so that I changed course and opted to study economics instead. Upon witnessing that gruesome scene, I felt I could not confront the sight of wounded bodies ever again. Years later, moved by curiosity, I returned to the Highway to explore many of the things my eyes could discern from the window of our family car.

I began my exploration in the town of San Jeronimito, where I grew up. I started by returning to those places I was not allowed to go to as a child, but that awoke in me great fascination. I searched for the characters that I had once found captivating. Those that time had not erased, like the woman that lived in a house full of dolls, who was said to have locked her daughter up in a cell for being "diabolically possessed." Or the professor who always dressed in white from head to toe in the same suit every day. I photographed them all one by one. I then directed my attention to all those villages along the way to my school that I had never walked in.

Within my process of inquiry, the past and present would alternate intermittently. While wandering, embracing chance, I met new people and searched for others that attracted me by what some would tell me about them. Without intending to, I used these places and people to create a personal imaginarium. In the end, I found myself poking around in these present scenarios to give life to something that no longer exists. A momentary exercise to recover the past through photographic representation.

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