I came to La Pinta because they told me my father lived here...

Alejandra Aragon

2018 - Ongoing

Chihuahua, Mexico; Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States

The title of this project was inspired by the opening sentence of the emblematic Mexican novel Pedro Páramo. As the protagonist in that story, I began a journey between Mexico and the United States to find my biological father. In the process, I discovered how the wounds of my family are linked to the demands of hegemonic masculinity as well as the displacements of the agricultural towns from northern Mexico. I returned to the hometowns my family came from to find them disputed by organized crime and the government’s neoliberal agenda. Both state and father figures broke their promises, there is no motherland to return from exile.

To define the visual language of this story I gathered through my travels the family album and produced images with analog film cameras. Avoiding the use of the DSLR was a strategy to both question the codes under which violence in Mexico is commonly portrayed, and protect the intimacy of the story. The colors of the infrared film, outdated military technology that reveals an invisible spectrum of light, helped me create a dystopian atmosphere providing a metaphor to represent hidden structures. The materiality of the family archive reveals the wounds and invites to a dialog between the personal and the political. Both are complemented by the voices of family members and fragments of corridos, a storytelling genre in popular music. The project is in the process of becoming a photobook.

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  • 1. Chapter I: About how this happens in all families. "Land and freedom to all" was the promise of the Mexican Revolution. My father, my grandfather and his father, as all married males, were the recipients of the distribution of the land as victory of the people over the landlords decreed.

  • 2. My great grandfather of my mother side, 7th from the left standing, was a communist. This image reminds me of the ideals of the beginning of last century and the forgotten commitments of the Mexican revolution.

  • 3. My grandfather left his hometown in the deep mountains of Chihuahua in 1971 because that promise was broken, it became impossible to live off the land; misery led to displacement, rather than voluntary migration. Many women, like my grandmother, where left behind.

  • 4. I began a journey to the small communities in the mountains of Chihuahua Mexico where most people have emigrated to the U.S. This store receives money orders and imports which are the main income to many families.

  • 5. Chapter II: Journey South of the border: The state omitted its role as did the fathers of blood.

  • 6. My great grandfather on my grandfather’s side (center with sax) was a musician who played jazz along the Sierra Madre, this is how he had many children from women other than his wife. She ended up raising a few of them.

  • 7. My mother's hands holding the remains of the burnt field. Mothers in an act of resilience and destruction burned the stubble.

  • 8. My grandmother and my mother at her graduation from rural teaching school in 1983 pregnant with me. Both struggled to give up their ideals of marriage and the men who promised to provide and befeather their children. Both were stigmatized by the extended family for being single mothers.

  • 9. This is my biological father. I found him in his natal town La Pinta. I met him for the first time in my life. His wife got mad when she saw me, I am the second of five children he had outside his marriage. He is a welder and works with horses struggling to make a living against the violence that dominates his hometown.

  • 10. "I long for the days when I walked between the fields, with my machine gun combing the saw, kicking up dust, taking care of my land. I long for a band that welcomes me, for a hug that heals my wounds " Lyrics from a popular corrido song "Javier de los Llanos"

  • 11. To the left my great aunt and her friend in 1949 as bridesmaid. to the right my teenage cousin and his friend in 2019 at La Pinta. Both kids are curious about the organized crime lifestyle which has become and option for young men to acquire respect and money. Both emigrated to the US last year for lack of opportunities after high school. Both are trying to figure out the best way to become good man.

  • 12. Ruins of the National Company of Popular Subsistence (CONASUPO) was a Mexican parastatal company that was dedicated to actions related to the supply system and food security. It was created in 1961 in order to guarantee the purchase and regulation of prices in products particularly corn in rural areas.

  • 13. On the left, fighting with a machete was my stepfather. He gave me his last name. We had to flee the Sierra of Chihuahua in 1989 because he was violent towards my mother. Many poor men of Raramuri (indigenous) descent like him are discriminated against and lack even more in opportunities. He was an alcoholic and when I was twelve, we asked for his consent to get passports to the U.S., but he went binge drinking and never showed up to the appointment. He worked harvesting and other jobs with the cartels for little to no wage until his death of alcohol related issues a few years ago.

  • 14. To the left, the remains of the campaign to the presidency of Luis Donaldo Colosio, murdered before elections in 1994 by his own party. Now he is perceived as a martyr, the savior that could not be. On the right my uncle in law at a marijuana field during his brief time at the Attorney General's Office (PGR) the institution in charge of investigating and prosecuting crimes of the federal order during the same decade.

  • 15. The longing persists as the myth of the original towns, of the family that could have been, of the own piece of land.

  • 16. These are hawks that guard the entrance to the towns and watch streets and ranches. Today the territories are disputed by organized crime groups and powerful families of landowners and politicians.

  • 17. Chapter III: Journey north of the border. Neither the physical territory nor that of memory is ours. We had to migrate north. My grandmother tried to go to the US, but my grandfather never singed the consent to get passports for the youngest of the ten children he left with her. They settled in Ciudad Juárez. To this day my mother is afraid of swimming since she almost drowned crossing the Rio Bravo.

  • 18. The future is controlled by machines hungry of seeds, woods and minerals.

  • 19. My grandfather lived in Albuquerque, U.S. He never came back to Mexico and had a troubled relationship with all his children. He died in company of his youngest child during the making of this project.

  • 20. View from the "Little Mexico" neighborhood in Albuquerque. There is no home in Mexico to return from exile.