Dispatches from the Majority World. - PhMuseum

Dispatches from the Majority World.

James Whitlow Delano

2016 - Ongoing

The truth does not care about “likes”, comfort zones or if you sleep well at night. You may not like this series – find it self-indulgent, even preachy but it will introduce you to the people of the Majority World who make our cheap goods, our ripe winter fruit, and our lifestyle possible.

Sanitizing the lens helps no one except, perhaps, the 1%. The truth, like nature, does not seek to make anyone feel good. The Majority World lives this truth. We, in the entitled, post-industrial north, are the outliers on this front. In the Majority World poverty is the baseline, the tormentor. Fatalism is waiting unseen just around every corner. The vagaries of age set in decades early.

Still there is plenty of joy in the Majority World - perhaps there is more true joy, as people cope, adapt endure, survive and find those moments of mirth, that the more fortunate are often too busy or distracted to notice. The US President calls these places, “shit holes”. What I see is strength, free from artifice and reservoirs of tragically untapped human potential - a loss that diminishes us all.

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  • Jazmine Durana, a 16 year old widow and single mother, prepares a cooking fire, in one of Asia’s largest metropolises, for daughter, Hazel's, breakfast, in the one room slum dwelling in Navotas she shares with her parents, two brothers and a younger sister. Hazel’s husband, John "Toto" Dela Cruz, was pulled by his hair in 2017, by two masked assassins, out onto their porch and shot four times in the head and mouth in an extrajudicial killing – part of Philippines President Duterte’s “War on Drugs” Meanwhile a third assassin held a gun to Jazmine’s head threatening to kill her if she resisted. Hazel's biological father does not acknowledge the child is his and he now lives on the island of Samar, far from Metro Manila. Jazmine met "Toto" while pregnant and he accepted her child as his own.

  • Ginnalyn Soriano, 21 encounters the body of her elder brother, Julius, 24 years old, whose corpse is being carried away in a body bag after he was executed by police in an extrajudicial killing, part of Philippines President Duterte’s “War on Drugs”. His body showed signs that his hands had been bound before he was shot to death during a police operation in Caloocan, while the police claimed he’d pulled out a gun attempting to shoot them. Metro Manila. Philippines The total death toll in the drug war varies wildly but there have been an estimated 12,000 deaths and counting.

  • Two stray dogs face off in contaminated water seeping in from a landfill dump most of which is plastic waste. The Majority World has to deal with the lion’s share of plastic waste where a lot of the post-industrial world’s plastic ends up exported and dumped. This water will find its way into Buckingham Canal that will finally deliver its contaminants into the Bay of Bengal and ingested by fish that are caught for market. Chennai, India.

  • Schoolgirls cover their noses to brace against the foul odor of the Barapulla Nulla drainage canal passing below this bridge on a blistering hot Delhi day in the Jangpura district. India The Barapulla Nulla is a "dead", 12.5 km-long drainage canal in India’s national capital New Delhi that is highly contaminated with domestic sewage and chemical pollutants from small industry. It is responsible for 30% of the pollution in the holy Yamuna River, India's most polluted river.

  • A day at the beach in Baseco slum at the mouth of the Pasig River, where the river delivers untreated human waste, including antibiotic resistant bacteria, and even heavy metals into Manila Bay. It is hard to imagine a less healthy place to swim. Baseco slum, Manila, Philippines. Still, somehow, there is no shortage of laughter, or smiles in the slums of Metro Manila where, despite the poverty and crime, the bonds of family and community are strengthened through adversity.

  • “Luis”, a deportee from the central Mexican State of Querétaro, emerges from his makeshift shelter high atop the first desolate hilltop mesa east of the Pacific Ocean a few meters from US/Mexico border wall (seen in background). Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. It was necessary to ascend a steep slope, sometimes on all fours, next to a gap in the newer, second border wall/fence, frequented by “coyote” traffickers, to reach the mesa-top where three deportees live. Luis lived for almost 20 years in the United States doing agricultural work in California. Three of his children, born in the United States and US citizens, and his wife still live in United States. Luis occasionally earns US$5/day collecting shopping carts for a supermarket nearby and lives atop this hill because he feels safe but he has to descend the mesa for food, water and to charge his burner phone. There is no bathroom on the mesa. Luis cannot return to the United States, although he has tried. He does not want to return to Querétaro for the shame of being penniless and the lack of unskilled jobs there. So, he sees living homeless, in a box house atop an isolated mesa, as his least bad option.

  • Leaving behind the Majority World: Man illegally enters the United States by climbing through razor wire up the fence from the Mexico side. Tijuana, BC, Mexico/ San Ysidro, CA, USA.

  • Storm clouds build over favela-like neighborhoods that climb the steep slopes above Bolivia's largest city and co-capital, La Paz to La Ceja (The Eyebrow) marking the beginning with El Alto. La Paz, Bolivia "Campesino" farmers and herdsmen have flooded into La Paz and its large satellite city, El Alto as the climate of the altiplano warms and dries making agriculture and the pastoral life less financially viable. Families move into Bolivia's barrios/slums seeking higher paying jobs leaving villages increasingly abandoned or the bastion of senior citizen but few young people. Still, more than 70% of families in El Alto, according to Compassion International, live in poverty in ever-expanding slums, plagued by crime, gangs and drug trafficking. Living in the Majority World means tightly spaced houses, limited or no plumbing and impoverished neighborhoods are often built in areas vulnerable to flood or landslide, and La Paz has a history of deadly landslides when it rains.

  • An impoverished mother, likely of a lower caste, cradles daughter sitting on the floor of a commuter train in Chennai, when no seats are available - mostly men are occupying them. Tamil Nadu, India.

    Chandana Basu of the Estonian Biocentre, Tartu explains that unlike the example of West Africans or Europeans, Indians do not have homogeneous skin color through the subcontinent. “Our study clearly reflects the profound influence of endogamy adding further to the variation in skin color contributing to the mosaic of skin tones”. Endogamy is the custom of only marrying within the limits of your caste, clan or tribe, stifling intermarriage and diversity –but also it reflects the intolerance, the categorizing of humanity by caste, creed and color – all too common in the Majority World where wealth is held in the hands of a powerful, permanent elite and the masses are left to survive by their own devices without little or no institutional safety net.

  • Living in the moment: Local villager celebrates Ganesh Chaturthi Festival, dancing to a drum crew in a procession of Lord Ganesha statues loaded on the back of trucks as it makes its way down waterfront in Pondicherry. India.

    Southern Indians endure the age-old issue of “colorism”: “We (Indians) see poor people as darker skinned. We see South Indians as darker skinned – and therefore as less beautiful…We see lower caste people as darker skinned. It is important to see that colorism is very widespread and connects with a whole host of other social problems”, said Dr. Parameswaran, Professor of Journalism at Indiana University, Bloomington commenting on the inequity of “colorism” in India.

  • Miners return from the gold mines at lunch time along a pathway etched into a cliff, passed a mountain of garbage, at La Rinconada gold mine complex at over 5,400 m (over 17,700 ft). Peru La Rinconada is the highest permanent human settlement on the planet. There are no precise numbers but it is believed that somewhere between 30,000 and 50,000 men, women and children live at the base of this Andean glacier, seeking fortune but most people here live in abject squalor of mud, snow, rain, and mercury contamination, as climate change chases the glacier up the valley.

    In the Majority World, especially in rural communities, opportunities are far and few between. So miners, who are mostly indigenous Quechuas and Aymaras, are willing, or are desperate enough, to work in the traditional "cachorreo" system, where they labor for 30 days without pay for a company, that holds a mining concession. Then the miners can work for one day per month mining for themselves. Luck plays a large part - as miners can earn anywhere from nothing to a fortune in any given month depending on that one day. Smuggling out the best bits of ore, during the 30 day unpaid labor period, of course, is not uncommon.

  • Young boys from the Arias family peer over the original, older US-built border wall at dusk from the Majority World into the flood-lit no-man's land created between the two walls/fences where US Border Patrol is present 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The silhouetted hills on the other side represent the post-industrial world and the dream of opportunity but getting there through a militarized border can seem unattainable. Colonia Libertad, Tijuana, Mexico. The Arias family is led by Estel - these boys’ grandmother and matriarch of the clan. Their house actually rests up against the original border wall and yet the family expressed no fear from human or drug traffickers. Still their home, despite being millimeters from the world’s superpower, lacks running water, necessitates an outhouse and they’ve had to illegally tap into the power grid because they cannot afford to pay for electricity.

  • The Arias family's outhouse for their house, which literally sits up against the original US-built border wall, and inches away from the world’s largest economy, in Tijuana. Mexico Lime is spread on the toilet seat in an attempt to sanitize this toilet. According to the World Health Organization, 2.3 billion people lack basic sanitation facilities and 13% of the global populace use toilets such as this one “where excreta is deposited in situ”. Colonia Libertad, Tijuana, Mexico.

  • Hard glare from a woman excavating a Kolkata sidewalk. In India, it is not unusual to see low caste, Dalit or Adivasi women doing manual labor with a pick or shovel. Kolkata, India In over 20 years documenting India, I’ve never seen a light-skinned woman doing this kind of work.

    “Studies have shown that people with lighter skin have higher self-esteem, more self-confidence, much more social visibility and acceptance, and more opportunities…they also have more opportunities in the marriage market", Jyoti Gupta at TEDxSugarLandWomen in November 2012.

  • A woman does bookkeeping at night, by the light of a smart phone, in the Market 3 slum in the Navotas Fish Port Complex. Market 3 has limited electricity, by generator, but no plumbing. Drinking water, obtained in the fish port, is stored in jerry cans like those on a cart to the left. Manila's poorest live here. Stimulant drug use is prevalent here, to alleviate feelings of hunger, and to give energy to work long hours at low pay. This has also attracted Duterte’s assassins in his "War on Drugs". There have been multiple extrajudicial killings (EJK's) in Market 3. Through it all, somehow, there are people who have not given up hope, still struggling to emerge from the crushing poverty of Metro Manila’s vast slums.

  • Jocelyn Banting, a teenage widow and mother, was 14 years old in this July 2017 photograph. She lived and worked in a bar next to the Market 3 slum in the Navotas Fish Port complex as a bar girl and sex worker. Her husband, but not father of her child, Alan Uba AKA, Boy Muslim, was gunned down in President Duterte's "War on Drugs". The father, a client, refused to acknowledge fathering the child. Smoky Mountain, Tondo, Manila, Philippines Jocelyn, now 15, had been incarcerated in an adult prison on drug possession during my return in May 2018, as her mother, Lenie, tried to gain her release. Jocelyn has been released since but contacts say she has returned to the fish port to work as a bar girl and sex worker.

  • Remy Fernandez, 84 years old in 2017, holds her grandchildren that she was raising, there are seven in all, because her son, Constantino de Juan, a methampetamine user, was killed by masked gunmen and the mother was in prison due to a drug arrest. The chair in which she sits has a hole in it after it passed through his body. Baby RJ was born in prison. Constantino, upon seeing the masked assassins, instructed CJ, five years old and wearing the red tank top, to take care of his siblings because he knew he was about to be killed. Payatas, Metro Manila, Philippines

  • Remy Fernandez's arthritic hands, now 85 years old, in 2018. Remy continues to raise 7 grandchildren after her son was killed. Her daughter-in-law, Lourdes, had just been released from prison, during my visit in May 2018, after serving her drug sentence. Lourdes disappeared for three days as Remy searched friends’ homes, the police station and was about to go to the morgue when a grandniece implied that she knew her whereabouts. Drunk, Lourdes left the house unannounced with three of her seven children without her mobile phone or telling anyone in the family where she was going. Remy fears her daughter-in-law may have fallen back into addiction, and become a target for an extrajudicial killing in Duterte’s drug war – not uncommon when a known drug user or pusher is released. Remy also worries about, at her advanced age, who will keep the family together if she dies before at least some of the children reach their adulthood. Payatas, Metro Manila, Philippines

  • Exhausted woman in the front pew of a church in Oaxaca, Mexico. Faith, be it Catholicism in Mexico, Hinduism in India, Islam in the Muslim world plays an important role in the lives for many in the Majority World helping people endure what could otherwise be soul-withering poverty.

  • Man stares down a "paradita" ("standing girl) sex worker in the Coahuila District of Tijuana, a couple of hundred meters of the US/Mexico border. Mexico Many of the women who end up engaged sex work in Tijuana are single mothers who have tried and failed to cross the US border to seek better paying work in the north. With few other work options, they end up working on the street.


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