400 Pueblos a story from Mexico

Perhaps this project of cultural curiosities deserves a less pretentious title that compounds its form and aesthetics. Maybe adding the word acidic to the title could resonate the true identity of its essence acidic photojournalism.
Why not! It’s an adjective that has been attributed to Hunter S. Thompson’s gonzo journalism, the 60’s, music and, now, my labor… which has some type of acidic impregnation on itself, a chemical process.

Not everyone’s dipping 35mm film into their own urine. One morning alkaline, another acidic. Twisting and dyeing and spotting and colouring; and I see it still, a plastic film canister, with bubbles staggering their way up to the surface. Sometimes Kodak, other Fujifilm, not too many Ilford get to experience the horrible act, the tension, the climax before a magic trick. And I see it still… representing social tensions, traditional modes of authority, sexual liberation, experimentation and differing interpretations of a dream. As the process unfolds, new cultural shadows appear, as well as a dynamic spread of censorship through the film: mystical and symbolic effects incarnate. They perpetrate the immortal action.

Since 1992 the villagers from the state of Veracruz who comprise the movement of the “400 Pueblos” have been protesting what they believe was an unfair land theft; it was the land they resided in, the land they worked for over a decade; a land now seized.

In the streets of Mexico City, twice a year, for periods of two or three months at a time, more than 400 people camp out the eerie nights surrounding the nearby “Monumento a la Madre”. At noon, during the evening rush hour, the farmers and families of the “400 Pueblos” protest naked, dancing a the tone of cumbia and salsa, —wearing little more than a loincloth with a photo of mexican senator Dante Delgado— at a grand boulevard which is also a main avenue (Paseo de la Reforma) in downtown Mexico City.

Dante Delgado was the interim governor of Veracruz in 1992. According to the organization he’s the one who ordered the destruction of their villages in Alamo, Temapache, Poza Rica and Martinez de la Torre. The “corrupt and oppressive” —the photo of his face reads this— Dante Delgado also invented charges and jailed more than 200 people. It feels we haven’t changed a bit in this country… Just two years ago another tyrannic political figure disappeared 43 students, a national and shameful disaster known as Ayotzinapa.

As the hundred of farmers and their families tell it, early on a 1992 morning, several “pueblos” were shaken awake by the rumbling of machinery, heavy earth moving equipment. The drivers were accompanied by police officials, who cleared out the area. They were given a couple of minutes to grab a few belonging before the caterpillars rolled in to destroy their homes, churches and schools. For more than a decade these people had lived in “ejidos”, public land where they had farmed, believing it should be theirs to use forever. Shameful act and nothing has been done by the authorities, as usual. “We are only farmers, we have no weapons and the only thing we do have is our bodies to call for attention.”, explained Nereo Cruz, another member of the organization.

About the author
Michele Lorusso was born 1994 in Puerto Vallarta, on the mexican Pacific coast. He transferred from studying at Casa Lamm in Mexico City to Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, where he now resides. He is a writer and a poet. He has been published by Lammadame, a literary gazette. For two months, in Sayulita, Nayarit, he exposed a series of photographs captured in Colombia and printed on recycled wood titled “Eterno Paisa” at the Gallery Pachamama.

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