On January 1st, 1994, Mexico woke up to a different reality, facing a new social order. The rules of the game had changed and nobody was asked about. On that date, the Zapatista National Army -EZLN- went public, making their first media appearance, and the North American Free Trade Agreement -NAFTA- came into effect as well. Of course, this was not a coincidence. The years 1994-1995 were crucial for Mexico. Let’s not forget that the presidential party was in the midst of a major crisis, possibly the worst in its history. These led to the major 1994 financial crisis in Mexico, a crisis from which Mexico hasn’t been able to fully recovered. Mexico’s national currency was heavily devalued, and as a result of speculation, billions of dollars in foreign investment left the country, leaving it almost in total bankruptcy. Not only Mexico’s geopolitical role within the new neoliberal order was at play, but also, internally, at the micro-level, the linear temporality of the everyday life was about to change, possibly forever. Mexico had changed, and my photographs are just one of many possible representations. They are not the result of a conscious impulse to document the Mexican social crisis, rather a subjective reflection at the micro-social level. During the Mexican crisis of 1994, I was studying photography at the Universidad Iberoamericana in my hometown, León, Gto. I was able to process the negatives myself, even printed some tests, but unfortunately, family money was running out quickly and I couldn’t continue my photographic practice. My family went bankruptcy. I found myself homeless at the age of 20. I packed very few belongings and went to work for a shoe soles factory. My friend was the owner and he let me sleep on top of the plastic bags containing the rubber to make the soles. I took with me only a few books, putting inside one of those books, Opera Aperta by Umberto Eco, these 10 photo negatives. They waited for the right time to see the light. That moment was 18 years away.
On January 2014 I took these 10 negatives to a photo lab and have them scanned. And what was my surprise when I finally see them after 18 years. Here it was, the material representation of my personal and cultural trauma. I remained silent for 18 years. It takes courage to speak openly about it. New friends I’ve made along the years have always asked me: Who am I?. This is who I am. It took me 18 years to speak again. My photographic work is not about trauma. These photographs are the trauma itself. These photographs are my personal memorial to the 1994 Mexican crisis, functioning symbolically as a public memorial to this crisis, with the intention to broaden the debate on historical authorship and cultural property. To reflect about the role of the urban landscape and their sites of memorialization in societies in crisis, not only should open the debate about their use as a mean for collective memory, but also to facilitate the creation of dense, multilayered and multifunctional commemorative structures, spaces and representations. Public memorials are sites of collective remembrance usually devoted to experiences of suffering, loss and sacrifice. They are a medium for public memory and also a commemorative structure as well, memorializing traumatic events in the community’s local history. Yet memorials are neither formally homogenous nor simple passive receptacles of truthful records of history. Memorials have the potential to disrupt fixed notions of nationalism and identity.
These photographs, in a sense, are against hegemonic representations of the Mexican crisis in 1994, opening the space to alternative rhetoric’s and rituals against forgetting. Among photographs of urban ruins and decay, these are the only remaining photographs from my last trip to our family house in the beach. We spent there many holidays every year, until I was 19. I’m actually the result of a torrid night when my parents made love in that beach during their honeymoon. They went back to that beach when my mom was 6 months pregnant, and I first walked in the beach when I was 6 months old. The most defining and formative moments in my life happened at that beach, including the last time I was there, when I took these photographs. I was just discovering that our house didn’t belong to us anymore. My father had just recently sold the house to a local merchant, without mention to anybody in the family, probably out of shame. Once I was there, as I had no place to stay anymore, that local merchant was kind enough to find me a place, however, the pungent feeling of non-belonging, of displacement, didn’t go away.
The landscape as a cultural souvenir, as a snapshot from another life, reconfigures, facilitates and encourages politically charged debates over the dense and multilayered nature of memorials. Is it possible the co-existence of personal narratives with official historical discourses?. In the linear time of standard political processes, which is the time associated with the perpetuation of the nation-state, events are rapidly integrated as part of a well-known and widely accepted narrative. For the nation-state, the linear time associated with it has to be produced and reproduced at all times. This time is not a natural phenomenon, but one that is socially constructed. Public memorials functions to reinforce this idea of the nation. Resistance to state narratives of commemoration opens the possibility for multilayered memorials, symbolic spaces functioning more accordingly to the dense nature of our contemporary society. As contemporary audiences are confronted to my public memorial to cultural trauma, a new kind of spectatorship emerges, along with an alternative rhetoric, facilitating more fluid rituals against forgetting. What is the importance of the dissemination of personal narratives, in contrast to the on-going construction of official history?. Could it be that the combination of these constitutes our collective memory?. My photographic work attempts to reflect about these questions.