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 would communicate 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 times 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 on, 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 on eerie nights surrounding the nearby “Monumento a la Madre.” During the afternoon, the evening rush hour, the farmers and families of the “400 Pueblos” protest naked, dancing to the tone of cumbia and salsa, wearing little more than a loincloth draped 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 tyrannical political figure lead to the disappearance of 43 students, a national and shameful disaster known as Ayotzinapa.
As hundreds of farmers and their families tell it, it happened on an early 1992 morning, when several “pueblos” were shaken awake by the rumbling of machinery and 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 demolition trucks 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 would be theirs to use forever. It was a shameful act and nothing has been done by the authorities, as usual.
“We are only farmers. We have no weapons. The only thing we do have are our bodies to call for attention,” explained Nereo Cruz, another member of the organization.