|Marcelo & Concepción: los panaderos de Tanivet|
Mexico is by no means a third world country. Oaxaca especially has a cosmopolitan flavor with tapa bars, organic markets, elegant rooftop bars, and fine jazz clubs. But Oaxaca, like most of Mexico, is a place of striking contrasts: modern vs ancient, rich vs poor, order vs chaos. There is an ever-present intermingling of cultures: indigenous, mestizo, and American that defines Mexico. I was fortunate to have been involved in a photography project in Tanivet, a small pueblo a half an hour outside of Oaxaca. Approximately three hundred people live in the pueblo, with another three hundred family members living in L.A. It has a ghost town-ish feel to it: a new penitentiary with no one in it, a zoo with exotic animals that hardly anyone visits, schoolyards where children are seldom seen. Fellini would have a field day here! There are i pads and computers where there is no internet connection, large screen television monitors and fancy refrigerators in homes where no one lives, and an allegiance to the LA Lakers that would rival any home in California.
|Marcelo with green card|
Our birthdays are only a few months apart. We passed the same number of years on this planet, but in such different ways. My life reflects the "luck of the draw", a comfortable middle class American life full of opportunities. Marcelo's life was rewarding in a different way, but definitely without the same opportunities or middle class existence that I had. One road is not better than the other, but one is much smoother with far fewer "topes" to obstruct the journey.
From day one, Marcelo and Concepción invited me into their home and their lives without hesitation. Although they were among the poorest families in the pueblo, their generosity had no limits, what they had, they were more than willing to share. Each visit either started or ended with "taquitos a la Concepción" flavored with mesquite, their sole source of cooking fuel. It was also what fired the brick oven that is in their livingroom.
|Mesquite gathered for oven|
|Field burning a la Mexicana|
Although the project in Tanivet is finished, I have reasons to return. First, there are Marcelo and Concepción, who, despite the world of difference in our lives, are now my friends.
There is also the unique beauty that the Oaxaca countryside offers.Tanivet is in stark contrast to the colonial beauty of the city of Oaxaca. Even though it often seems desolate and abandoned, it has its own charm, so peaceful and pastoral.
|The main street of Tanivet|
My visits to Tanivet remind me that there is indeed a world of difference in our lives, but there are far more similarities that brings us together. There is a universal interconnectedness that crosses borders, merges cultures, and allows friendships to blossom in the most unexpected of places.
Un abrazo de amistad, Marcelo y Concepción. Gracias por todo.
|Photo by Mari Seder|
I was very fortunate to have had two excellent photographers photographing Marcelo and Concepción along with me. They also have become good friends and have taught me a lot. Gracias Mari y Raquel.
|Mari Seder in action|
|Raquel Rocha, building "confianza"|