The Warmth of Mexico - Part II - Ivette HernándezMonday, March 05, 2018
In my continuing series about the warmth of Mexico on my way to write of the startling book, Nahui Olin by Adriana Malvido that I found in Sanborns in Merida, recently, this segment, Part II, is about Ivette Hernández. She was a student of mine at Focal Point, a photography school that closed a few years ago. The Kosher thing to do was to wait for the course to finish and then ask her when I no longer was her teacher. That she consented to my request is something I have marvelled now for some years.
She had a face.
She had a face of Mexican volcanoes (even though she was from León, Guanjuato were they are in short supply).
She had the face of hot, sun baked Mexican earth even though her skin was smooth and supple.
She had the body of a woman who ate well but exercised (she was a construction worker in Vancouver).
She had the face a mestiza, that exotic melding of the Mexican aboriginal and the Spanish. A melding that is now condemned by those who are tearing down the statues of Columbus. Few in our PC Northern America (with Mexico to the south of it) would understand that in Latin America they celebrate the 12th of October as “El Día de la Raza” which would translate with the implied meaning that on that day a new race was born.
She had the face of a woman, a Mexican woman who had the questionable heritage of patience. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 20th century that Mexicans had enough and launched their revolution.
She had the face of a Mexican woman who thinks about death often and is not repelled by it nor fears it.
She had a face of fatalism, of accepting with dignity her fate but willing to change it.
She had the face, an elegant face of a proud people who only during the Mexican Olympics of 1968 finally celebrated the copper race
I worked with Hernández for several years and our communication ended up being a silent one. I would think of a pose or expression and there it was facing my lens.
In Mexico they often say (Nemesio García Naranjo intellectual from Monterey, Nuevo León during the time of Mexican strong man Porfirio Díaz coined the expression), “Poor Mexico so close to the United States and so far from God.” This troubling conundrum makes Mexicans and Latin-Americans more observant and less willing to take life too seriously and perhaps gives them a more tolerant take on what surrounds them.
When I look at these portraits of Ivette Hernández I cannot believe that I took them. Are they too good for my white-man-son-of-an-Englishman perception? Or did my years in Mexico, those years of seeing the volcanoes, smelling the earth, the combination of corn meal laced with the lime, the smell of tortillerías, the smell of ripe Manila mangoes, pineapples, hot chiles roasting on gas stoves, the smell of bunker oil, sewage, seawater and the humidity when in proximity to the port of Veracruz may have seeped into my being and made me what I am today.
I am a confused, Argentine, American, Texan and Mexican. Time will tell when I will finally love my Vancouver and my Canada not because it is a practical place to live but because I will feel it in my heart.