Archive for culture crit

San Juan Chamula

While shooting in the town square, a tour guide approached and told me I should put the camera away. He said the police would take my camera and throw me in jail. At first, I thought he was just trying to get me to pay to join his tour.

The town enjoys unique autonomous status within Mexico. No outside police or military are allowed in the village. Chamulas have their own police force. – Wikipedia

A few minutes later, I was eating a bowl of chicken soup at a streetside restaurant. The texture of the chicken was unlike any I'd ever eaten. It was more chewy, almost spongy. After a few bites, I realized this chicken leg was previously attached to one of the many running freely nearby. It wasn't the couped-up, hormone-filled, force-fed flavor I was used to. The visceral experience gave me a sudden respect for my surroundings and I didnt take the camera out of the bag again.

View more photos of San Juan Chamula.

Video recorded September 19, 2007

U.S. Census Bureau Race Categories

Part of my graduate thesis dealt with the history of race and the complicated nature of categorization. I’ve always been curious about the U.S. American category options and how they’re used. And to my surprise, our address was randomly selected for a U.S. Census Bureau survey. On the second page, we get questions about race and ethnicity:

U.S. Census Bureau Race Categories

Is this person Spanish/Hispanic/Latino? Mark (X) the “No” box if not Spanish/Hispanic/Latino.
[ ] No, not Spanish/Hispanic/Latino
[ ] Yes, Mexican, Mexican Am., Chicano
[ ] Yes, Puerto Rican
[ ] Yes, Cuban
[ ] Yes, other Spanish/Hispanic/Latino — Print group.
________________________________

What is this person’s race? Mark (X) one or more races to indicate what this person considers himself/herself to be.
[ ] White
[ ] Black or African American
[ ] American Indian or Alaskan Native — Print name of enrolled or principal tribe.
_________________________________
[ ] Asian Indian
[ ] Chinese
[ ] Filipino
[ ] Japanese
[ ] Korean
[ ] Vietnamese
[ ] Other Asian — Print race.
_________________________________
[ ] Native Hawaiian
[ ] Guamanian or Chamorro
[ ] Samoan
[ ] Other Pacific Islander — Print race below.
_________________________________

When I was in high school, I remember being confused while filling out race information on standardized tests. The options have changed quite a bit since then, with more specific Asian options. The Latino category has become an ethnicity in addition to a race.

Question: In what race category would you put Rosario? Not white, black or a specific American Indian tribe. I’m stumped.

Mi Dama

Minutemen Videos: Vandalism, Harrassment, Pepper Spray

Vandalism

In Videos, Minutemen Shown Damaging Migrant Camp: “San Diego Minutemen can be seen pulling down migrant workers’ huts and rummaging through migrants’ possessions in a collection of video clips shot by a former member of the group.”

Harrassment

Minutemen Unvarnished: “The Minutemen and related groups are targeting day labor sites–and the laborers themselves–around the country in what they claim is a campaign to secure our borders.”
Minutemen Unvarnished

Pepper Spray

Clandestined Insurgent Rebel Clown Army: “We are clowns because what else can one be in such a stupid world. Because inside everyone is a lawless clown trying to escape. Because nothing undermines authority like holding it up to ridicule. Because since the beginning of time tricksters have embraced life’s contradictions, creating coherence through confusion. Because fools are both fearsome and innocent, wise and stupid, entertainers and dissenters, healers and laughing stocks, scapegoats and subversives. Because buffoons always succeed in failing, always say yes, always hope and always feel things deeply. Because a clown can survive everything and get away with anything.”

Tijuana, Baja California Election 2007

We pulled into the parking space and hopped out. I slung the camera from my neck, twisting the branded strap so the words “Canon EOS Digital” didn’t show.

Polling Location

I’m fascinated by Mexican elections. It’s so simple and straightforward. Just paper ballots and a black crayon.

Recibiendo las Boletas
Poll workers check voters’ national ID card to confirm registration records before giving ballots.

I watched the 2006 presidential election count in my mother-in-law’s neighborhood. She was serving as a poll worker. Representatives from each party were present, collectively counting and sorting each ballot. The public oversight, caution and security I saw that day inspired much more faith in the final count than the electronic voting machine I would use months later.

"El Voto Es Libre Y Secreto"
A man slips his votes into the ballot box slots after marking his votes in the white booth.

This time, I had my camera. I wasn’t quite sure if I was allowed to be wandering around photographing everything. As I tried to join Rosario in the makeshift voting booth to photograph the ballots, a poll worker asked me to move away. As I framed up a nearby shot, he told me I wasn’t allowed to take photographs.

Ballot Boxes

I heard a woman mumbling a few feet away, “Ustedes viniendo acá, cochinando la elección. You people come here making it a dirty election.” I turned and asked what she was referring to. She seemed startled that I was challenging her passive-aggressive muttering. “Qué estoy haciendo mal con mi cámara? Quienes son ‘ustedes’? What am I doing wrong with my camera? Who are ‘you people’?” She didn’t catch the quotation marks in my inflection, and responded by saying “Soy ciudadana como tú. I’m a citizen same as you.” She walked away with her daughter before I could say any more.

As we got in the car to leave, I noticed a teenager in a group of poll workers with a video camera. My first thought was that the poll workers acted hypocritically, letting her shoot video but not letting me take photos. But when I realized she was shooting the license plate of our car, it all made sense. The woman had been referring to our California plates, showing contempt for us as “outsiders.”

"Yo Voté"
Purple ink marks voters’ thumbs after leaving their prints in the registry.

Photos from Comic-Con International 2007

Comic-Con Press Badge

I’ll be shooting at Comic-Con this weekend. Look for photos in the KPBS Flickr account along with contributions from other staff, including Beth Accomando and Angela Carone who will be blogging.

In the meantime, take a listen to Beth’s Comic-Con preview for KPBS or her NPR feature on Comic-Con’s Eisner Awards.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection