Wishing you all the best. I was looking around for a Christmas thought. A couple of days ago I found this image, and I thought there might be a place for it here. Certainly not a classic warm and fuzzy Christmas photograph, but the idea behind it goes back a long long way.
I’m putting together a collection of images revolving around artisanal pottery and tile making in Mexico. About an hour north of where we now live in San Miguel is a historic town called Delores Hidalgo. The town is famous for its pottery and tile. You can drive down a main street and on both sides, there’s nothing but tile and pottery shops. With a lot of help from Margo (more on her later), I got invited into two excellent tile and pottery factories where they are making pieces by hand. It’s incredible. There will be a lot more of this to come, but for the moment, here’s an image of Dulce (Candy in English), hand-painting bowls in part of the factory at Talavera Acosta. But it’s a lot more than that.
Dulce is one of a number of women who hand paint the clay pottery and tile made at the factory. The techniques they are using were similary in use before the Spanish arrived in the 1600’s. We asked her who taught her to paint. She said “my friends” pointing to the four or five other women in the room. She said “we help one another.” Apparently, women do most of the painting, because their husbands have left their families and have gone north to find work in the US. Farm labor work American white guys refuse to do, because there’s not enough cash, no insurance, no overtime and no paid vacations. They send what little money they can afford back to their families in Mexicio. The women and kids are alone. They stick together. Her friends helped Dulce find the work. She learned to paint because she had to. She paints clay bowls. The work is stunning.
I was at the factory the other day talking to the owners about my project ideas, and we walked into the room where the women are painting pottery. Just to the right as we walked into the room was this scene. Dulce and the Christmas alter. The Mexican flag is in the background. There are two portraits on the alter. The Virgen de Guadalupe is highest because she is considered the Mother of Mexico. The second portrait is of the Virgen de Delores, considered the Mother of the city of Delores Hidalgo. Both portraits are considered representations of the Mother of God. As a corporate/industrial shooter, I’ve seen the inside of a lot of factories. I never saw anything like this.
I don’t speak Spanish, and Dulce does not speak English. I will not photograph any person at work without their permission, so I asked the owner to ask Dulce if it was ok for me to photograph her while she worked. She said yes. After I was done with the few frames, I caught her attention and put my hand over my heart and bowed my head to her in thanks. She smiled and gestured to the alter.
You know, you’re not gonna find a more agnostic son of a bitch than me. These days, in particular, from both sides of the aisle, it seems if there were a God, and God were he or she - it feels like “they caught the last train for the coast", just to take a break from all the garbage, but still - there’s something about it - can’t put words to it, but still - there’s something to - the power of faith - in something - something bigger than ourselves - something. I wish I had Dulce’s faith. I wish I had the faith of a lot of hard-working Mexicans and Americans as well. Day to day finding a way. Nobody has sole ownership of working hard, sacrificing and hoping for a better day. On this particular day in Mexico, Dulce was painting clay bowls. Her husband was digging the in dirt in the southern US, and Dulce firmly believes there’s a better day ahead. Maybe she's right. I hope so. “We help one another” – now there’s a Christmas thought without borders, without politics, and without greed. Something even Tiny Tim would love. “God bless us, everyone!”.
Thinking about you. Yes I am. Merry Christmas.