A CONTEXT, OF SORTS
We have all become very familiar with the horror stories of violence resulting from virtual open warfare between the Mexican government and the drug cartels in Northern Mexico. On the topic, I can’t recommend enough Dominic Bracco II‘s work from Ciudad Juarez. That said, Juarez and the US/Mexico border is, in many cases, a long way from other towns and cities across the expansive Northern Mexico deserts. It is through this landscape that the drug trade operates, corrupts, benefits, endows and murders – both individuals and communities.
In one such town, Guachochi in the State of Chihuahua, photographer Oskar Landi stumbled across the Centro de Reabilitacion Social (CE.RE.SO). Landi had the opportunity to photograph prisoners in this scorched, sleepy jail during their open-air break.
On the evidence of Landi’s photographs, CE.RE.SO is not a maximum security prison of hardened criminals; oversight seems minimal; male and female, young and old mix; uncertainty hums in the air. If they have anything in common with one another, these prisoners look lost.
Oskar sent me his images, but knowing very little about the town and region, it is only responsible to let his words speak.
“Members of usually non-violent indigenous communities, the Tarahumaras and Tepehuanes, make up the majority of the prison population,” says Landi. “These sober portraits belie the intricate, complex and dramatic history of Mexico’s indigenous community.”
Discrimination is routine.
“The indigenous are often considered inferior because of their dark skin, traditional clothes and customs. As with the rest of the Americas, Mexico’s indigenous population endured invasion, violence and Christianization by the Europeans. This history still haunts their local daily life,” he says.
Guachochi is the largest city in a vast, remote rural region inhabited by both indigenous communities and a relatively much larger number of mixed race people, referred to collectively as mestizos.
“In an area where isolation has helped maintain indigenous culture, extreme poverty and vacant land has also contributed to the spread of illegal drug production as did the birth and collapse of the economic bubble between the late-1980s and mid-1990s,” he says.
“As profits diminished, large quantities of alcohol and weapons were introduced into these isolated communities, soon leading to an increase in violence between the mestizos and the indigenous groups. Honour also plays a central role in the violent conflicts that take place, as intricate circumstances provoke an endless cycle of violence and revenge,” Landi concludes.
Oskar Landi (b. Italy) has lived and worked in New York since 1998. He attended the International Center of Photography and has a certificate in cinematography from New York University. A successful editorial portraitist, Landi has photographed some of the world’s most renowned artists and innovators. He has worked commercially for Armani, Levi’s, The Village Voice, Bon Appetit, FN Magazine, Style, DDN Magazine, Runner’s Magazine, Wienerin. His personal projects have been recognized by the International Photo Awards and Prix de la Photographie Paris. Landi’s work is distributed by Anzenberger Agency.