“You ain’t a killer, you still learnin how to walk/From New York to Cali all the real niggaz carry chalk/Mark you for death, won’t even talk that East and West crap/From Watts to Lefrak, it ain’t where you’re from it’s where’s your gat.”
excerpt and images from the new york times
Ruben E Reyes is Mexican. He was raised in Mexico City. But some of the indigenous Tarahumara people of northern Mexico had a word for him when he first traveled among them in 2002. The word was “gringo.”
“I was never called that before,” Mr. Reyes, 31, recalled recently.
Though his father’s family had come from an area about 50 miles away, Mr. Reyes was an outsider in the Copper Canyon, among the mountains of the Sierra Madre Occidental. He found the Tarahumara, who are known for their running prowess, living lives not wholly unlike their ancestors centuries ago, who fled to these elevations from the Spanish.
“They still had their own culture,” Mr. Reyes said. “It wasn’t Mexicanized.”
However, by the time he returned for several months in 2009 to photograph, Mr. Reyes saw signs of a cultural shift among the Tarahumara (also known as the Rarámuri). Men who had previously worn loincloths now wore jeans. Children, most of them now in school, were speaking Spanish, while their grandparents spoke only Tarahumara. People were leaving the canyon to seek work in the cities. Yet, at the same time, Mr. Reyes found many traditional religious practices still being maintained, alongside Catholic observances.
His black-and-white, medium-format photographs have a timelessness of their own, as if they had been taken a century ago. But this wasn’t the result of some conscious aesthetic strategy. “This is just the way I photograph,” Mr. Reyes said.
He currently works as a freelance photographer in Cincinnati, where he lives with his wife, Jamie, and their newborn daughter. That’s a long way from Copper Canyon.
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Soundtrack: Capital Punishment – Big Pun
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