March in Mexico continues with one of my favorite, albeit simple, photographs.
The bus stop and train station is the hub in Creel, Mexico. The El Chepe train line travels east-west across the whole country, delivering goods, people, and fresh seafood. The town square is a stone’s throw away, along with restaurants, curio shops, and privately owned markets. Tarahumara families, usually dressed in their brightly-colored traditional clothing, are always in the town square selling their hand-woven bear-grass baskets and hand-woven garments. As tourism has declined (Creel used to be a popular destination for American travelers), these families have much less to live off of than they used to. Tarahumara fathers, usually wearing regular ‘jeans and t-shirt’ street clothes, are known to walk along the main roads with their youngest and cutest children, pointing out who the children should approach to beg for pesos.
There’s an alpine feel to Creel, surrounded by pine forests and canyons. At dusk, a haze of smoke settles over the town from the wood-fired stoves that residents use for warmth and cooking. The entire town smells like burning pine-bark. Life here is simple, and the people are incredibly friendly. There’s a reason why I’ve gone back several times.
My photographic method doesn’t change much, regardless of where I am. I try to approach every environment with curiosity, and my perspective has slowly evolved over the years, solidified. When I’m not photographing people, I’m always on the hunt for interesting textures and colors.
Traveling through Chihuahua, all of the old decaying adobe buildings and faded election campaign signs – painted on the sides of businesses and along walls – capture my attention. Everything here seems to be recycled, so it isn’t unusual to see 1980’s model cars and trucks, shops with a wide variety of VHS cassettes, and mountains of recycled clothing. Everything seems to carry some kind of story – some kind of history.
Nothing is polished and pristine and brand new. And I really like that.
Slot canyons surround the edges of the Urique River, which winds through the tropical forests in the Copper Canyon region. Military macaws squawk from the treetops and wild fruit grows throughout the area. This image is only about a hundred yards into the canyon; on the reverse side, the canyon winds several miles deeper into the side of the mountain, where a small family of Tarahumara people live, raising chickens and crops in an open clearing.
My guide was a local Urique resident, woefully hungover after spending the previous evening drinking and celebrating at a local young woman’s Quinceañera. I thought, by the time I had made it this far into the state of Chihuahua, I was reasonably conditioned to make this hike without too much trouble. Tomás managed to make me feel like a weak and vulnerable kitten.
It was a rigorous hike. My two traveling companions tapped-out and headed back to the village only an hour-or-so into the canyon. I’m incredibly thankful that I stuck it out, even though I was somewhat hobbled by blisters the following day. Once we made it back out and onto the gravel road, we hitched a ride in the back of a pickup truck. It was the hottest part of the day, closing in on 115 degrees. I got back to the farm I was staying at, plucked a basket full of lemons, and hung out in the shade, slicing and juicing them into a plastic pitcher.
Best glass of lemonade I think I have ever enjoyed in my life, before or since.
For a few years in a row, I traveled to the Copper Canyon region of Chihuahua in the springtime. Usually, the first destination was a small town called Creel, with an active community settled along the El Chepe railroad line, which carries seafood and other goods east-to-west across northern Mexico daily.
A contingent of the Tarahumara people, indigenous peoples of the region, live in this community. For the most part, only the women wear traditional Tarahumara clothing, but occasionally one might identify a Tarahumara man (Rarámuri) in bright pink, ornately patterned cloth.
This photograph was taken along the main thoroughfare through Creel, dotted with restaurants and gift shops and Tarahumara children begging for pesos.