Monday, January 3, 2011

En Foco | Celebrate 2011 with a Free Nueva Luz

En Foco | Celebrate 2011 with a Free Nueva Luz
Originally uploaded by lorenzodom

In collaboration with Daylight Magazine, En Foco is pleased to offer a FREE download of Nueva Luz's latest issue.

It features an article,A Latin Paradox: Mexico + Afuera by me, Lorenzo Dominguez, and commentary by Daylight's Michael Itkoff, on the work of Alejandro Cartagena, Alejandro Chaskielberg and Teru Kuwayama. Click here to download your free version of Nueva Luz Volume 15#1.

Please feel free to share it with your friends and family. Feliz Año Nuevo from En Foco & Daylight Magazine.

My abbreviated 1,000 word article follows, and the complete 4,000 word essay will be published soon on En Foco's blog.

The Latin Paradox through Mexico + Afuera

(originally published in Nueva Luz, Fall 2010)

En Foco’s recent exhibit at Aperture in NYC, Mexico + Afuera: Contemporary Mexican and Mexican-American Voices, was one of many events held in celebration of México’s Bicentenario Independencia this year. However, its relevance extends far beyond the 200th anniversary of Mexican independence.

Hispanics are the fastest-growing ethnic population in the US—increasing four times faster than others, projected to contribute to 60% of the country’s growth between 2030 and 2050, and by 2050 will constitute 30% of the nation's population. Currently, 66% of that population is of Mexican heritage.

With these staggering statistics in mind, the work presented by photographers Chuy Benitez, Dulce Pinzón and Monica Ruzansky in Mexico + Afuera offer a powerful look into what will become one the most important cultural influences in the US in the 21st Century.

Dulce Pinzón
Dulce Pinzón understands that although our growing numbers are significant, our influence and power are not yet proportionate to the population we represent.

Her series The Real Story of the Superheroes portrays native Mexicans working in NYC, who devotedly send back money to their families.

Her work is a satirical documentary “featuring ordinary people in their work environment donning superhero garb, thus raising questions of both our definition of heroism (in this post 9.11 world) and our ignorance of and indifference to the workforce that fuels our ever-consuming economy.” She further explains, “It is easy to take for granted those who sacrifice immeasurable life and labor in their day-to-day lives for the good of others, because their humility makes them invisible.”

Chuy Benitez
Nonetheless, representatives of Generation Y believe times are changing. A national survey of 18- to 25-year-olds in 2007 found that two-thirds believe immigrants strengthen American society. Also, a survey of political values released last year, further testifies that "This is a more tolerant generation than its predecessors.”

Born in 1983 on the East Side of El Paso, Texas, photographer Chuy Benitez agrees, “I think we are moving toward a better understanding, where one culture will not dominate over the other. I’d like to believe that eventually we will live in a society where multiple perspectives are accepted. In turn, no one will have to lose their identity, anymore. “

Chuy now lives in Houston, an environment that offers a myriad of moments that reaffirm his beliefs. Benitez is known for his large panoramas that document his community’s experience of what it means to be Mexican-American and what social tactics they use to “fit in.”

His detailed photographs capture the essence of the community—birthday parties, a Day of the Dead procession, mariachis playing in the local super market—scenes that depict the value Mexicans place on living life to its fullest through our commitment to family and friends.

Alas, for an older generation, some of us still find that the world is not as tolerant as we would like it to be. Not everyone celebrates life like we, Latinos, do. In turn, our emphasis on the extended family, on the pride we place in our heritage, and our value on taking it easy, can, and often does, leads to culture clashes.

Monica Ruzansky
Monica Ruzansky understands.
“I completely agree—family is very important and meaningful to me. I found that the value is somewhat lacking in the US. Back in Mexico, we emphasize quality time with friends and family—a day of big family meals and long conversations—this is probably the single most important thing for us, it fulfills us like no other pastime,” she recently relayed over the phone.

Ruzansky’s work in the Mexico + Afuera show represents the life that she left, and occasionally longs for, back in Mexico. These photos represent a two-year journey she made into the streets of Mexico City at night.

She explains, “The project was created while I drove around with my friends. Ultimately, I collected glimpses of stories hidden in darkness, ones only barely revealed by the headlights of my car. There is no need to see the beginning or end of each story; some are isolated fragments of people’s lives, while others are the landscapes that frame these stories.”

The Latin Paradox
Malcom Gladwell in his best-selling book, The Outliers, begins his story of success with the tale of The Roseto Mystery. In 1882, Italian immigrants from Roseto began settling in the hills of Pennsylvania over the decades that followed. In the 1950s it was discovered that even though heart disease and heart attacks were epidemic in the US, it was virtually absent amongst the people of Roseto.

Subsequently, studies concluded that “it wasn’t diet or exercise or genes or location” that ensured the health of these people, rather it was their way of life—their community, the extended family clans, their humility, and a plethora of civic organizations. Many of the same values that Hispanics still share today.

Thus, it is not surprising that a recent study released this year concluded that “Hispanics have the highest life expectancy in the US.” However, considering that Hispanics have some of the highest rates of diabetes and obesity today, these results surprised many in the medical community.

Yet, to many of us, it is no surprise at all, because quite often we do not define or achieve success, longevity and our purpose in life in the same way that the majority culture does. Rather, life is made meaningful by how hard we work, how close we keep our friends and family, and how tasty Abuela’s albondigas are.

Ultimately, successful acculturation for the burgeoning Latino population will likely not be a matter of shedding one culture for another, but rather, will consist of finding a balance between the two, an adaptation of the best of both, based the values that each individual desires to pursue.

So, Is Brown the New White?—probably not, for although Hispanics will undoubtedly wield a much stronger influence as our numbers grow, what we offer is simply a different perspective on life—one which many of us love and cherish, one which is showcased by the brilliant work exhibited in Mexico + Afuera, and one which is embraced by many Latinos in America today.


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