Revealing Mexico

   Photographs by  John Mack    Essay and interviews by  Susanne Steines

Authors' Note

We are very grateful to Mexico.
We have come here as foreigners and have been received as friends.
Amigo is not only a word that the hammock seller at the beach calls his next client — it embodies Mexicans' warmth toward fellow beings.

Mi casa es tu casa means "my home is your home" and could also translate to "my country is your country" — a reflection of Mexico's well-known hospitality.

Cada cabeza es un mundo means "every mind is a world" and could also translate to "everybody is respected here, and we like to hear what you have in your head"—a testament to Mexico's openness to other people's differences. This is the reality of a foreigner traveling in Mexico. This is a book written by and seen through the eyes of foreigners. What this means before anything else is:

We come with a different set of norms, from countries that provide us with a basis for comparison. What's different between one and the other is instantaneously highlighted, prompting an immediate reaction to all that makes Mexico unique to us: the people, the culture, the land, the environment.

We come with fresh eyes, with the ability to have a "first impression." We see the good in people; we see their creativity and intelligence; we see their warmth and genuine innocence. We see a great people, a beautiful composition of pre-Hispanic and Hispanic cultures. And then we see so much injustice, so much poverty, fatigue, resignation, and people lacking education. We see all the problems: the politics, the protests, and all the corruption that gives crime and the mafia an easy stand.

We come with innocence in our approach, an innocence that has much in common with the innocence of an indigenous boy who leaves his town in the mountains of Oaxaca and arrives in the state capital, very much like a foreigner, and helps to bring about his vision of a better country. With this book, we could not hope to give more than a drop of water to Mexico as compared with the vast lake that Benito Juárez gave his country. It was he who coined the famous phrase "Entre los individuos, como entre las Naciones, el respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz" ("Between individuals, as between nations, respect of the other's rights is peace.")

Both the good things and the bad things have shown themselves to us within a short amount of time, and both have shown themselves with extreme intensity: the marvelous magic of Mexican culture and the gruesome social reality of the country. We discovered very soon that the reasons for Mexico's contradictions are highly complex. We also understood that it would be difficult for anybody having lived in this country for longer than ten years to still be able, after such a time span, to borrow power from the amazement that Mexican culture inspires and to use this power to call for an overcoming of anything that keeps Mexico from moving toward a dignified future.

We still have this power.

As foreigners, we do not have reason for resignation, as do many Mexican citizens who, time and again, have been deceived by the promises of their politicians and leaders. Nor do we have reason for dejection, as do many foreigners who wait for the country to reach the standards of their homelands.

In 2010, Mexico observes two important anniversaries: the bicentennial of its independence from Spain and the centennial of the Mexican Revolution. What better time to present to the world the true yet latent light of this wonderful nation. With this goal in mind, we present here a book of visual images—all 31 states included (along with the Federal District)—and oral accounts of Mexican citizens, ranging from an inhabitant of the most remote indigenous village to an inhabitant of the most densely populated megametropolis. The result is a luminous pastiche that breaks down the divide between geographic regions and socioeconomic classes—a gathering of Mexico's vast diversity.

On a national level, the book is an opportunity for Mexicans to newly appreciate their country's rich history, its dynamic diversity, and its cultural and artistic achievements—its vibrant city and rural life, its stunning architecture, striking landscapes, and captivating people. On an international level, it aims to reassess cultural relationships and gratuitous stigmas, one people to another.

We see 2010 as a year of fertility. It is a year to plant seeds of visions, thoughts, and wishes, many of which are contained in this book.

We are grateful to Mexico, and we are wishing it a dignified future, for all its beauty and wonder to flourish within and beyond its borders.

This is our drop of water.

John Mack   and   Susanne Steines

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