For the past four hundred years, the Tzotzil Indians, descendants of the Mayans and heirs to their great culture, have lived in Chiapas alongside the Ladinos, descendants of the original Spanish explorers.
When I was asked by the Polaroid Foundation to go to Mexico to create an exhibition to mark Columbus’ arrival in the New World, I decided to go to Chiapas. I set up photography classes for the Ladino children in the town of San Cristóbal de las Casas, and for the Tzotzil children in Zinacantán and Chamula.
It was one year before the Zapatistas’ armed revolt for the cause of equal rights for Indians. When I first asked the Tzotzil children to photograph their dreams or fantasies I was worried that they might be disdainful of the idea. For them, dreams play as important a role in understanding the world as waking events.
I realized the next day that they knew exactly what I was talking about. They turned up with masks they had made from the gray reverse side of cracker boxes. One was the mask of a jaguar, another of a demon, and another was a devil with horns protruding from the sides of his jaw.
I think that the backgrounds of small thoughts are white. If I imagine a man, I just place him against a white background but if it’s a landscape or a big thought I imagine it in more detail.
— Juan Jesús Murillo, San Cristóbal de las Casas
I think that there is something like clouds in my mind. When I imagine a lot of things, the clouds fill up as if it’s about to rain.
— Teresa López, San Cristóbal de las Casa
My father is a chemist and my grandma was a doctor. My sister is studying to be a surgeon. I want to be a doctor like my sister. I resemble my father because he’s always in a good mood—just like me.
Vladimir Stálin Becerril Vargas is my complete name. My father read my name and my brothers’ and sisters’ in a book. My oldest sister is called René, then comes Thalia, and Patria, Maya, Galileo, then I follow and my little brother Bach.
— Vladimir Stálin Becerril Vargas, San Cristóbal de las Casas
When I sleep, I see some things, but it’s not a dream because I don’t know how to dream. When we were sleeping, something came to the house. It made a noise on the roof like someone playing ball. Then I saw it dancing between the rafters, but it was a little fellow. It had a white chest, but its face was all black.
We have animal companion souls—all very different. Some have dogs, cats, jaguars, coyotes and all kinds of animals. The people who have jaguars are the strongest, but the cat is the weakest. The strongest have two or three animal souls—like my father, he has three jaguars.
— Nicasio Peréz de la Cruz, Zinacantán