Tag Archives: photography

My Day of the Dead altar

Photos I shot of my Day of the Dead altar.

A Mexican tradition which involves mainly going to the cemetery for an all-nighter and literally dine with the dead. For some reason this has transformed into making the recreation of the tomb at our homes, schools, offices, and malls.

Maybe is the lazyness of going to the cemetery during the wee hours of early November 2nd. After all in places like here in Mexico City it can get overcrowded. Yes, he have not only traffic jams and packed subways, also cemeteries.

There are endless ways of doing a day of the dead altar. Some very odd, others very Catholic. I may say I’m no scholar but actually I am an Anthropologist, so I’m gonna tell you what I use and put.

A must is cempaxochitl flowers (also known as cempazuchil). These are the flowers of the dead. Then I put food, candles, and objects.

For food what I put were amaranth skulls (these are the original ones used by the Aztecs Mexica), sugar skulls (more modern and popularized by White American hipsters for some odd reason), bread of the dead (which is made and sold only during these days), some like my mom like to put their favorite meals when they were alive, perhaps also alcohol drinks and cigarretes (against hipsters’ advice they can’t do any more harm in the other side).

With candles many make crosses, circles — I make a native cross signaling the fours cardinal points. Yes, indigenous peoples had crosses, not Christian though.

Some put photos of the dead, I prefer objects.

If you like Mexican traditions and stories yoy may enjoy my novel Till Stars Shut Their Eyes.

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A girl from Nuevo Laredo.

Photo I shot many years ago at Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.

It is a face I still remember. Just as we are prone to photograph a vivid sunset for our eyes sake into posterity, so I felt with this beautiful girl.

I never knew who she was. It must have been 2006. I was shooting photos at the border city’s downtown. There was some kind of event which for some reason organizers called it a callejoneada. Then I saw her up in the air. Well, she wasn’t literally floating or anything. She was an edecan of sorts for some beer. An edecan is a girl that promotes products, yes, usually on the ground. But for some reason she was up there, I can’t even remember on what.

Whatever she was doing up there she was teasing us with her girly smile and zesty eyes. I wanted to get up close but I also remember why I couldn’t. Believe me when I say I don’t suffer from memory loss (at least not yet). But he encounter had me confused with loss of time, just like abductees describe their horrid experiences with aliens. Except there was nothing nightmarish about this, but quite the contrary.

If you are out there, I would love to know at least who you are. If you know her, please let her know about this mini-quest of mine to find her. She may still be living in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. Whatever the case, please let her know I took this picture. At least that.

Girl from Nuevo Laredo. Copyright 2015 Miguel Omaña.
Girl from Nuevo Laredo. Copyright 2015 Miguel Omaña.

Nuevo Laredo / Laredo International Bridge

Photo I shot at Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas / Laredo, Texas.

This is International Bridge #2 at the US-Mexico border. Below streams the Rio Grande (or Rio Bravo as it is known to Mexicans).

Nuevo Laredo and Laredo have several international bridges. Nuevo Laredo has three and Laredo has four — the disparity is because Laredo also borders another state. One of those bridges is used exclusively for trade, where epic cues of transfer trailers cross several times a day in both directions. There’s also a railroad bridge which nobody counts but is there nonetheless.

These bridge, officially known as Juarez-Lincoln bridge (in honor of both presidents that live the same time and also faced divided nations) it is used for cars only. Pedestrians use Bridge #1, the oldest of them all. But in bridge #2, where I shot this photograph, people tend to go and sell whatever they can from pirate DVDs, pillows, figures of saints and like in this cases lollipops. They sell them in the Mexican side of the bridge, which gives them safety from the occasional American officer checking things out.

The US-Mexico border has many realities, and this is just one of them. Unlike what politicians in Washington or Mexico City think every border city or region has its own goodness and difficulties. In this case the Laredos (or Los Dos Laredos as they are also known in Spanish) are a commerce powerhouse. It is considered the fifth most important trade spot in the whole world, and the first in the whole of Latin America. And Laredoans don’t take it lightly (and Nuevo Laredo people too), they have pride on the fact that commerce between North America and Latin America takes place here. This has attracted one of the brightest people but also one of the worst kind at the same time. For obvious reasons in the Drug War, if Laredo and Nuevo Laredo are pivotal in international trade so it will be in illegal activities and smuggling.

US-Mexico international Bridge. Copyright 2015 Miguel Omaña.
US-Mexico international Bridge. Copyright 2015 Miguel Omaña.

Mexico City Public Transportation 101

Photo I shot at Mexico City metro area.

In Mexico City suburban areas and the inner city have different kinds of public transportation. In the Federal District, which is Mexico City proper, there is a vast subway, metrobus, trolebus, normal buses, cabs, electric cabs, tricycle cabs, a small commuting train, and a long interstate commuting train that connects with the State of Mexico northern municipalities.

In the surrounding area of the Federal District, locally known as Distrito Federal or simply DF, there is of course the commuting train, cabs, mexibus, normal buses, and what locals call combis (which are glorified minivans that swarm the almost 21 municipalities that surround Mexico City).

The one in the picture is known as a micro (pronounced mee-cro), which usually are outdated American buses from yesteryear. These micros roam in the metro area, while buses usually connect to Mexico City downtown.

Mexico City inhabitants and yours truly have to undergo the intricate public transport at some point. American cities are more car oriented but the Mexican capital is enormous and overpopulated that at times it makes its avenues and expressways useless because of epic traffic jams. After all, this is the third largest urban agglomeration of the world. Hence, its mobility problems are far greater and more challenging than way (way) smaller cities like New York or New Delhi.

I have crossed the whole city from one city limit to the other using only public transportation, it took me a bit more than 4 hours. And I was lucky, because I avoided rush hour. I did the same time one makes from Mexico City to Acapulco beach by car.

If you’re interested in Mexico City and its history, check out my book Till Stars Shut Their Eyes.

Girl on Public Transport. Copyright 2015 Miguel Omaña.
Girl on Public Transport. Copyright 2015 Miguel Omaña.

There Is Always Another Day — Shortstory.

Photo I shot at Cholula, Mexico.

The sun went down to hide behind the volcanos. That afternoon was really chilly — a typical Central Mexico summer day. I was walking behind the huge Cholula pyramid temple (or what is left of it). Away from the usual tourist path, I discovered this track and field place. The air turned colder and windier as if the day hurried in vain despair to make its presence known, when it was well aware its death was inevitable. Suddenly the sky bled, gushing to the mountains and to my skin. The red hues signalled the looming demise of that day. And with his head high and proud the Sun realized it could not hold any longer but to fall into a dignified death — it was its time. So the Sun slowly descended into the pitch darkness of the underworld, not without glaring a final goodbye for a day that will never be again. I turned and no one was watching. So I realized the mighty Sun was waving at me, regal but sadly. My hands swiftly went to brag my trusty camera. But when I took it in my hands, it was actually an old camera. I was furious to discovering this camera instead of the new one I had. The final day’s light suddenly shone my eyes, they were reflecting below my. The Sun did not wait for me, for death does not way for anyone, not even the shiniest of stars. All it could do was to give me a monumental farewell that lit the clouds. So I took my camera, and trusted it would take one final photograph, for it was too the end of its life. Barely I could make it work. “This is it”, I murmured to my old camera. One last light for one last photograph. Two lives fade, two lives willing to leave one final effort for each other in order to be remembered. I shot the photograph, and then my camera blinked into its death. As I struggled to turn it back on the Sun blinked as well. I lifted my eyes towards the west, and the light dimmed into its doom. As the wind ceased and the cold became harsh, I sat to mourn. The two have died but not in vain, for both gave each other a chance to be remembered of their existence as one. It wasn’t just a sunset or an old digital camera, it was majesty. Their death was not unsung or ill-remembered since it brought hope for goodness in this world. Darkness now reigned but I thought, “there is always another day.”

Cholula Sunset. Copyright 2015 Miguel Omaña.
Cholula Sunset. Copyright 2015 Miguel Omaña.

Innocence in a boy’s eyes

Photo I shot of my model Abigail.

I wanted to mimic Renoir’s vision of women changing or bathing. Of course one of the great masters of painting did it in a time so different from our own. Today the idea of seeing a women in a private place seems more apt for a sexy webcam chat. Perhaps we need to go back to the basics.

Something that always struck me about the work of Renoir is the pastel rose tones that inundate his cadres (paintings). There are some of his oevres (artwork) here in Mexico City at the Soumaya Museum. They are my favorites to go and see. I see those rosy brush strokes bring innocence and peeping tom curiosity intertwined into one. No man can say, “Oh right, a nude women bathing” and carry on. There is an element of voyeurism in Renoir’s paintings, but more realistic, almost as if seen by a honest-to-God curious boy. And maybe, just maybe, this is why women are able to see his paintings without overtly censoring ideas.

His arrangement of innocence and voyeurism always defined the way I wanted to portray my work of portrait photography. After all, in case you haven’t noticed, I tend to paint, draw, photograph, and write poetry about women.

Abigail. Copyright 2015 Miguel Omaña.
Abigail. Copyright 2015 Miguel Omaña.