As I continue my quest to travel the world documenting dancers in different countries, my next destination after visiting Cuba last March was inspired partly by something I heard someone say not too long ago. Words that still echo in my mind, and I bet on a lot of other people’s minds. “When Mexico sends it’s people…”. The rest of that sentence is full of so much negativity and hate, I won’t even bother to repeat.
And so it was, I set myself to prove those words wrong and show how beautiful Mexico and its people really are. Thanks to the support from the folks at Fujifilm I was able to head over to Mexico City. I researched and contacted a good number of local dancers and packed my bags.
I arrived on Oct 25th. My first 3 days were dedicated to teaching workshops and hosting instameets (photowalks). The following 10 days were all for me to discover the city by the hand of the extraordinary dancers I met.
In Mexico, I encountered a country deeply rooted within the richness of their traditions. The Day the Dead the whole city celebrated the joy of living by honoring those who walked with them once. Bold and vibrant colors everywhere, mirroring the character of the people who call the city home. The same who curiously stood by while I photographed the dancers and in many occasions even offered ovations after witnessing our shoots. They clapped and cheered the dancers after we were finished shooting at a location.
That was definitely a first for me. Often while shooting here in NYC, people often pass us by, perhaps softly shaking their heads producing a chuckle spiced with a slight hint of cynicism. Some will try to steal a picture of the moment. A few will even go as far as boldly expressing discomfort if they feel we are interrupting their way. The Mexican applause thus definitely took me by surprise. It made me feel even better about what we were doing. Just by being there, we happened to brighten their day for that brief moment, and they brighten ours in return.
“What will you take back from México?” asked a me journalist who interviewed me for a local newspaper while I was there.”The food” I jokingly replied, because, of course! Yet in hindsight, what I actually took with me was that gratitude in people’s eyes. Folks seemed genuinely thankful to have been able to partake of a different experience instead of feeling that some strangers were obstructing their path. It was not about being impressed by the dancers’ abilities, it was genuine gratitude for breaking their routine and offering a minute or two of the unexpected. I was not just creating photographs, I was producing a privileged moment in time for those around us.
The rhetoric that permeates our times is sadly about division and segregation. The warmth with which the people of Mexico received me and the dancers as we shot along the streets truly inspired me. We need to understand that it is OK to stop and take a minute to breath and admire the unexpected things we stumble upon everyday and often take for granted.
I am extremely glad for being able to visit Cuba and Mexico this exact year. Specially considering our relationship with these two nations faces a real threat with the coming administration. I can only hope I am proven wrong and we can continue to strengthen the bonds with both of the two countries. There is indeed an immense amount of things we need to learn from them and should.
All images and text ©2016 Omar Z Robles. All Rights Reserved. Do not copy or use with out written consent from Omar Z Robles.