Patti McGill Peterson Center for International and Intercultural Studies
While I was studying abroad in Mexico, last semester I had the opportunity to explore Mexican Culture through photography. At first my project focused mainly on the education system in Mexico, but as I spent more and more time in Mexico I felt that it was also important to explore everyday Mexican life and culture. Although I spent six years of my childhood living in Mexico, there was a lot that I did not expect to learn while I was there. These changes in my perspective also factored into the way that I viewed and photographed Mexico. Not only did I find myself taking pictures of the culture and society, but I also feel that I photographed different things that I identified with as a child but now viewed differently.
In Mexico, I was studying at Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado De Puebla and took classes on Mexican Culture, Mexican Literature, and a course on the Sociology of Education (using Mexico as a Case Study), all while doing a service learning course where I would go to a school to teach English twice a week. As I took these courses I realized that there was a lot more that I needed to explore in my photography. There was no way that I could just photograph the children I taught without photographing the religious influences or without giving a historical context. My classes about Mexican Culture and Mexican Literature gave me a better understanding of these things and made me think my subjects in a greater context.
These classes also introduced me to other Mexican photographers, which I was able to study to draw inspiration for my own photography. Being so close to Mexico City, I was able to go to various Art Museums and see these photographs up close. I was able to study these artists and see how they portrayed Mexican culture and how they use the people and traditions to convey their message. I mainly studied Manuel Álverez Bravo because his works look at the different class struggles in the 1920s through the 1990s. Through this time a lot of different class and political changes occurred in Mexico and he was able to show how those changes transformed the people.
Being in Central Mexico, Puebla, it was very easy to travel throughout the country and see how each region has developed its own culture. It was interesting being able to photograph all of these differences because it shows the diversity in the cultures and traditions. As I shot I felt that it was important to include these to show that it is not what people think it is.
Coming back to SLU, I began to develop the 30 rolls of film that I shot and will hopefully be finished developing by Mid October so that I can begin printing and choosing images by November. This project has been approved to be part of my SYE Honors Project by the Global Studies Department, where I will continue to study Mexican Identity through a political and economic lens.