Africa's Legacy in Mexico
Oaxaca Diary

My Father, My Son

"My Father, My Son," Corralero, Oaxaca, Mexico, 1991

Tony Gleaton

Corralero, Oaxaca, Mexico, 1988

In the darkness of early morning, I ready myself to leave. One of the trucks that will take the women to market can be heard in the distance, sounding its horn in short, repetitive beeps.

I struggle with my effort to adjust myself to not being asleep, while rolling up my sleeping mat and receiving a cup of coffee from my perpetual host, Dominga Soliz. Seemingly, I pass from one dream state to another in this last hour before dawn.

In the near distance the truck that will eventually carry me and my few possessions to town rounds the corner down near the lagoon. Its beams of light slash the darkness, illuminating the figures struggling with large canastas of fish that will be loaded and sold at market today.

Dominga smiles lovingly at me. In a sense I have become a small part of the village. It has been that way for nearly five years, ever since I came to photograph this area just south of Acapulco, a place I have come to view simply as a present-day reminder of black Africa's legacy in Mexico. For a long time I felt I was taking pictures of things that mattered to me and no one else. These villagers, who became friends, sustained my quest; their effort to win long-sought recognition by Mexican society inspired me to travel many miles to return here time and time again. Now, as always, everyone is more than helpful when I ask permission to photograph. There is often no question about my repositioning subjects to create an effect, or having fathers embrace sons at my suggestion rather than theirs. The photographs that I create are as much an effort to define my own life, with its heritage encompassing Africa and Europe, as an endeavor to throw open the discourse on the broader aspects of "mestizaje," the "assimilation" of Asians, Africans, and Europeans with indigenous Americans.

The truck now stops before me. Loaders secure my bicycle and backpack to the iron stays that support the canvas roof. I, along with the village women, sit perched on planks suspended over the cargo below.

Huddled in the near darkness, bounding down a rut-filled road, I realize that I am engaged in the same balancing act as my fellow passengers, as we cling to whatever support is available in this journey as well as in our lives.

Index page