Echele Ganas (Do Your Best): A Life Left Behind is a photography and video project completed between 2004 and 2008 that portrays the ways of life of villagers in the mountainous region of La Sierra de Norte in the state of Puebla, Mexico. The images also addresses the perpetual drive of immigrant ambition, in this case of Mexican immigrants, and their right to economic freedom and material betterment to support their families and communites. I chose this region of Mexico, east of Mexico State and adjacent to Veracruz State, after meeting several of these workers from that region who reside in the Philadelphia area. They graciously invited me to visit their villages and their families and, over the course of five years, I made six visits to their villages in order to understand their drive to pursue the American way of success---literally pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and "making it." Each trip deepened my entry into and my understanding of their personal histories. I visited homes, workshops, and stores built with the money sent home by the immigrant workers. I recorded video messages from the villagers that support the photographs and contextualize them through the expression of their hopes for their loved ones who are so far away.
My project specifically describes the traditional village life left behind by the workers: cultural activities such as weddings; village saints' day celebrations; first communion; and events that make up daily existence. In pursuit of this understanding, I created a collective portrait that informs the American public about who these immigrants are and what their lives were like before they began their journey north. The underlying goal of my work is to foster a deeper appreciation of their cultural heritage and humanity. Most importantly, the project seeks to validate their need to provide a better life for themselves and their families. I hope these images spark conversation appropriate both to the humanity of Mexican immigrants and to the United States' definition of recent immigrants, as they contribute to the prosperity of both their adopted home and their country of origin.
Listen to our guided tour stops here:
STOP 8:Laurence Salzmann's Echele Ganas (Do Your Best): A Life Left Behind, Amy Schlege
Laurence Salzmann, Graciella and her Escorts, 2007.
PUBLIC OPENING RECEPTION
Thursday, September 15, 5:30-8:00pm
FILM SCREENING AND DISCUSSION
Wednesday, October 27, 5:30-7:00pm