By Rocio Graham
Inspiration of my work: For me being of mixed race with Indigenous and Spanish blood has made identity a life long preoccupation which inspired me to spend 3 months immersed in the Indigenous community of San Juan Chamula Mexico to explore my own identity. I found that Chamulan women have a strong relationship between their natural world, their mystic world and their sense of self. Their cosmology system is based on honouring the land and all the elements in it. All their daily functions are deeply designed around the natural gods: Sun, moon, water, forest, land and fire ; this is reflected in how their walk, how they pray, cook and even affecting how they do body functions that do not disrespect the sun or the moon for example.
With the rapid grow of the city of San Cristobal de las Casas, the Chamulan land is now being compressed by its urban surroundings that is reducing slowly the space land that they have inhabited for centuries putting in danger the preservation of their traditions that includes their own clothing production and living from the land. City planning has not accounted for the ethnological impact of the city development in the surrounded indigenous communities . It was important for me to create a body of work that reflected their own stories from their own perspective and honoured their knowledge.
These Chamulan women portrayed in the photo essay have managed to empower themselves despite of centuries of operating in a patriarchal system, and now they face another internal fight to preserve their traditional ways of living. Altering their physical environment for them is a more complex issue than a concern about sustainability. Nature defines who they are and their position in the world.These Women that have taught me about identity and love for the natural cosmo in which I have found a sense of self . We transform our environments but the environment also transforms us. This photo essay invites the viewer to reflect on how altering the landscape can affect our sense of self and design who we will become.