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I have been sitting in front of my computer for about 15 minutes and don’t know where to start with this post. I also don’t know where to end it. I suppose this is very symbolic, as all these images were taken at an event that means to destroy borders. Borders represent just that: beginnings and endings.
And so I find myself doing what I do best, and probably what got me to where I currently am (emotionally and professionally). I am simply sitting here and letting my soul’s sweat pour straight into the keyboard.
It was a normal day and the weight of my daily routines was starting to slip off my back when I got a message from my beloved friend Manuel Lopez. He asked if I could come photograph a yearly event jaraneros from all over travel to Tijuana for. It’s the Fandango Fronterizo.
For those who may not be familiar with Tijuana or the Fandango Fronterizo, it is an event that literally takes place in both sides of the border. There’s a fence separating the USA from Mexico, but there is one area where that fence becomes much more real, as your loved ones right through it. They call it Friendship Park in the USA, but to us Mexicans it’s simply part of the malecon. It’s a meeting point… a clash of two countries… the eye in the middle of the storm. People come there to have a good time with their loved ones, all while the world arround them crumbles down. Some are stuck in Mexico, some in the USA, but there they can talk to each other and touch each other’s pinkies through a fence that can barely let a cigarette through.
I haven’t shot events in a while and love fandangos, so I thought “let’s fucking do this!”. There was never a doubt in my mind, regardless of how many hours I had worked all week and how much I really wanted to just drawn myself in the Sexta bars that very night.
So I get there just in time – 30 minutes after I was told I should arrive. No one had arrived on the USA side, but more than a few jaraneros were already practicing on the Tijuana side, where I was. By the fence one could observe little groups of people having a picnic, with a metallic fence as the center piece.
I guess those of us who live in the border can get so used to what this fence represents. Well, it’s just a thing that separates one country from the other, right? No – it does much more than that. It breaks families, friendships and even ends lives. Then it makes fun of you by only allowing you to touch someone’s pinky while you cry, endlessly hoping you could break through that fucking metal for just a single hug.
You can take a look at the fence anywhere else in TJ and it will mostly look like a simple wall. But here… here the bars turn to life and can almost talk. It’s hard not to shed a tear, and I must accept I let a couple or few pass by. Then I stopped and turned around to face the crowd as the musicians started to arrive on the San Diego side.
The party began, I touched some pinkies and started to shoot. There were kids, adults and people from all walks of life here. It was a party, it has always been one. Every fandango I come to, it feels as though it can cheer up a funeral. And so the music starts.
It’s an orgasm of music in there. It’s hard to explain how it feels when you step in the middle of dozens of musicians, all following the same rhythm and pumping to the same heart beat. It’s strong. So much that at some points I couldn’t shoot. I simply had to stop and let it all in. Let my soul touch the musicians, so to speak.
I am that kind of photographer. I become part of what’s going on, only then can I really take care of my job. I see a lot of people taking shot after shot after shot, looking for the right one, trying to orchestrate dozens of people to get the right composition.
You must remember, guys. This is not a studio, where one can control light, objects, shadows, environments, colors and all. This is life. You are out in the world, at an event that flows like a sea with multiple currents. Stuff moves and there’s more than enough minds… each its own world. You can’t find the right picture; you have to let it find you. So stop taking millions of shots, wait for the moment to come and make every shutter count.
The event went on for a couple or few hours. Really, I lost track of time. I took a break, had some brews and went to have fun with Cristina Molina, another dear friend. We came back and the border was like a funeral. There were lit candles in the floor, food in the tables and an army of musicians carrying the only weapons they know – their instruments. I wish I could have shown you more images of that night, but by then I was already too deep into the trance.
I often speak about the importance of a photographer knowing when to stop. How can you capture life if you don’t know how to take its very essence in? After all, photography is about capturing life, whether it’s in a direct or indirect way. In order to capture life, you need to understand it, and to understand it you need to live. It was time to put my camera down and live.
I do hope you like the moments time allowed me to capture, though. I had a good hand shake with those who have gone through this border, those who visit this wall, those who come and lighten up the atmosphere at the fence, and most importantly, those who’s dreams and souls linger around it until the end of time. After all, it’s thanks to them these events exist.