Over the course of 2017 in a village called Zaruma in the south of Ecuador the school “La Inmaculada Fe y Alegría” (Immaculate Faith and Joy) collapsed into a huge hole. “It’s falling apart before our eyes” said Mariuxi Cango, the school director. Zaruma has been a gold producing area since pre-hispanic times but in recent years the exhaustion of the most easily accessible deposits has led legal and illegal miners to make even more risky tunnels, putting the whole village in danger of collapse.
In this self-destructive search for gold I found in the territory of Zaruma a mirror image of my own state of mind at the time. The village seemed to be a metaphor for my own depression.
I understood the devastation of this territory not just as my own devastation but that of a world. This widening of focus also revealed the people of the territory and their diverse positions, their lives lived in the rock itself, from those who mine in their own homes to the group that went to protest in Quito and obtained an audience with the President to press for the immediate end to all mining in the area.=
Zaruma and I fade in and out of each other. You can’t seperate fiction and fact, this has always been a fundamental theme in my work. The territory is both a dream and a real ecological-economic-political entity, the rocks are like people and the people rocks, I am myself but also this territory. And I know that I, we, need to stop the digging.
As my focus widened even more I began to come across thinkers (Sandra Myrna Díaz, Vandana Shiva. etc) who connected capitalism and patriarchy to environmental collapse, pointing to a frenetic society that was undermining the very possibility of life on earth at the same time as it undermines the psyche of every one of us.
The Chilean poet Maria Basura graphically paints this perverse destruction:
“I’m so sorry tio Sam, I never meant to rebel, although I have everything necessary, I won’t rebel! Because my legs are at war and I can longer keep my balance … Because you give infinite pleasure… oh , I really, really love you uncle sam. I love you to the point of selling everything, of giving everything away … Take me, here you are, my Amazons, my forests, my Arctic, my seas … I want to feel your weight on my land, spit out and finish my culture, beat and mistreat my origins until I am rid of all animality. Penetrate me and extract copper, gold, salitre, silver, ahhh … leave me dry because all that you see belongs to you.”
In all my photographic work I revindicate the space that it can open up for multilayered readings that can speak to our innermost feelings as well as global truths, blurring or rendering irrelevant the line between fact and fiction.
I don’t yet consider the project complete.