"History is a prophet who looks back, and because of what is and against what was, announces what will be," said Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan-born writer. This selection of photography from Latin America reveals at once a great emotional power yoked to intellectual passion, and a grasp of historicity.
Latino America is a hum in the background, a hum that once in a blue moon becomes a strident scream. But whatever the stereophonic level, Latino America remains unintelligible for most Anglo Americans. The clash in the New World began more than two hundred years ago.
The ancient Zapotecans used to say that they were sons of beasts and ancient trees, born from the caves and the jungles, from the rivers and the sea. And for that reason, they always loved animals. So that when, at the foot of "tiger mountain," a village was born, it was called Tehuantepec; and when, among the flowers, another town arose, it was named Juchitan, which in Mexican means "the place of white flowers."
This is the shadow of the photographer, a man at the very least a dreamer as he cuts out, “rectangle in the hand,” * these fragments of reality. We learn to see in his wake what we would not see without him, the magic moments that approximate the astonished gaze of a child—not a vision from an overbearing concern for information, nor from the efficiency of the image-hunter in action.
They are neither people of the past, nor living fossils of a pre-Columbian paradise. The Indians of Brazil belong to a tumultuous present in their struggle to find a path amid forces and processes of planetary import. They are exemplary, for they face a problem shared by all of us, of creating a future which will not mean squalor and indifference.
Portobelo is not an idyllic place; great ports never are. And for over a century it was the greatest port in the New World. Never an ordinary coastal town, its energies were too long tied up with the fortunes and failures of the New World. A field force developed there over the centuries which was never lost, and still carries much of the same power.
For a Latin American, the perception of his own image and reality through photography can only be a passionate observation. For plunder and suffering has formed the very substance of that image, forged out of extreme social contrasts and violent rebellion.
Some years ago, a friend took me on an automobile trip from Arizona through northwestern Mexico. Mechanical irrigation had turned the arid plain into productive commercial vineyards and orange groves, except where native villages existed.
During the last 3 years, 15 volumes of a major series of photographic books, known as Río de Luz (River of Light) have been published in Mexico City under the auspices of the Fondo de Cultura Económica. During the week of July 13— 21, 1987, I interviewed several people involved in the creation of the series, and explored the origins and responses to this extraordinary publication effort.
JUAN CAMERON, 1982 winner of the prestigious Gabriela Mistral poetry prize, lives in Valparaiso, Chile. His most famous book, Perro de Circo (Circus Dog) describing the human condition after the military coup, won the Rudyard Kipling Prize in 1978.
Pp. 16—26, from "Danzas Rituales y de la Fertilidad," an unpublished manuscript by Macario Matus, by permission of the author; pp. 28—38, poetry by Omar Lara, Juan Cameron and Raul Zurita from Poets of Chile, copyright 1986 by Steven F. White and the individual poets.