On cold winter days in New York, I’ve been looking at thousands of photos I took in Mexico last year. While the lovely warm colors of the landscapes and sky and flowers and buildings infuse me with warmth, the photos of women working in small businesses are most compelling. Their faces, their aprons, their hands tell their stories.
I took these pictures for Pro Mujer, a non-governmental organization that provides small loans and health care to women in Latin America. I published a few of the pictures here last year, but I want to share more images of these hard-working, lovely women. They live on on the outskirts of Mexico City and around the states of Hidalgo, Pachuca, Puebla, and Oaxaca.
Click on an image to enlarge it and see the caption and to scroll through all the images.
Flores Ramirez Brigida runs a tienda (a little store) in Colonia Benito Juarez, outside of Puebla.
Maria Blanca Martinez Tapia at her tienda, Colonia Benito Juarez, Puebla.
Maria Concepción has a tienda in her home, Colonia Volcanes, in the state of Puebla
Maria Concepción by her wedding photo, Colonia Volcanes, in the state of Puebla
Jesús Jimenez Hernandez makes alebrijes in her home workshop in Arrazola, south of Oaxaca. She sands each carved figure, like the fish in her hands, for about two hours before painting. She’s proud that the figures are made from a single piece of wood.
Jesús Jimenez Hernandez shows an alebrije she painted.
An alebrijes made by Jesús Jimenez Hernandez.
Jesús Jimenez Hernandez in her open-air alebrije workshop in her home in Arrazola, where many women paint these fanciful figures.
Sisters Isabel Gomez Santiago and Gloria Ines Gomez Santiago paint alebrijes in Arrizola, a small town outside of Oaxaca. This is Isabel using a hypodermic needle to make dots.
Isabel Gomez Santiago shows how she uses a hypodermic needle to paint dots.
Gloria Ines Gomez Santiago paints alebrije. She is quick and sure in her strokes.
Gloria Ines Gomez Santiago with a partially painted alebrije in her workshop.
Alebrijes in the workshop of Isabel Gomez Santiago and Gloria Ines Gomez Santiago, sisters who paint the figures in Arrizola, a small town outside of Oaxaca, Oaxaca.
Maximina Morales Morales, in her roadside stand in Zaachila, a small town south of Oaxaca, makes tortillas using a comal and wood fire.
Maximina Morales Morales cooks food on an open fire at her roadside stand in Zaachila, outside of Oaxaca.
Tortilla maker Maximina Morales Morales, with her daughter and family.
Maximina Morales Morales in her roadside stand in Zaachila.
Angelina Garcia, Plasticos, “Juquilita,” in San Agustin de Las Juntas outside of Oaxaca
Delia Gema Vicente Lopez makes tortas at “Comedor Santy,” Fonda, San Agustin De Las Juntas south of the city of Oaxaca.
A Pro Mujer client has come to make a payment on her micro-loan in San Sebastian Tutla outside of Oaxaca.
At San Sebastian Tutla, a, woman has come to make a payment on her loan. The women pay with stacks of coins and small bills.
Farmer in Chilcuahutla Hidalgo, Maria del Carmen Sandoval
Justina Reyes in her restaurante de mariscos, “La Langosta Enamorada,” in El Rosario neighborhood southeast of Oaxaca.
Araceli Ramirez Guzman at her Lavandería at Gomez Sandoval outside of Oaxaca
Erika de la Luz Alvino Calihua sells Tupperware from her home in San Andres Cholula, in the state of Puebla
Lazara Cristobal Medina, runs a tienda, Recauderia a Vale, in Colonia Benito Juarez, state of Puebla.
Ivonn Ena Paz Delgado makes and sells her hand-made clothing, San Sebastian Tutla.
Ivonn Ena Paz Delgado demonstrates how she makes her complicated machine-stitched embroidery.
Ivonn Ena Paz Delgado in her store/studio.
Some of the machine-stitched embroidery by Ivonn Ena Paz Delgado.
Margarita Gomez prepares to make tortillas.
Margarita Gomez, tortillas, El Rosario, southeast of Oaxaca in a roadside stand, Working with wood fire and comal, she makes handmade tortillas in a very traditional way.
Margarita Gomez makes tortillas over a wood-fired clay oven. Her fingers are smooth and delicate but she can flip the hot tortillas somehow.
Gabriela Gonzalez Lopez sells fresh produce and chickens at a crossroads near her farm in Ixmiquilpan.
Gabriela Gonzalez Lopez and her husband Esteban, in their greenhouse in Ixmiquilpan in the state of Hidalgo, north of Mexico City. They’re showing some ripening tomatoes and the seed packet with the type they grow: Number 7705, a hybrid (from Nunhems, Bayer Crop Science). GMO. Oh well.
María Elena Neri Flores and her son at her tienda in Tecámac across from a school. She sells her sewn goods including school uniforms and snacks.
María Elena Neri in her home sewing studio. The orange dress is a costume, but mostly she sews school uniforms.
Pollería in Tecámac.
Josefa Gomez Sanchez cuts up chickens in her pollería in Tecámac, North of Mexico City.
For the photos of Pro Mujer women I published here last year, here’s the link:
Women line one street, cradling live chickens or hefting turkeys under their arms, waiting for buyers. On another street, women sell dried squash seeds and beans and corn and roasted peanuts. All around the square and inside the market building, vendors hawk bread and pastry, chocolate, meat, piles of peppers and tomatoes and onions. It’s Thursday, market day in Zaachila, a town about 12 miles from where we are staying in Oaxaca. It’s colorful, exotic, exciting. I don’t take pictures
I stand in line at the WC (2 pesos and you get a good amount of toilet paper to take into your stall). The ladies in line are mostly vendors wearing their aprons, braids down their backs. There’s no blending in for me in jeans and sneakers and straw hat and even at just 5′ 4″ more than a head taller than most of the women in line.
My oddness becomes even more clear when the tiny lady behind me taps me and in Spanish says, more or less, “This is for women.”
I turn and said, “Soy una mujer.” I am a woman.
The expression for utter embarrassment is universal. She cringes and looks horrified, and then giggles. All the women in line including me start laughing. I let her go ahead of me so she can get out of there, but I bet she’s going to be teased for awhile.
A quiet tomb
Above the market in Zaachila and behind the church is a small archaeological site–two Zapotec/Mixtec tombs. The only visitors while we are there were some policemen who come up to sit on benches under a tree to eat their lunch, and some girls in school uniforms who look like they were dodging grownups. If you click on any image, it will enlarge.
You know what you tell people to say in Mexico if you want them to smile for the camera? WHISKEY.
That’s one of the discoveries I made last week driving around for three days with the intrepid Yesenia Diaz Delgado, communications coordinator for Pro Mujer Mexico. Working as a volunteer, I took pictures of women who get loans and health care through the nonprofit. Here are some of the dynamic women working hard near Mexico City.