Portraits of Rural Oaxacan Elders
- “If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
FOUNDED IN 2010 and based out of Santo Domingo Tonalá Oaxaca, Proyecto Raíces (the Roots Project) takes a grassroots approach to improving the quality of life of elders living in extreme poverty by providing them with food, shelter, and care.
The founders of Proyecto Raíces saw a need within the elder community in Tonalá; a need that I also observed. The majority of the elders I met live in impoverished circumstances, often with little or no daily human interactions; some practically abandoned due to the high levels of out-migration to Napa, California (from this particular community).
These elders have spent their lives working in the fields, in their homes, in construction; some have even crossed the northern border at some point in their lives to work legally as some of the first “Braceros” (manual laborers).
The theme of out-migration is deeply woven into the community’s story and is often the cause of the separation of entire families for years on end. Given the difficulties faced, the activities and initiatives carried out by Proyecto Raíces are changing the way elders are treated and viewed in Tonalá, as well as increasing their quality of life.
Each face and each set of hands photographed reflects an entire life story of an elder with between 68 and 94 years of diverse experiences, adventures, and stories. The hands of the elders illustrate a connection among generations while showing the physical expression of the passage of time, as well as change as a constant in life; most of us will one day look at our hands and see a similar image.