A Map of Latin American Dreams

Photographs and text by Martin Weber

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A Map of Latin American Dreams explores the desires and hopes of individuals throughout Latin America.  The photographs and texts reflect the history of past decades in each country.  They explore how individual lives have been directly touched and altered by local, national and regional traumatic events and policies.  The work aspires to amplify the voices of the under-represented, to give each subject dimension through their personal stories.

From 1992 through 2007, I made trips to Argentina, Cuba, Mexico, Peru, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Brazil and Colombia.  I photographed families, groups and individuals.  They are represented and acknowledged via collaborative portraits with texts that anchor their history.  Their voices are expressed within each image using a hand-held blackboard with writing in chalk.  In each situation they are responding to the request, “Can you write down a wish or a dream that you have?”  I asked this  question of those posing for my camera.  I asked them to be personal and specific in their own words.

I asked myself, what makes diverse people and communities belong or feel they are part of a country, continent, or culture?  When I began the Map, I sought to redefine fragmented, transnational  identities and histories, as well as to provide an alternative to classic iconic images of Latin America.  What I lacked in sociology would be amply compensated by a dedication to the specific, especially the voices of the people.  I did not want to find myself speaking for individuals I came to re-present:  I aspired to collaboration in making these portraits.

It is evident that the shifts between democratic processes and dictatorships have left their mark, that since the struggle for independence from colonial rule, innumerable revolutionary movements have been given birth, many of which shared histories of oppression.  But what lies ahead?  My work delves into these issues, and makes the effort to bring back direct evidence:  I seek to offer the viewer an opportunity to see multiple frames of political reflection.  Can we recognize our potential to participate?  Are we perpetuating the conditions that render these dreams unfulfilled?

I discovered traits that compose the shared and multiple identities of Latin Americans.  I have vivid memories of the experiences in border towns where cultures on both sides are close in geography, ethnicity and culture. Yet there is still an unexplainable effort to physically cross over.

A melancholic gesture or one implied exists in the process of asking someone to think of a dream or a wish:  something not fulfilled.  It is true that we are living in a time when stability is often a distant memory. Constant crises remind us just how fragile the terrain remains.  My practice has echoed that of the retablos, visual tableaux that represent dreams or events in need of restoration, in this case a certain faith in a minor or major revolution, popular or personal.

I see my photographs as vehicles, records of an event, a performance, a happening. The sitters willingly engaged and openly shared secrets that are disclosed beyond their appearances.  Presentation of the images reveals the transition between the banality of everyday life and the extraordinary event of a shared moment.

I learned much about myself and the people I met. Our encounters carry a defiant gesture.