In December 2017 and March 2018, I had the opportunity to work on some photo projects in Mexico. I present to you, in a series of three articles, my work on the sweatshops of the Tehuacán region in Mexico.
Few people pay attention to the working conditions behind the consumer products they procure. This series of articles is a small window on the garment industries in Mexico.
We do not get married in front of these falls
During my first stay, we were accompanied by Martin Barrios from the Tehuacán Labor and Human Rights Commission. He brought us to a waterfall of wastewater from washing jeans. We find a lot of these factories in the area.
It must be understood that the reason why your jeans do not fade in the wash is that they have previously rubbed off elsewhere. The concentration of jeans factories in the Tehuacán region means a concentration of contaminated waste water. The smell of these waters is nauseating. A thick foam covers the waters of the creek.
Cotton is not naturally blue. The jeans must be dyed. It sounds obvious and simple, but it is far from being the case. Blue pigmentation is not present in nature. Before modern chemistry, the color blue was the most difficult for painters to obtain. The amount of blue in a painting was negotiated since it affected the price. The pigments were made from lapis lazuli, a semi precious stone. Nowadays, blue comes from big chemical factories. Its chemical composition is complex and is lighter than water, confining them to the surface of runoff.
This is not how you make blue corn
The region of Tehuacan is the world’s birthplace of corn . According to recent findings, corn as we know it (or almost) is more than 5000 years old. The process of domestication dates back 9000 years. The corn varieties can be counted in the hundreds. Rest assured, the blue-purple variants do not come from contaminated water. You can continue to eat your nachos with peace of mind;)
The concentration of dye in the water varies according to the proximity of the plants and the geology of the surrounding places. But, as we can see, this concentration of pollutants can be very important. The images are surrealistic. It is difficult to believe when you see it.
This blue water is everywhere. Farmers, for lack of other resources, are forced to use it to water their fields. The rancid odor is everywhere and the muddy or dry residues are everywhere on the surface of the fields.
I started this series of notebooks with the context of widespread violence in Mexico. In Tehuacán, this violence is not just red blood, it is also blue jeans.
You can go see my other projects by clicking here.