Todd Jagger Photo Gallery -El Camino Real

"Medanos de Samalayuca, Chihuahua, Mexico"


We had driven around all day photographing. At one point I had wanted to make a photograph of the Sierra Victorio, one of the hideouts for Victorio and Juh, the famous Apache leaders. We had driven down a dirt road with no "posted" signs and came upon the rotting carcass of a cow. A little further and there was another, then another. Soon there were piles of dead cows, hundreds of them. The flies were so thick we had to turn on the windshield wipers to see. I got out, held my breath and made a rather uninspired photograph of the sierra. While I was under the dark-cloth a flat-bed truck full of drunk workers pulled up next to Enrique and, as Enrique so nonchalantly put, in quite a "brusque" manner told us we had about one minute to get out of there before they got out of the truck and "helped" us leave. I all but threw the camera and film holders into the truck and we sped off with them escorting us back to the highway. The next day, at a Pemex station, a lady approached us and asked if I was "el fotógrapho" - apparently my photographic project had become common knowlege in the area. "Sí, Señora, may I help you?" "My husband was the driver of the truck yesterday, and I would like to apologize for his rude behavior."

The closer we got to the border with the US, the stranger the ambiance. Enrique would suddenly stop the vehicle and say, "I don't want to go in there." When asked why he replied, "Posible yerbaderos" - possibly smugglers. At times we would pull into a small settlement or farm and people would act stranger than I thought they should for simply foreigners to arrive. Enrique told me people thought we were "narcopolicía" - narcotics police.

What does any of this have to do with the Médanos? Nothing I guess, except that at the end of that day, my good friend and assistant for this trip Andy Johnson, and I, hopped two barbed wire fences, crossed two railroad tracks and walked about a mile out into the Medanos de Samalayuca to make these photographs. We could barely see the highway in the distance behind us and occasionally hear a trucker blow his horn at Enrique waiting patiently for us by the side of the road with the truck. We felt an overwhelming surge of relief to be away from people for a while, in a wild landscape that changes daily yet hasn't really changed in a millenium, and, due to its nature probably won't for another. We photographed until we couldn't see anymore - there comes a point when reciprocity just never catches up - and walked back to the truck in near dark, keeping an eye out for rattlesnakes as best we could.


Text & Photograph © 1993, Todd Jagger
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