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Mexican Life and Immigration

Emily Matyas | Mexico

Consaga describing the hunt. Guadalupe, Sonora. 1990

This project began in the late 1980s when I went to work for Fundación Ayuda Infantil (FAI), a non-profit, community development program in Sonora, Mexico. There, I worked alongside social workers, staying in families’ homes, observing the programs, and getting to know the people.

Over the years, increasing numbers of people moved from rural areas to the cities. Drought and modern life were the impetus. Movement back and forth across the U.S. – Mexican border had always been a way of life, but in the 90s and early 2000s record numbers of people were migrating. The difference was that, with the militarization of the border, most of them couldn’t come back.

In 2007, as the immigration debate intensified, I decided to return to Mexico to photograph and interview people most affected by it. This became the El Otro Lado/The Other Side project.

The project presented here spans over 25 years, beginning in 1988 in the rural areas of Sonora to 2014 and the suburbs of Ciudad Obregón.



 Whenever I’ve crossed the border into Mexico I’ve always had a feeling of magically going “through the looking glass” like Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. To me, the United States and Mexico are mirror images of each other. Though we have different customs and languages and maybe different viewpoints, we are connected to each other.  We complement and inspire one another. We bemuse and annoy each other. We share historical roots and personal struggles. Like two sides to a coin, we are made from the same mold.


The first time I went to a village to work for FAI (Fundacion de Ayuda Infantil/Child Assistance Foundation), I didn’t know where I was going. The two social workers driving me there spoke in rapid Spanish, which I had not yet learned well enough to catch every word. I knew I was to be there for at least 2 days, and that I was to witness and document the projects operated by FAI. What I didn’t understand, as my companions removed my belongings from the car and prepared to drive off, was that another social worker was at the schoolhouse waiting for me. I was to meet her there, introduce myself to a roomful of townsfolk and explain what I, a newcomer and a foreigner, was doing there.


As a photographer and a foreigner in Mexico, I acknowledge the differences between us but look for the commonalities.  Often the things that connect us are not readily apparent. But as I spend time in the communities, and talk with the people, I begin to feel like a part of their life. No doubt I have disparate experiences than those I photograph. But the overwhelming sense I have is one of sharing.  Just like looking into a mirror, I see a likeness of myself when I look into Mexico. It may be oriented differently, but it’s still a part of me. 




 Fundación de Ayuda Infantil



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