Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Los Colores de Coahuila

Mothers and Children, Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila, April 2002

These women are the wives and girlfriends of men detained in the city jail in the city of Acuña in Coahuila.  I was introduced to them by my dear friend and guardian angel, Paulina Sanchez.  Whether imprisoned justly or not, these women's men were languishing in jail for want of an attorney.

So, they wait in vigil outside city hall in protest, hoping that the mayor will grant clemency. While I cannot know whether justice was dealt or not, I certainly sympathize with their predicament.

One year before taking this photograph, I had spent time in the jail at the police station in Acuña.  I had been photographing along the main drag, near the border crossing into Del Rio when I passed by a grade school.  As I was taking pictures of street life with my Ricoh, when the kids behind the fence playing at recess asked me to take their picture, I did.  Five minutes later, the police picked me up and took me to the local police station.  

As it turned out, a child had been kidnapped from that school but one month before.  The suspect was a tall gringo who took the boy's photograph the day before.  Apparently, I was suspected of planning to do the same.

By God's grace, a woman named Paulina Sanchez was on her way home for lunch, following about fifty feet behind me.  She went to the police station as a witness on my behalf, and went to the U.S. side of the border to make telephone calls to everyone I knew to call the Acuña police to get me out.  After a long wait in the drunk tank -- which smelled of urine -- the police chief let me go.  My Army administrator called and informed him I was a legitimate military photojournalist.

I've heard it said that street photographers haven't made it until they've been arrested for the "crime" of taking pictures.  Perhaps, but I really don't want to go through it again.