One of the most important festivals in Mexico is Holy Week, when there are real-life representations of the crucifixion of Jesus and someone is symbolically sacrificed for the good of the community. This Christian festival was adopted with great intensity in Mexico because it coincided with the time of year when fertility rituals had been performed before the Europeans came to America. Those rituals involved animal sacrifice and blood offerings to Mother Earth.
This picture was taken in the north of Mexico City. I was working for my project The Last City, which was later published as a book in the US and Mexico. A community was processing to perform a crucifixion on top of a hill in their neighbourhood. Among them were youngsters who belonged to gangs which had territory to defend – with violence if necessary. I was taking pictures of that year’s Christ when I heard a gunshot. I walked towards the top of the hill and there was this group of chavos (youngsters) with a rifle. So I pulled out my camera. As I did so one boy pointed the rifle at me and said: ‘If you shoot, I shoot too.’ For a moment I was terrified. Almost without thinking, I took the picture anyway.
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