Camino Real Tierra Adentro by Eniac Martînez
No one tried to stop the man from holding a gun to Pancho Villa's head. The would-be assassin's face was just off-center in the photograph—his arm extended through the car window with a pistol pointed at the sombrero-topped head of Villa. The crowd dappled behind him showed no surprise or uproar, for it wasn't the first time someone shot Pancho Villa. It was one of many times since the real Villa's murder in 1923 and it wouldn't be the last.
Every July in Parral, Chihuahua, residents act out the assassination of Villa in remembrance of the Mexican Revolution. Eniac Martînez captured one of those powerful recreations in a photograph while on an artistic and documentary journey up El Camino Real that resulted in the 50 black-and-white panoramics for his exhibit, Camino Real Tierra Adentro.
Camino Real Tierra Adentro, or The Royal Road to the Interior Lands, is on display at the Open Space Visitor Center (6500 Coors NW, 897-8831) as part of a program organized by the Mexican Foreign Ministry. Martînez' photographs will hang on the walls of the brightly lit Open Space Visitor Center through Feb. 6, at which time it will travel to the Camino Real International Heritage Center south of Socorro (Exit 115 off I-25, 575-854-3600) for display from Feb. 9 to Feb. 22.
Parral was just one of Martînez' stops along the 1,500-mile trail from Mexico City to Santa Fe. Martînez traveled the Spanish trade route—also known as The King’s Road—taking photos of definitive landscapes and events along the way. His image of Pancho Villa's fake demise, identified by the artist only through the location it was taken, captures a piece of El Camino Real's rich history and the thriving culture on its curbside. The efforts of the Parral people in performing this event resulted in a photograph that could pass for one of Villa's real assassination at first glance. But the added title by Enrique R. Lamadrid, professor of Chicano Hispano Mexicano Studies at UNM, hints to it true nature: Asesinato de Pancho Villa/July 20, 1923: History and Memory.
Lamadrid worked closely with the staff at the Open Space Visitor Center to prepare Camino Real Tierra Adentro for display. His extensive knowledge of El Camino Real and personal relationship with Martînez gave him the ideal vantage point to add relevant titles to the photos. Lamadrid helped arrange the 50 photographs along the wall from the southern-most location, Mexico City, north to New Mexico, following the path Martînez traveled El Camino Real.
Each photo featured in Camino Real Tierra Adentro focuses on one extreme detail of modern life along the ancient trail: a coyote that met its peril within the barbs of a wire fence in ranch land Samalayuca, a dried riverbed rich with salt outside of San Francisco de Conchos, veiled women mourning the holy son on Viernes Santo (Good Friday) in La Ciudad de Querétaro. Martînez' panoramic photographs show a relic made of earth and stone that still grows and thrives. He has captured moments in history created now, in our lifetime, adding to El Camino Real's significance.
Beyond the exploration of North America's oldest road, Martînez' photos depict another phenomenon: the need to re-create and remember great, often traumatic, events. Many cities are represented in Camino Real Tierra Adentro with snapshots of ceremonies marking significant events to their history. Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus, is sacrificed year after year—just as Pancho Villa is—in mock hangings and the burning of his effigy to ward off dishonesty. These events caught by Martînez' lens make Camino Real Tierra Adentro more than a documentary photo exhibit, it's a human experience.