Former Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s war on drugs claimed the lives of more than 31,000 between December 2006 and November 2010. In 2011, photographer Diego Huerta wanted to draw attention to the crisis the only way he knew how: through his camera. He set out to photograph 31,000 people in Mexico and the United States for his 31 mil retratos por la paz series – taking a particular interest in areas most affected by Calderon’s policies. Along the way, he learned more about his native Mexico, and the people who have been there from the beginning.
Through beautiful portraits, Huerta began documenting the indigenous populations of Oaxaca, as well as the Raramuri in Sierra Tarahumara. This year, he launched the ambitious Nación Nativa project to record the more than 50 indigenous groups that make Mexico such a rich and diverse country. On March 20, the Austin-based photographer began dedicating nearly all his time to Nación Nativa – breaking only to fulfill work commitments. After photographing the Chichimeca, Teeknek, and Zoque, Huerta is moving onto phase two of his project: a book, a tangible archive.
“From the beginning of the project, I knew this was the next logical step.”
“From the beginning of the project, I knew this was the next logical step,” he told me. “The documentation of indigenous groups of Mexico should be done through a book, not just through social media.” Through his Instagram account – where he’s amassed 82,000 followers and counting – he’s shared more than 100 photos, but they’re only a taste of what to expect from Nación Nativa, the book.
Huerta turned to Kickstarter to make this book a reality. He’s looking to raise $30,000 to put together a 300-page book full of hundreds of previously unpublished photos. He makes it very clear to me that this money won’t go into his own pocket; he’s self-financing his entire year spent in Mexico. This includes gasoline, car maintenance, lodging, and the more than $11,000 that goes to those he photographs. The $30,000 – which is more like $24,600 after Kickstarter gets its cut – goes to the design, printing, and the drafting of something that doesn’t currently exist. “Some of these towns are almost extinct, and you can only find information and statistics about the majority of these groups, but no real documentation,” he said. “There isn’t a legacy to help them preserve and protect their customs.”
While he’s focused on raising the $30K by the July 2 deadline, he does have plans for what happens should he surpass that goal. He’ll print more copies of the book to gift to different heads of states, giving them back a little piece of their history.
For the time being, the books are only available through Kickstarter, and their production hinges solely on whether or not he reaches the goal. Though he could have picked another crowdfunding site, he picked Kickstarter because it’s a trusted and visited site around the world. And the way he sees it, the indigenous peoples of Mexico shouldn’t just matter to Mexicans; they should matter to the world.
Diego, who always seems to look at the future, does want the book to live on outside of Kickstarter. “That’s the next goal,” he said. “For a publishing house to become interested and publish the book inside and outside of Mexico.”
Donate to Diego’s Kickstarter campaign before the July 2 deadline here.