“Barrios Potosinos” is a series of photographs shot in San Luis Potosi, a city of one million inhabitants 500 km north of Mexico City. These pictures were taken in different deprived areas of the city between 2007 and 2013. This city is on the road to the north of the country, which is also a highway for drugs and immigrants going “to the other side”.
The situation has changed a lot there over the past few years. Local gangsters applied their laws until 2008, when the Zetas cartel arrived and took control of the city. This meant the Zetas controlled the drug market, as well as prostitution, bars, street sellers and even some politicians or members of the local police. The majority of drug dealers were shot. Different gangs members started to work for the Zetas, as the income was good, even if life was risky. The army and federal police started a campaign to fight the drug trafficking and this continues today. In 2010, the Gulf cartel took the control of the city. More people were killed everyday because of the war between the cartels. The Zetas seem to have left the city now and the Gulf has taken over power.
These pictures were taken in two different neighborhoods. The first one is the “Zona Centro” in the historical center of the city. There are very old houses, nearly half of them in ruins. Most people work at the market selling, fruit, clothes or other goods. Others in the neighborhood started to deal drugs with the Zetas and this culminated in a shoot-out between the two opposite organizations on one day in 2012. In these pictures, you will see several taken during the Day of the Dead in 2013 (named “All Saints day in English). On this year, many people commemorated the first anniversary of the death of close relatives killed in the drug cartel conflicts.
The other neighborhood is Pavon in Soledad de Graciano Sanchez, a city in the urban area of San Luis. This neighborhood was built on fields of vegetables crops in the 1980’s. The Butis were the first gang defending this place from outside gangs coming to rob in the new residential area. Following a succession of several gangs, the neighborhood is now divided into two major opposing areas: the “Wepavon” (because of the wepa music) and the “Pavon York”. Each area is ruled by one of the gangs. Opposite gangs used to fight in the streets at night. But now, with the arrival of drug cartels, life appears on the surface to have become calmer, although people are at the mercy of the cartels. Not only is the drug trafficking controlled by the cartel, but the inhabitants are prohibited from consuming drugs from other sources.
The objective of this selection is not to show the politics in these neighborhoods, but it is important to mention the context because it influences the daily life of the inhabitants. The youth living in these areas suffer greatly from the effects of marginalization. By photographing them, I hope to open up their reality and culture to a wider world and perhaps overcome some of the prejudices that they confront. This selection gives an insider’s view into their life, such as their religion, drugs, sport and nightlife. It is the fruit of 7 years of an intimate relationship with the two communities including extended periods which I spent living in the neighborhoods.
Jean-Félix Fayolle is 30. He comes from a village of the north west of France and is living now in Nantes. He has always been fascinated by travels to discover cultures and different ways of living.
After A-level, he has been living one year in Germany and then started international business studies. He came back to Germany as exchange student (Erasmus), followed with a license of applies languages to business in Nantes and finished his studies in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.
His interest for the photography has been developed during his different trips and stays abroad, but it’s in Mexico that he started his work around the human being in poor areas.
He continued doing a social service in Grenoble to discover the French neighborhoods and built his first own project, « Fotomexcabia », in order to visit youth living in urban and rural depressed areas from Mexico to Colombia. He is making a stronger relation with the Mexicans of San Luis Potosi, met the Mara 18 and other gangs of Medellin.
After exhibitions during a year in all France, he worked during 9 month for the well-known photographer Reza in Paris being in charge of his exhibitions and conferences. He then came back to America organizing photo workshop for youth in poor urban areas of El Salvador and Mexico.
He works almost 3 years for a French NGO that he founded some years before as photographer and projects manager. He organized intercultural photoworkshops between youth of urban and rural areas, photographic reporting of French neighborhoods and organized a French-Mexican youth exchange.
Jean-Félix is now working as a free-lance photographer and wants to follow his work about youth and popular neighborhoods around the world.
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