Ali Morales and his family in The South Valley in New Mexico

Ali Morales is 25 year old enthusiastic law student from Ciudad Cuauhtémoc, Chihuahua. He is a first generation Mexican American and is setting up roots in the United States. His wife and young daughter Aliana were born in the United States.

Ali’s plan after finishing law school is to practice law in the areas of Criminal law, immigration and worker’s compensation. He currently works at a law firm called Abogado Elias Law that serves Mexican Americans and Hispanics in the South Valley, New Mexico. The South Valley is located just south of Albuquerque.

I asked him what the term Mexican American means and he replied that he thinks of someone who immigrated to the United States from Mexico. He considers his young daughter, Aliana, also to be Mexican American because she has an American mother and a Mexican father. “She is a Mexican American, she represents both cultures” he said.

I also met Ali’s parents and sisters at their home in the South Valley. We drove south of Albuquerque for like 20 minutes and we got to a neighborhood outside of the city. When we got there we found Ali’s dad, Jesus Morales, working on a project to restore a mobile home. We toured the backyard and gathered the family for some photos.

I would like to thank Ali for inviting me to his parent’s house to get a glimpse of Mexican American life in the South Valley.

Ali Morales and family in Albuquerque's South Valley

Ali Morales with his wife Mercedes and their daughter Aliana. Photographed on May 28, 2014 behind Abogado Elias Law in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Ali Morales in his small office at Abogado Elias Law Albuquerque New Mexico.

Ali Morales in his small office at Abogado Elias Law in Albuquerque, New Mexico. May 28, 2014.

Ali's father Jesus Morales at his home's backyard

Ali’s father Jesus Morales at his home’s backyard in Albuquerque’s South Valley. May 28, 2014. Jesus Morales has a home construction and remodeling business.

Ali Morales with his family in Albuquerque's South Valley.

Ali Morales with his family in Albuquerque’s South Valley. From left to right: Mercedes, Ali, Jesus (holding the dog’s leash), baby Aliana, Manuela, Jessica and Diana Morales. May 28, 2014. South Valley, New Mexico.

Ali Morales with his family in Albuquerque's South Valley.

Ali Morales and his family inside their home in New Mexico’s South Valley. From left to right: Jessica, Diana, (sitting down), Jesus, baby Aliana, Manuela, Mercedes, and Ali Morales. May 28, 2014.

Alma Martinez Owner of Nena’s Food in Albuquerque New Mexico

Alma Martinez is from Mexico City. She learned to prepare antojitos (Mexican snack foods) from her grandmothers and her mom. Alma has continued the family tradition by establishing Nena’s Food in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is a third generation preparer and seller of antojitos such as quesadillas, and pambazos.

Alma has lived in Albuquerque for 15 years but still identifies more with the Mexican culture than with the American one. Learning English has been slow for her but that has not been a big obstacle for her business. She has family members that help her out in case translation is necessary.

Alma loves Albuquerque and is proud to have her business in the city.

Alma Martinez with Nena's Food in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Alma Martinez with Nena’s Food in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Photographed on May 28, 2014.

Alma Martinez with Nena's Food in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Alma Martinez with Nena’s Food in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Photographed on May 28, 2014.

Alma Martinez with Nena's Food in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Alma Martinez with Nena’s Food in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Photographed on May 28, 2014.

Alma Martinez with Nena's Food in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Alma Martinez with Nena’s Food in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Photographed on May 28, 2014.

Frank Chavez Restores Vintage Chevrolet Cars and Trucks

I visited Frank Chavez’ auto shop on May 25, 2014. Mr. Chavez specializes in restoring Chevrolet trucks 1937-54 and cars from 1935-65 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I spent a few hours talking with him about low rider symbols such as dice, tattoos, religious symbols.

The conversation started because Mr. Chavez took out a book from his archives called Low ‘n Slow: Lowriding in New Mexico by photographer Jack Parsons. It’s a beautifully illustrated hardcover book that illustrates the culture of low riders in northern New Mexico.

Mr. Chavez is also a member of the Duke’s Car Club Albuquerque Chapter. According to the club’s web site, the organization is “the world’s oldest lowrider club in continuous existence.”

I met Mr. Chavez at the 30th Annual Car Show presented by the Albuquerque Museum and the New Mexico Council of Car Clubs on May 18, 2014.

Frank Chavez with Duke's Car Club Albuquerque Chapter

Frank Chavez specializes in restoring vintage Chevrolet Trucks and Cars. Albuquerque, New Mexico. May 25, 2014.

Frank Chavez with Duke's Car Club Albuquerque.

Frank Chavez with Duke’s Car Club Albuquerque Chapter. Albuquerque, New Mexico. May 25, 2014.

Frank Chavez with Duke's Car Club Albuquerque

Frank Chavez with Duke’s Car Club Albuquerque Chapter. Albuquerque, New Mexico. May 25, 2014.

Eliseo “Cheo” Torres author of “Curandero A Life in Mexican Folk Healing”

Eliseo “Cheo” Torres is the author of “Curandero A Life in Mexican Folk Healing” and “Healing with Herbs and Rituals” with Timothy L. Sawyer, Jr as editor. Both books were published by the University of New Mexico Press.

Eliseo Cheo Torres

Eliseo Cheo Torres author of Curandero A Life in Mexican Folk Healing. University of New Mexico. Albuquerque, New Mexico.  May 22, 2014.

Eliseo Cheo Torres author of Curandero A Life in Mexican Folk Healing

Eliseo Cheo Torres author of Curandero A Life in Mexican Folk Healing. University of New Mexico. Albuquerque, New Mexico. May 22, 2014.

Eliseo Cheo Torres author of Curandero A Life in Mexican Folk Healing

Eliseo Cheo Torres author of Curandero A Life in Mexican Folk Healing. University of New Mexico. Albuquerque, New Mexico.  May 22, 2014.

Juanita’s Comida Mexicana

In the Barelas neighborhood of Albuquerque, New Mexico I found Juanita’s Comida Mexicana. It’s a Mexican Restaurant run by Juanita who is originally from Namiquipa Chihuahua. She offers food inspired by her hometown’s ranch. Food prepared at Juanita’s Restaurant is enjoyed by Mexicans and Americans alike. She told me that Americans love the food because it reminds them of the food their grandparents would cook. Photos from May 20, 2014.

Juanita with Juanita's Comida Mexicana. Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Juanita with Juanita’s Comida Mexicana in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Barelas Neighborhood. May 20,2014.

Juanita with Juanita's Comida Mexicana. Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Juanita with Juanita’s Comida Mexicana in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Barelas Neighborhood. May 20, 2014.

Juanita with Juanita's Comida Mexicana. Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Juanita with Juanita’s Comida Mexicana in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Barelas Neighborhood. May 20, 2014.

Freddy Gutierrez and his 1949 Chevy Fleetline Deluxe

I visited the 30th Annual Car Show presented by the Albuquerque Museum and the New Mexico Council of Car Clubs on May 18, 2014. In the show I found a 1949 Chevy Fleetline Deluxe with a Mexican American themed interior. The car was customized by Freddy Gutierrez with Duke’s Car Club of the Albuquerque’s chapter who was kind to let me photograph his vehicle.

Inside the car, in a small tray, there is a cracked black and white photograph of Freddy’s dad who served in World War II. The car seats are covered with Zarapes and a Howdy Doody toy rides in the passenger’s seat. The mix of Mexican and American references inside the vehicle in very interesting. As a third generation Mexican American, Freddy pays tribute to his Mexican origins and embraces the American culture. I was very happy to make these images.

Freddie Gutierrez honoring his dad Frank Gutierrez

Freddie Gutierrez honoring his dad Frank Gutierrez. May 19, 2014. Albuquerque, NM.

Freddie Gutierrez and his Low Rider Memorabilia

Freddie Gutierrez and his Low Rider Memorabilia. May 19, 2014. Albuquerque, NM.

Freddie Gutierrez and his 1949 Chevy Fleetline Deluxe

Freddie Gutierrez and his 1949 Chevy Fleetline Deluxe. May 19, 2014. Albuquerque, NM.

Custom Cars and Low Riders in San Juan Texas

On a hot Sunday afternoon I met custom car owners from San Juan, Pharr, McAllen and Raymondville, Texas to take pictures and talk about their cars. I picked the San Juan Municipal Park for the location of this photo shoot because I wanted to include a Mexican American themed mural as background. The mural features an agricultural laborer, family life and Aztec-like symbols.

I interviewed owner Joel G Flores from Raymondville, Texas. He is the proud owner of a black, shiny 1936 Plymouth with air conditioning nicknamed “Chingon”. The car has a black and white painting on a rear compartment door that features charros with a Mexican flag. I asked Joel what the term Mexican American means to him. He replied that we all have Mexican roots, “todos venimos del otro lado”  he said in Spanish, we all come from the other side. Mr. Flores was born in Texas but is aware of his Mexican roots. “I’m proud to be a Mexican American” he said “it’s not to insult nobody, it’s just being proud of who you are”. Mr. Flores has taken “Chingon” on the road to be shown at car festivals in various cities. It earned first best of choice in Lowrider Magazine in San Antonio, Texas.

I also interviewed owner Jaime de la Cerda who restored a 1947 Chevrolet from the bottom up. He has driven the car to San Antonio, Texas and back to the Valley to participate in a low rider show.

I would like to thank Rafael Soto for bringing together car clubs from various Rio Grande Valley cities for this photo shoot. Also, thanks to Iris Davila for helping me with names of the car owners.

Custom cars and low riders in San Juan Texas_05

From left to right: Arnold Martinez with Veteranos Car Club, Josh Razo with Del Valle Car Club and Roy Loera with Latin Fantasy Car Club. April 27, 2014.

Latin Dreams Rio Grande Valley

R. J. Guzman with Latin Dreams Rio Grande Valley Car Club. April 27, 2014.

Latin Dreams Rio Grande Valley

R. J. Guzman with Latin Dreams Rio Grande Valley Car Club April 27, 2014.

1936 Plymouth named Chingon

Joel G Flores proud owner of this 1936 Plymouth with air conditioning nicknamed “Chingon”. The car is tattooed on Joel’s forearm. April 27, 2014.

Arnold Martinez with Veteranos Car Club.

Arnold Martinez with Veteranos Car Club. April 27, 2014.

Josh Razo with Del Valle Car Club in San Juan Texas.

Josh Razo with Del Valle Car Club in San Juan Texas. April 27, 2014.

Custom cars and low riders at San Juan Texas Municipal Park

Front row from left to right: Joel G Flores and his 1936 Plymouth nicknamed Chingón, Elizandro Chandler Flores with Veteranos Car Club, Jaime de la Cerda and his 1947 Chevrolet. The oldest cars in front are nicknamed “bombs” or “bombitas” in Spanish. Back row from left to right: Joey Flores, Chris Coronado with Veteranos Car Club, Bobby Martinez with Veteranos Car Club, R. J. Guzman with Latin Dreams Rio Grande Valley Car Club, and Iris Mambo Davila with Traditionals Car Club. April 27, 2014.

Jaime de la Cerda and his 1947 Chevrolet he restored from the bottom up.

Jaime de la Cerda and his 1947 Chevrolet he restored from the bottom up. April 27, 2014.

Jaime de la Cerda owner of a 1947 Chevrolet.

Jaime de la Cerda (front) owner of a 1947 Chevrolet. April 27, 2014.

Jaime de la Cerda with his 1947 Chevrolet

Jaime de la Cerda and his 1947 Chevrolet he restored from the bottom up. April 27, 2014.

Lupe and Rosa Navarro celebrating on Easter Sunday in San Juan, Texas

On Easter Sunday I visited the San Juan Texas Municipal park and met Guadalupe Navarro and his wife Rosa. Guadalupe is a 66 year old Vietnam Veteran who goes by the name Lupe for short. He is originally from Cotulla, Texas, which is about 90 miles Southwest of San Antonio.

I asked him what the term Mexican American means to him. He replied that the term describes his identity. He said that he is neither Mexican nor hispanic, he is Mexican American, born in the United States with Mexican descent. He has not used the terms Latino or hispanic when filling out job applications. Instead, he has always selected the option “Other” and filled out the blank with “Mexican American.”

“For me the word Latino means nothing, the word Hispanic means nothing” he mentioned “I know I made a lot of people angry, that was me.”

Lupe Navarro in San Juan Texas

Lupe Navarro and his wife Rosa celebrating on Easter Sunday with family. San Juan, Texas. Photo from April 20, 2014.

Joe Ibarra with La Olla Mexican Restaurant in Edinburg Texas

In the morning of Saturday April 19, 2014 I spend a few hours at La Olla Restaurant in Edinburg with the goal of photographing my first restaurant for the project.

La Olla was founded in 1999 and it’s located near the Hidalgo County Courthouse on highway 107. The restaurant specializes in breakfast and lunch. They serve mole, caldo de mariscos, botanas and other predominantly Mexican inspired dishes.

Here’s a fun highlight about La Olla Restaurant that adds a folkloric touch to its ambience. Folk musicians visit the restaurant and sing tunes for a tip.

I had a chance to meet and chat with the owner Joe Ibarra.

La Olla Restaurant  Edinburg Texas

Joe Ibarra owner of la Olla Mexican Restaurant in Edinburg, Texas. Photo from April 19, 2014.

La Olla Restaurant  Edinburg Texas

Joe Ibarra (right) owner of La Olla Restaurant holds a penny bank that was donated by his friend Judge Charlie Espinoza (left). Photo from April 19, 2014.

La Olla Restaurant  Edinburg Texas

Joe Ibarra owner of la Olla Mexican Restaurant hold a restaurant t-shirt. Photo from April 19, 2014.

La Olla Restaurant  Edinburg Texas

La Olla Restaurant in Edinburg, Texas. Chatting with friends. Photo from April 19, 2014.

La Olla Restaurant  Edinburg Texas

A folkloric element to the ambiance at La Olla Restaurant. Musicians sing for tips. Photo from April 19, 2014.

Francisco Martinez with United Farm Workers of America

During the 11th Annual Cesar Chavez March that took place in San Juan Texas, I met Francisco Martinez. He wore a United Farm Workers red shirt covered with Cesar Chavez pins. One pin reads “Until the Ink is Dry on the Contracts, Don’t buy grapes & Gallo.” It makes reference to the boycotts that were proposed by farm workers as a way to promote solidarity with their cause.

As a young man, Francisco marched with Cesar Chavez in California. On the same shirt covered with pins, he wore a badge that mentions the 1st Constitutional Convention that took place on September of 1973 in Fresno, California.

As a veteran of United Farm Workers, he recalls that the color blue should never be worn or used by sympathizers of the workers’ cause while participating in their events. “Never use it in a flag or in a shirt that has the symbol of the Union” he said. The reason for this is that people who opposed the workers’ cause would wear blue colored clothing during workers’ demonstrations.

Francisco Martinez Farm Worker

Francisco Martinez with UFW at the 11th Annual Cesar Chavez March in San Juan, Texas. March 29, 2014.

Francisco Martinez Farm Worker

Francisco Martinez with UFW at the 11th Annual Cesar Chavez March in San Juan, Texas. March 29, 2014.

Francisco Martinez Farm Worker

Francisco Martinez with UFW at the 11th Annual Cesar Chavez March in San Juan, Texas. March 29, 2014.