8 portraits that capture the working class of Monterrey, Mexico, through its cantinas
Mexican American photographer Daniel Ramos' newest exhibit, "Eres Muy Hermosa," showcases Mexican working-class people in Monterrey, Mexico.
Ramos and his wife moved to Monterey, Mexico, with the intention of living there for six months; they stayed for almost six years. During this time, he frequently visited cantinas, or bars, thinking they resembled the environment his parents would be in if they had stayed in Mexico before they emigrated to the U.S.
In 2018, he started to photograph the people who frequented the cantinas. At first, though, its patrons were hesitant to get involved.
After the first person accepted his offer and people saw their portrait, though, others were eager to volunteer. For many, they were seeing themselves for the first time and were impacted by Ramos' portraiture. "They had the power to actually portray themselves as they actually wanted to be seen," said Ramos.
And even though many wanted a portrait by Ramos, he then relied on his intuition and chose specific people for his series.
Many of the people that Ramos photographed hoped to live in the United States at some point. But they were surprised to hear Ramos say he had a better quality of life and was happier living in Mexico.
Ramos says he witnessed a level of happiness in Mexico's cantinas he hadn't seen among Mexican Americans and Mexicans living in the United States.
"In the United States, there are a lot of cantinas where immigrants go and try to replicate the environment, but you don't feel the same level of happiness. There is a lot of nostalgia and dissolution, and when they drink, it's to get drunk," said Ramos.
Ramos says he finds it ironic that people make a sacrifice to come to the United States and wonders if the economic stability and access to opportunities they might find there are fulfilling by themselves. He says that those are questions he will wrestle with for the rest of his life.
Ramos also hopes his series of portraits gives insight into what Mexico's working class looks like.
"They didn't think of themselves as beautiful. Those are working-class bars — that's where people go after work ... there are no places for you to look sharp or anything," said Ramos.
But he saw beauty in the bars' patrons and hopes others who see the exhibit take that with them.
Daniel Ramos is a photographer based in New York City. You can see "Eres Muy Hermosa" at Baxter St, in New York, through Dec. 3. To see more of his work, visit his website, DanielRamosPhoto.com, or on follow him on Instagram, at @danielramosphoto.
Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.