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En Foco: Mexico exposed

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Morris Park’s En Foco surfaced in the south Bronx on Wednesday, March 4. The non-profit photo group held a reception for Mi Sangre – Portraits by Rojelio Reyes Rodriguez at the Pregones Theater.

Rodriguez, a Houston-born photographer, was on hand. Although he lives in Washington Heights, Rodriguez feels at home in the Bronx.

“This photo series, I guess it’s a celebration of Latino culture,” he said. “It’s a celebration of memories from childhood trips to Mexico.”

Rodriguez left Houston for NYC in 2002. He spent his first night at LaGuardia Airport. In 2004, he began shooting Mi Sangre.

“I traveled to Mexico ten times between 2004 and 2006,” Rodriguez said. “I covered the entire country, from the Gulf of Mexico to Baja.”

Rodriguez snapped photos of proud Mexican people – farmers, mariachis, churchgoers. His favorite shot features a seven-year old boy in traje de charro – traditional cowboy garb. The boy stands chin up, holding a rooster.

“He was the grandson of an ex-mayor,” Rodriguez said. “He was rambunctious until I picked up my camera. He looked me in the eye. He wanted to make his grandfather proud.”

En Foco, founded 35 years ago by a clique of Nuyorican photographers, supports American artists of Latino, African, Asian, Native and Pacific Islander background. According to executive director Miriam Romais, En Foco shows counter critics who dismiss identity art as cliché.

“We’ve been following Rojelio for a couple of years,” Romais said. “He approached his subjects with so much respect. His work is meaningful and tranquil.”

Rodriguez called Mi Sangre a collaborative effort.

“I drank coffee with the people in my photos, and tequila,” he said. “I got to know them. This is their project, too.”

Desmond Godvara, 12, enjoyed the exhibition.

“It’s inspirational,” Godvara said. “You see the culture of Mexico – how Mexicans dress and what they do.”

Godvara is of Puerto Rican descent. He’s never seen black-and-white photos of Puerto Rican farmers.

“I’d like to,” Godvara said.

Mi Sangre will run through May 9 at the Pregones. On March 14 at 1 p.m., Rodriguez will give a talk. The exhibition is a stop on the Bronx Council of the Arts Culture Trolley.

En Foco could move its offices to the south Bronx soon, Romais said.

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