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The Family Album as a Guide and Healing Territory

Artist Blog by Alí Marín

When I asked my mother what my grandmother Lola looked like, she told me that there was only one family photo where she appeared and that she would find a way to get it. Some time passed and finally, the photo arrived, and now Lola's look will be living in the same house where I grew up.

The need to know my grandmother's face was transcendental for my existence. The stories and memories my mother shared built a bridge to the past and planted a seed, but I had the feeling that something was missing.

For a moment the curiosity ceased, however, sometime later, the conversations with my great-uncle Alfredo (who died in 2019), Lola's brother, triggered a deep need to know more about her, her land… Tlacotalpan and the Papaloapan River.

The territory where I undertook the search for Lola, my grandmother, was in a scarce family album. I found only one more photograph of her, very few of my great-aunts, two of my great-grandfather, and one of my great-grandmother. The exploration led me to reconnect with my family on all levels and also revealed that much of the absence of photographs was due to the floods of 1944, 1969, and 2010, which had finally washed away what little stayed.

For me, nostalgia is also a route to healing and the family album is one of my favorite destinations on that journey. It gives me a link to my past, even when in formal and tangible terms there are not so many photographs within the family album. As in the case of my family, the search for it helps me to dialogue with my roots, to build my own experiences that will later become memories. They confront me, and they also guide me to understand my identity and that of my mother's territory. My grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins serve as a constant reminder of my connection to Tlacotalpan and its Papaloapan River. This place acts as a therapeutic refuge, guiding me towards healing, self-discovery, and a sense of belonging that I never wish to lose.

The personal is the anchor of this story in which I display my experiences of living in Tlacotalpan and at the Papaloapan River. Once you realize that many people share the same feelings, it seems to me that this is the moment when the personal transforms into the collective.