£25 / €30 / $40
Publication date: November 2015
187 pages. 120 x 160 mm
In 2010, artist Stefan Ruiz stumbled upon a treasure trove of Mexican crime photographs on a stall in Mexico City’s sprawling thrift market, La Lagunilla Over the next six months he met the seller on repeated occasions, each time purchasing more and more of the collection. Although Ruiz never found out the specific source, it is probable that the photographs come from Mexico City’s police archives.
Published for the first time in this new book are a selection of over 100 mugshots, stills of armed robbery, and artists’ impressions of both notorious criminals and stolen jewellery from the late 1950s to early 1970s. The images, many damaged, some presented in their original groups, and all annotated with white handwritten text, offer multiple insights into crime in mid-century Mexico.
‘In Mexico, contemporary events often evoke strong historical echoes. The photographs in this collection and the stories that underpin them still have resonance forty or fifty years later. In 2012 the PRI returned to power after twelve years of opposition party rule. Stories of crime, police corruption, and impunity still dominate the news. Radicals are still depicted as criminals (witness the government effort to demonise the 2014 victims of the Iguala massacre); even daring prison escapes have made a return. Outside the mainstream media, Mexico’s marginalised continue to respect select members of what elites deem the criminal class. The days of the gentleman thief like El Carrizos or El Elote may have passed. Narcos, like Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, are the new popular heroes.’ Dr Benjamin Smith
Ruiz’s work has appeared in magazines around the world, including the New York Times Magazine, Details, L’Uomo Vogue and Rolling Stone. His photographs have been exhibited at the Photographers’ Gallery, London; Photo España, Madrid; Les Rencontres d’Arles, France; New York Photo Festival; Havana Biennial; and the Contact Photography Festival, Toronto.
Dr Benjamin Smith is Associate Professor of Latin American History, University of Warwick