Let's talk Latin America

“Sobre agua vivimos”: An Art Project Seeking to Fight Exclusion in the Outskirts of Mexico City

Written by
Posted on

Every week we will be sharing one of the pieces from our first ever print magazine which discusses all things Latin America! We hope you become inspired to read and learn more about this fascinating region of the world. The seventh piece is an audio-visual project by Xavier Tapia which seeks to fight exclusion in the outskirts of Mexico City. 


Sobre agua vivimos (We Live on Water) is an audio-visual and photography-based project that I directed with the help of a small team on the outskirts of Mexico City, more specifically in an area called Nezahualcóyotl, Mexico State (approximately an hour from the City centre). The idea for We Live on Water comes from the sociocultural exclusion and inequality that the area has felt since its emergence over 60 years ago. Many people living on the peripheries suffer from poverty, a lack of economic opportunities, rampant crime and violence and inadequate health services. The city and its metropolitan area have grown immeasurably to the point that overpopulation is now a critical problem. The title of this project is a reference to the Great Lake of Texcoco, a swampy lake east of Mexico City where thousands of people lived peacefully on islands connected by causeways for centuries, before it was drained by Spanish colonisers. Currently, approximately 800 metres underground, there are still bodies of water and diverse earth structures which are a homage to the former lake.   

We, the people from the peripheries, have many things in common with each other, such as the long journeys we have to take to get to work, to school or back home. Our lifestyle, which is shared by so many of the inhabitants of different peripheral communities, is represented through dance in this project. The upbeat rhythm represents the accelerated pace of life which people who live in the peripheries are accustomed to, and the boredom and frustration which these colossal journeys into the city centre can produce.  



There were many difficulties that I had to navigate my way through during the production of this project, such as having to carrying a professional camera and other expensive materials through unsafe areas. We filmed the project over two days in December 2019, and our first location was an expansive green space which, as a result of political negligence, had a number of abandoned buildings and a poorly tended park area. The next day we filmed nearby at an educational institute, and also in the parking lot of a popular local shopping centre. I collaborated with the model in the photographs, dancer Cristóbal Ríos, who is originally from the state of Oaxaca, Southern Mexico, to create the project. We experimented a lot with the objects that we had in our immediate vicinity, often coming up with ideas while we were filming. 

There were many landscape shots I wanted to capture to exemplify the everyday nature of the area. Details such as the small businesses, the street vendors and the very peculiar views and panoramas which characterise the outskirts of the city. I thoroughly enjoyed combining the photographs with recordings of the noises and sounds of the area. I learned to listen more acutely to truly take in what I was hearing, to realise the true rich depth of sound that has become normalised for many people in the community. I managed to find a tianguis (a regional term for “market”), where the vendors sell food, clothes and other miscellaneous items that the community relies on, from dawn until dusk. 

For Sobre agua vivimos, I tried to combine all the visual and audio elements to represent what surrounds us on a daily basis in these peripheral communities, and to hopefully inspire other young Mexicans to contribute to contemporary national art projects.   

 Photo Credits: Xavier Tapia 

To see more of Xavier’s work, visit his instagram.