Descent was a mixed media project by Ivan Ruiz-Knott about his journey to discover his family heritage in the south of Mexico. He filmed, wrote, photographed, and illustrated. This is some of his work.
Subscribe to the newsletter for updates in your inbox
Act I: This is my grandfather.
When it rains, she and her sisters and her cousins play outside for hours.
Though her family is too poor to buy her and her sisters toys like the other kids, every so often there is this giant gift from God himself, and she greets it with wonder and joy every time.
Rain to her means relief from the heat. It means the laughter of simple games while water from heaven soaks her clothes. It is the comforting sound of drops hitting corrugated tin roofs, flooded lawns, and broken streets. It is something to be celebrated.
And today it is raining.
She is playing with her sisters and cousins, throwing rocks and sticks into the growing pools, seeing who can make the biggest splash.
Today, it is raining.
Today, she is happy.
Many years from now, in a church not too far away, she will marry a boy who lives down the street. He will be perfect, and she and her sisters and cousins will be happy.
He will be a pastor, and she will be his wife.
After a few years, he will have the chance to study in the United States, and they will go.
To a country of so much promise, they will go.
To a country that is not theirs, they will go.
And they will be alone.
He will attend classes, and she will stay at home.
It will be a long time before she learns English, and so she will live in the isolation of one who cannot communicate.
One day, with no one to celebrate the occasion, she will give birth to a daughter, and this daughter will become their only family in this strange world.
She will live in this world of just two other people—trapped in her language and in the cruel confines of distance.
She will have a baby without a grandmother, a baby without aunts, a baby without cousins.
She will be alone.
And more than once, this small family of hers will run out of money. More than once, she and her husband will have to go without eating so that they can feed their infant daughter.
And in their poverty, long before Moore’s law and economies of scale allow her the simple luxury of a call home, she will cry.
She will miss her sisters, and her cousins, and her mother.
But every so often—
Like a giant gift from God himself—
It will rain.
Water from heaven will come down, and remind her of home.
Drops of water will fall upon a very different landscape but still she will celebrate.
And she will be happy.
Until one day, when her husband will have to work in the fields.
Until one day, when she will learn that rain means her husband cannot work—that rain means no money—no food.
And one day she will begin to pray for it not to rain.
Sometimes I remember to take it off of the manual setting. Sometimes some of them know what they’re doing. These are a mix, but I like them.
Images by Ayleen (16), Marcos (11), and Joselyn (9).
Last week, my cousins told me I had to help them make a film.
We were visiting one of our uncles for a few days, and they said that this was necessary, considering the circumstances.
After they watched it they called it chido, and declared it the greatest film ever.
One day, after we’re all famous, I might subtitle it or even dub it for the international audience. Maybe I’ll even release the far more entertaining extras. Until then, those of you who can’t speak Spanish will probably be okay.
I’m told that Studio Chido is looking to shoot a novela next.
A selection of some of the eighty-six hand-lettered postcards being shipped this week to backers of the Descent Kickstarter campaign. Inspiration for the letterforms and sometimes-shoddy brush strokes was drawn from the many hand-painted signs in this sweltering state.
Note: All postcards will arrive with stamps of a Navidad Mexicana. Yes, it is April, and yes, that is weird. Due to some strange scheduling of commemorative stamp releases, though, there are no other stamps in the state.
Disclaimer: My handwriting on the other side will probably be surprisingly illegible. To the eighty-six of you receiving these, I apologize.