The Art of War

The Cronicas exhibit, highlighted by Fernando Brito's photos, offers strong indictments of drug-related violence.

These photos show the dead, and people are inexorably drawn to images of the dead. But the photos aren't sensationalist. Their goal isn't to show us what we look like when we die violently, when we are executed, when we are tortured to death. The photos are images captured by someone who has easily seen as much death as any combat veteran but who is struggling to retain his humanity and empathy and who wants us to remember ours. "That is something I don't want to lose; I want to go to a murder and feel bad."

Brito says than when he started working for the paper in 2004, there were maybe 300 murders a year in his city; now it is more than 2,000 a year. In his presentation at St. Thomas, Brito said, "The news only shows numbers. These are not numbers, these are real people with families. We judge these people only for the way they died." He explained how the government tries to minimize the murders by asserting that the victims had to have been criminals themselves. According to Payan, who is a scholar with the Latin America Initiative of the James A. Baker III Institute, there is a 98 percent impunity rate for murder in Mexico — only 2 percent of murder cases lead to conviction.

"Too many innocent people are in the middle," says Brito. "They decide to call it a drug war, but it's only business. They aren't fighting for an idea; it's only money."

Fernando Brito's Untitled from Tus Pasos se Perdieron con el Paisaje, 2010-2012 is one of his many records of death.
Courtesy of the artist
Fernando Brito's Untitled from Tus Pasos se Perdieron con el Paisaje, 2010-2012 is one of his many records of death.

Location Info


Vine Street Studios

1113 Vine St.
Houston, TX 77002

Category: Art Galleries

Region: Downtown/ Midtown


"Crónicas: Seven Contemporary Mexican Artists Confront the Drug War"

Through March 9. FotoFest, 1113 Vine St., 713-223-5522.

The estimates of drug-related deaths in Mexico since 2006 vary widely, anywhere from 60,000 to 150,000, a number offered up by Payan in his talk. Payan also said that 70 journalists have been killed in the six years of the drug war.

"Compared to the innocent people who have died in the middle of this drug war, it's nothing, 70 is nothing," said Brito. "They say it's hard to be a journalist in Mexico, but it's hard to be a civilian."

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