The Birth of Place

Place
There’s a story in an ancient play about birds called The Birds
And it’s a short story from before the world began
From a time when there was no earth, no land.
Only air and birds everywhere.

But the thing was there was no place to land.
Because there was no land.
So they just circled around and around.
Because this was before the world began.

And the sound was deafening. Songbirds were everywhere.
Billions and billions and billions of birds.

And one of these birds was a lark and one day her father died.
And this was a really big problem because what should they do with the body?
There was no place to put the body because there was no earth.

And finally the lark had a solution.
She decided to bury her father in the back if her own head.
And this was the beginning of memory.
Because before this no one could remember a thing.
They were just constantly flying in circles.
Constantly flying in huge circles.

-Laurie Anderson

The Original Volkswagen Beetle: A Mexican Car

Oaxaca, Place

       Displayed within issue one of Williams’s 50/50 Photo Project are timeless images of the original Volkswagen Beetle scattered across the landscape of Chiapas and Oaxaca, México. I write this article to encourage you to view the Beetle beyond its nostalgic presence and recognize it as something that is being used within the daily lives of many Mexicans. In the words of Néstor García Canclini, let us make “intelligible what these objects mean for those of us who see and evoke them today,” and let us recognize how context creates change.        

       Viewing these images through an American lens, the Volkswagen Beetle is seen as a representation of nostalgia, allowing our minds to transport back to the past. The original Beetle is a hobby car that an owner takes for joy rides and maintains for aesthetic reasons. It is a status symbol, one of taste and European sensibility. However, this same car–known as a Vocho in México–is nothing of the sort. We may know this car as having a German identity, but I argue that it is just as Mexican as it is German.

       The Volkswagen Beetle was manufactured in Puebla, México starting in 1967 and continued production into the 90s. Because of this, Vochos are seen on every corner and street of Mexico stretching from colonial city centers to mountain towns. This car is no status symbol or weekend joy ride, it is an economical vehicle that is so commonplace owners don’t have to worry about it being stolen or damaged while parked out on the street. The Vocho is not a vehicle of envy or pride, but an object repaired out of necessity for means of transportation. So, while you are looking at these timeless depictions of the Volkswagen Beetle remember that it is alive and well transporting goods and people to the places they need to reach all over México.

Buy/Preview: 50/50 photo project – issue 1

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By: Kevin Williams

Look out for other projects by Kevin here: https://5050photoproject.wordpress.com/