Photo: Al Norte al Norte: Latino Life in North Carolina (Jose Galvez)
Jose Galvez’s black-and-white photography has captured the experience of Latinos in the United States for more than 40 years and he was one of the first Chicanos to receive a Pulitzer Prize.
In his most recent exhibition, “Al Norte al Norte: Latino Life in North Carolina,” a series of 51 photographs on display at the NC Museum of History in Raleigh, the Mexican-American documents the lives of people he describes as New Americans.
“What I’m looking for in this exhibition is for non-Latino visitors to come away with a better idea of who these Latinos are; that we’re neighbors, that we have celebrations, we’re religious, (we’re) workers, (we’re) with our children, that we just want to lead (our lives),” he told Efe.
Galvez fell in love with photography at the age of 10 when he carried his shoeshine box into the offices of the Arizona Daily Star in his native Tucson.
He later was part of a team of Los Angeles Times editors, reporters and photographers who in 1984 won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for their “in-depth examination of southern California’s growing Latino community.”
Armed with two cameras, a 50-year-old Rolleicord and a Nikon that dates from his years with the LA Times, the photojournalist spent several years after his arrival in North Carolina in 2004 documenting the new reality of emigrants to the southeastern United States.
“I feel like I’m creating a whole new reality,” Galvez said. “Because eventually we’re going to get past this whole debate about immigration, since 11 million people aren’t going to self-deport. They’re going to stay here.”
Capturing family and religious celebrations, workdays, naturalization ceremonies, businessmen, graduations, field workers and other images, Galvez presents a community that is active in the social, religious, labor and civic aspects of American life.
Galvez says the “Al Norte al Norte” exhibition is unique and not only because it is the first bilingual public display in a North Carolina museum, but also because it was put together by “one of us, a Mexican-American, with respect and with heart.”
Tricia Blakistone, an associate curator at the museum, said “the institution’s goal is to tell the stories of North Carolina residents, and Hispanics currently represent more than 8 percent of the population.”
For North Carolina Latinos like Brenda Martinez, who arrived from Mexico with her family at the age of 8, Galvez’s photos are like “a movie of her life.”
Diana Aguillon, who emigrated from Monterrey, Mexico, to the Tar Heel State just five years ago, said the exhibition is an opportunity for her “children to learn a little about the culture and learn about the richness it possesses.”
Galvez, meanwhile, continues to search for these New Americans in different corners of the country and explore new aspects of Hispanic culture, as well as participate in forums and conferences in institutions throughout North Carolina.