Girls play in a meadow in San Jeronimo Tlacochahuaya, about 12 miles from Oaxaca City, Mexico. (Ryan Christopher Jones)

Ryan Christopher Jones is an independent photojournalist based in New York. He contributed the following essay to In Sight: 

In February, I spent a month in Mexico, working in Mexico City and traveling to Oaxaca and my grandmother’s birthplace of Juchipila, in the state of Zacatecas. After moving to California from Mexico in the 1940s, she worked hard to assimilate her family into an American identity, and it worked so well that I never questioned or investigated my Mexican roots. Spanish was not taught or spoken in my home, and Mexico wasn’t a place with tangible meaning. I always marked off “white” and not “Latin” or “Hispanic” on forms, because I never felt that I proved my worthiness to identify as someone with a Latin heritage. I’m a half-Mexican, half-white, brown-skinned man named Ryan Christopher Jones, and my name provided me with the privilege of not being automatically seen as a Mexican in a place where the word “Mexican” was spoken with a snarl. For that, I reveled in my ambiguity.

“No Estuve Aquí” is not a deep dive that attempts to represent an entire culture; the scenes are quiet observations about a country I have a theoretical relationship with. They’re asking questions about a place I’m just starting to appreciate, and they try to draw a line between the imagined and the real. Childhood, transience and tradition were the lenses through which I saw Mexico, and the country begged me to be more than a tourist or travel photographer. Mexico is still a vague, untapped curiosity to me, though it has stirred up complex questions that touch on the bigger themes of “what is home?” and “what is foreign?” I felt compelled to be a historian of sorts. I’m the first person in my immediate family to go back to Juchipila since my grandmother immigrated, and I felt an obligation to see the country, report back to my family and say, “This is what we’ve been missing for 70 years.”

Fans wait outside Arena Mexico before a lucha libre wrestling match in the Doctores area of Mexico City. (Ryan Christopher Jones)

A young girl lolls on the edge of a boat in the Xochimilco area of Mexico City. (Ryan Christopher Jones)

A street scene outside a restaurant in Juchipila, in the state of Zacatecas. (Ryan Christopher Jones)

Protesters in Mexico City take part in “The Citizen March for Respect for Mexico,” which was both a call for unity among Mexicans and a protest of President Trump’s policies toward Mexico. (Ryan Christopher Jones)

The father of a teenager celebrating her quinceanera smokes a cigarette outside while the family gets ready inside in the Iztapalapa area of Mexico City. (Ryan Christopher Jones)

A mother holds her son at a quinceanera in Iztapalapa. (Ryan Christopher Jones)

A church in Iztapalapa. (Ryan Christopher Jones)

A friend’s dog, Janis, outside Oaxaca City. (Ryan Christopher Jones)

A nap on a patio in Oaxaca City. (Ryan Christopher Jones)

Tourists walk up the pyramid steps at Teotihuacan outside Mexico City. (Ryan Christopher Jones)

Oaxaca City resident Roque Reyes sits on a hill overlooking San Jeronimo Tlacochahuaya in the state of Oaxaca. (Ryan Christopher Jones)

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