A story of a factory turned into an art school.
We are off for a few days in Oaxaca City, Mexico. It is a beautiful colonial city in a state that shares the name.
Oaxaca is the birthplace of Benito Juarez. He was the first and last indigenous president of Mexico.
Today we met Juan.
He works as a guard at the Institute of Arts in San Agustin Etla, about 35 minutes north of Oaxaca City.
The Institute is an art school founded by the famous Mexican artist, Francisco Toledo.
It is housed in a former textile factory, built in the 1890s.
The factory went bankrupt in the 80s. A workers cooperative was then attempted but failed.
And in the 90s the Institute of Art came, rehabilitated and reclaimed the structures.
It is beautiful.
Signs of the old textile factory remain.
Juan once worked in the factory. He told us that many tourists come and he listens as the guides tell the history of the place. But they get it all wrong. Some guides will tell the tourists that it was once a hacienda.
But it was a factory. Juan knows this because he worked in the factory.
He doesn’t correct the guides.
Get him talking about the old factory and his eyes light up and he goes into great detail about how the machinery worked, how the diesel and steam worked that ran the looms and the whistle that called the towns workers to work after breakfast, lunch and dinner. Nearly everyone in the town of San Agustin Etla worked in the textile factory.
He has not much to say about his work as a guard.
He is proud that besides being a guard he also runs the photo labs where they still develop film, have dark rooms and enlargers. Nothing digital, he smiles at my camera. He doesn’t usually let visitors into the photo labs.
He made an exception for us.