In 2004, whilst driving through the desert of northern Mexico, I passed by a lonely and abandoned restaurant, a concrete cube with the name ‘Restaurante Paraíso’ painted on its facade. It was such a contradictory image that it became etched in my memory.
Eden, Elysium, Heaven, El Dorado, Shangri-La, Arcadia, Aaru, Shambhala, Cockaigne… all places devised by humans in their desire to find something better than everyday reality or something better to look forward to in the next life. For centuries, cultures around the world have created their own ideas of paradise, for the Mexicas it was Tlalocan, the paradise ruled by Tlaloc and according to history, located on the eastern side of the universe. Or the garden of Tlazolteotl, a resplendent paradise in the sky, strictly forbidden to men. In literature and art we read and see innumerable representations of these types of places, images that trigger the imagination and that take us a step closer to what we want to believe. Apparently, reality will never be enough for us.
In Mexico’s Guia Roji there are ten places listed called ‘Paraíso’ or ‘El Paraíso’. According to Google Maps there are thirteen more, bringing us to a total of twenty-three. They’re to be found dotted across fifteen of the thirty-one Mexican states; Baja California, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Sinaloa, San Luis Potosi, Michoacan, Queretaro, Colima, Guerrero, Veracruz, Oaxaca, Campeche, Tabasco, Yucatan and Chiapas.
In 2019 the Paradise journeys began in a bid to discover hidden tales and common threads that connect these places to one another and that together build some kind of portrait of Mexico. How do these ‘paradises’ mirror and contradict reality? What they can tell us about the history of Mexico and its society today?
The concept of paradise is wide-ranging and profound, historical and contemporary, it’s in our heads and it’s on billboards. The aim of ‘Looking for Paradise’ is not to find a real paradise, whatever that may be, but to unearth contradictory and complicated terrains and contexts. The possibility of a picturesque geographical paradise is real but the layers of sociological and historical truth that reveal themselves when a surface is cracked offer the opportunity for a fascinating audiovisual investigation.
Contributors & Collaborators
Catalina Bojacá, Producer, Travel Companion & Critical Conversation
Paulina del Paso, Project Assessment
COLIMA Miguel Ruíz Paladez, Raúl ‘El Güero’ Ruíz, Carmela Leticia Díaz, Jorge OAXACA Esteban Delgado García, Alberta García Rentería, Susana Santander Barrueta, Don Guadalupe, Aquiles Miguel Méndez VERACRUZ Rafael Antonio Hernández Pérez, David Leonardo Callejaz Ruíz, Jorge, Paulina Callejas Hernández GUERRERO Iván Oropeza Bruno, Vianey García Vinalay, Julia Figueroa Trujillo, Esteban Sánchez Bautista, Joaquín Martínez Valdez TABASCO Esperanza Jiménez de la Cruz, Padre Jesús Alfonso Dominguez de la Cruz, Secundino Torres Lamas, María Guadalupe Jiménez Cruz.