[The Guardian] The big picture: Cristina de Middel's fantastical take on the migrant story

The big picture: Cristina de Middel's fantastical take on the migrant story

The Spanish photographer reimagines the journey through Mexico to the US as a magical quest

For the past few years, the Spanish photographer Cristina de Middel has been documenting the caravans of migrants who have travelled through Mexico from its southern border with Guatemala to reach a small town in California called Felicity. A monument in Felicity proclaims it boldly as the “Center of the World”. Inspired by that fact, De Middel has used Jules Verne’s book Journey to the Centre of the Earth as a fantastical reference point and spine for the migrants’ story.

This picture was taken in the Mexican province of Oaxaca, at the famous rock formation called Hierve el Agua (“the water boils”). The pool in which the woman is half-submerged is formed by hot mineral springs that calcify when they overflow the cliff edge, forming vertiginous white rock formations that look like frozen waterfalls. The site is both a tourist attraction and a sacred place for native Mexican populations; excavations have revealed irrigation systems dating back 2,500 years. (As Verne wrote, in a different context, “I can hardly believe my eyes. Who would have ever imagined, under this terrestrial crust, an ocean with ebbing and flowing tides, with winds and storms?”). In recent times, Hierve el Agua has also become a staging post on the migrants’ long journeys.

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