TIME Crime

Life Inside Mexico’s ‘Infamous Cesspool,’ the Black Palace Prison

How one overcrowded, dangerous prison attempted to clean up its act

Prisons are a perennially newsworthy topic, whether the angle is mass incarceration, substandard conditions or the accuracy of pop culture representations like Orange Is the New Black’s Litchfield Correctional Facility. Many of these questions have marinated in the public sphere for decades.

In 1950, when the number of incarcerated Americans was around one-fifth of today’s levels, LIFE published an exposé on a prison south of the border, Mexico City’s Black Palace of Lecumberri. Prison is not designed to be pleasant, but the Black Palace was so dangerous, dirty and degraded as to inspire LIFE to describe it “an animal cage for great and petty criminals who … murdered each other in knife brawls and lived in depravity in overcrowded cells.”

Following a crime wave in 1949, the prison administration brought in a new warden to oversee the 4,000 inmates, who were living in a facility built for half that number. Colonel Francisco Linares introduced a militaristic management style while maintaining some of the prison’s unusual freedoms: City postmen brought letters directly to cells, wealthier inmates could employ other inmates as servants and conjugal visits were permitted—for male inmates only—with the intention of preventing homosexual activity.

As for the female prisoners, who made up 10% of the population and three dozen of whom were mothers, many found better nutrition and education within the prison’s walls than in their impoverished lives outside of prison.

Linares openly eschewed penal pedagogy, resorting to special measures for what he deemed a special situation. “We can’t run an Alcatraz, a Leavenworth or a Sing Sing here,” he explained. “We have to run this place a la Mexicana.”

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

TIME Great Places

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo With Vivid Images of Mexico in the 1960s

In 1968, LIFE dispatched a photographer to capture a slice of Mexican culture

Ever since the celebration began to trickle eastward from California during the middle of the 20th century, Cinco de Mayo has been subject to several misconceptions in the United States. Many people mistakenly equate it with Mexico’s Independence Day, which actually takes place on September 16. Thanks largely to the marketing efforts of beer companies, many use it as an excuse to drink to excess while donning sombreros, the meaning behind the celebration of little consequence to revelers. But in reality, the holiday commemorates the Mexican army’s defeat of the French in the Battle of Puebla in 1862, after which the heavily outnumbered Mexican forces’ victory over the well-equipped French invaders came to symbolize national unity and strength.

The holiday has evolved to more broadly celebrate Mexican heritage and culture, which LIFE featured in a 1968 photo essay by photographer John Dominis. Dominis was dispatched to Mexico ahead of the 1968 summer Olympics, which would bring many international travelers there. The photographs celebrated the country’s diverse ethnic makeup, its fiestas and its food, as well as its modernizing urban centers. They were, for many of LIFE’s readers, a first intimate glimpse into life south of the border, and one that presented the country’s richness of culture as worthy of admiration.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

TIME Holidays

This is What Happened on the First Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo festivities in Ciudad Jaurez
Joe Raedle—Getty Images Cinco de Mayo festivities take place in Ciudad Jaurez, Mexico May 5, 1999.

The annual celebration traces its origins back to a time when France tried to invade Mexico

These days, the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo is considered a fun celebration — but the event that led to it was anything but.

The short version of the story is pretty straightforward, as TIME explained in 1941:

In almost every town in Mexico there is a Calle de Cinco de Mayo—Street of the Fifth of May—commemorating the Battle of Puebla, May 5, 1862. In that battle a Coxey’s Army of Mexican irregulars defeated well-organized French forces of Napoleon III and postponed for a year the imposition of rococo Maximilian I as Emperor of Mexico.

Basically, the day is sacrosanct because it’s when Mexican forces pulled off a David-over-Goliath victory. (Coxey’s Army was a rag-tag group of unemployed Americans that marched on Washington, D.C. in 1894 in hopes of encouraging the government to better provide for the jobless.)

So the date of the celebration makes sense. But why was France trying to invade Mexico in the first place?

The answer to that question involves generations’ worth of complicated international relations. For decades, the U.S. had had a policy (the Monroe Doctrine) of keeping European colonial interests out of the Western hemisphere. But in the early 1860s, the U.S. was busy with the Civil War and Mexico was particularly vulnerable following the Mexican-American War in the 1840s and their own civil war, the War of the Reform, which began in 1859. In addition, Mexico owed national debts to several European countries, including countries that were debating intervention in the Civil War.

In France, Emperor Napoleon III (nephew of the Napoleon) wanted to expand his empire and settled on Mexico, which was already in debt to France. As explained by the Congressional Quarterly Guide to U.S. Foreign Policy, Napoleon III had grand plans to dominate trade across the Atlantic and in Europe. He planned to conquer Mexico and put his Austrian allies in charge, and make an alliance with the Confederate States of America. That Mexico was refusing to pay its debt to France gave Napoleon III justification for an attack.

Shortly after the invasion began, the French forces got to Puebla, only to be stopped by their Mexican opponents on May 5.

The Mexican triumph was relatively short-lived. Less than a year later, the French returned to Puebla and were victorious. But the unexpected triumph on May 5, 1862, remains a point of immense national pride — as proved by this 153rd celebration of Cinco de Mayo.

Read more about Mexico from 1941, here in the TIME Vault: New Army

TIME On Our Radar

9 Mexican Photographers You Need to Follow

Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexican culture

Cinco de Mayo is a day that commemorates the unlikely victory of the Mexican troops against the French army in the 1862 Battle of Puebla. Originally celebrated in Mexico, it became popular in the U.S. during the 1940s and it is, today, an opportunity to celebrate Mexican culture and pride. But what do we really know about this iconic country, beyond the usual stereotypes? The prolific Mexican photographic tradition, whose authors have been documenting the country’s most diverse aspects for decades, offers an answer. From religion, colonization and indigenous history to migrations, influences, rituals and the relationship with the territory, these Mexican photographers offer a solid visual analysis of their country culture, issues and archetypes.

Eunice Adorno (Mexico City, 1982) – Eunice Adorno belongs to a new generation of Mexican photographers. Her work focuses mainly on everyday-life stories within and outside the country with a fresh perspective. In the series Flower Woman she has been documenting for a couple of years the lives of women in a Mennonite community in the north region of Durango. Her photographs describe their daily life and the intimate spaces they live in with sensibility. After having been a photojournalist for more than 10 years, she now focuses on her personal photographic and video work.

Luis Arturo Aguirre (Acapulco, Guerrero, 1983) – Luis Arturo Aguirre is another member of this new generation of Mexican photographers. He is best known for is work Desvestidas, in which he portrays transvestites. Aguirre is driven by a fascination for their ability to give new forms to their bodies, choosing to portray them naked with wigs and makeup, a context in which their male body cannot be hidden. His work has been included in Transatlantica, an international itinerant exhibition featuring the work of rising Latin-American photographers.

Alejandro Cartagena (Dominican Republic, 1977) – Alejandro Cartagena deals with the Mexican society of the 21st century and its current issues. In his work we can see the life of suburban areas, the influence of North American culture and the impact of living in a megalopolis. The later aspect stands out in Carpoolers, which narrates in a systematic and striking way the daily migrations of construction workers due to the constantly expanding suburbs of the city of Monterrey. Cartagena’s work is held at SFMOMA, the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.

José Luis Cuevas (Mexico City, 1973) The work of José Luis Cuevas focuses on the human figure in portraits shot without filters. His raw, direct and conceptual style allows the spectator to enter the scene and the emotional status of the subject portrayed. In the project Nueva Era, Cuevas expresses his point of view on how religion and spiritualism affect the common Mexican man while guiding us on an exploration of the power of symbolism.

Mariela Sancari (Buenos Aires, 1976) Born in Argentina but photographically raised in Mexico, where she has lived since 1997, Mariela Sancari presents an intimate and metaphoric work that orbits around personal experience. In Two Headed Horses, she faces the loneliness and changes that have affected her life and that of her twin sister after the suicide of their father when they were 14 years old. In Moisés, she stages the fictionalized research of her lost parent with portraits of men of the same age as her father. It’s a striking way of exploring the emotional impact that images can have, while questioning the concept of photography as evidence.

Ruth Prieto Arenas (Mexico City, 1983) The photography of Ruth Prieto Arenas is characterized by a strong and symbolic use of color, which guides the viewers into the stories she narrates. In her most important project, Safe Heaven, she approaches the issue of migration by portraying the lives of young women who moved from Mexico to the U.S. In the series, she uses the color as a metaphor for diversity and acceptance while bringing us into the intimacy of their apartments, where elements like the Virgen de Guadalupe suggest a nostalgia for these women’s home countries.

Francisco Mata Rosas (Mexico City, 1958) Francisco Mata Rosas is considered one of the most influential Mexican photographers of his generation. His works covers many of the relevant themes of the country’s recent history, from the 1990s conflict in Chiapas to the archetypes of the Mexican collective imaginary. In La Linea, he narrates the political and human conflicts that characterize the border between Mexico and the U.S., a place where “dreams rebound.”

Graciela Iturbide (Mexico City, 1942) – Graciela Iturbide studied cinema at the Universidad Autónoma de Mexico where she worked as a personal assistant for Manuel Alvarez Bravo, the father of Mexican photography. With a dramatic use of black and white, Iturbide covers daily life across the country with a particular focus on the role and condition of women in Mexican society. In Los Que Viven En La Arena, she documents a community living in the Desierto de Sonora; in her series El Baño De Frida, she portrays the intimacy of Frida Kahlo’s bathroom.

Pedro Meyer (Madrid, 1935) Born in Spain, Pedro Meyer quickly moved to Mexico where he developed a career narrating the culture in Mexico and Latin America. His photography, often provocative and visionary, explores the limit of the visual language and questions the limit of traditional photojournalism. One of the most celebrated photographers of the continent, Meyer is considered a pioneer of Mexican photography as well as an early adopter of digital photography. In 1991 he launched the first CD-Rom with images and sound while in 1994 he founded the prestigious photography portal Zone Zero. In 2008 he presented Heresies, a retrospective of his work that was shown in more than 60 galleries across 17 countries simultaneously.

Giuseppe Oliverio is the Founder and CEO of the Photographic Museum of Humanity.

TIME Mexico

Mexican Cartels Invent Ingenious Weapons to Help Battle Government

Improvised armored vehicle captured from the Zetas cartel.
Juan Cedillo Improvised armored vehicle captured from the Zetas cartel.

The drug gangs have no end of guns but are forced to invent weapons that could be in the A Team or Mad Max

As Mexican gangsters shot it out with troops in the border city of Reynosa this month, residents posted warnings on social media of where not to drive. Not only was the gunfire itself a problem but cartel gunmen had covered some roads with perilous spikes that they call ponchallantas or “tire punchers.” The hazard can appear suddenly as the cartels have customized vans with tubes that eject the spikes. If a car drives into them too fast, it can spin into a lethal crash. Gangsters also set grounded vehicles on fire, creating more debris in the way of security forces.

The tire punchers used in the April 17 firefight, in which soldiers arrested an alleged kingpin called José Tiburcio Hernández, are the latest example of the homemade battle technology developed by Mexico’s cartels. Gangsters have also built fighting vehicles with four inch-thick armor, sometimes referred to as “monsters” or “narco tanks.” And in October, police in the western state of Jalisco even busted a clandestine factory where traffickers assembled their own assault rifles.

The development of this narco technology south of the Rio Grande has grabbed the attention of U.S. security thinkers such as Robert Bunker, an external researcher for the U.S. Army War College. He compares it to the homemade war tools used by insurgent forces round the world. “Each battle technology has been adapted to both the conflict environment and the ideological and illicit economic motivations of the irregular forces,” Bunker says. “Caltrops and spike traps have been a component of warfare going back to the ancient Greeks. In many ways, we can think of them as pre-modern landmines.”

While there is no declared war in Mexico, fighting between rival cartels and the security forces has claimed more than 83,000 lives since 2007, according to a count by Mexico’s federal intelligence agency. Gangsters use traditional weapons, including Kalashnikovs, which are often smuggled from the United Sates. The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms has traced 73,684 guns seized in Mexico to U.S. gun sellers since 2009. Cartels also have rocket-propelled grenades, which may be stolen from Central American military caches.

However, it is harder for them to buy actual military vehicles leading to them inventing their own. The Zetas cartel, which was led by former soldiers, first developed its own armored vehicles, both converting regular trucks and building others from scratch. Their “monsters” resemble machines from the fantasy road wars of Mad Max, with gun turrets, battering rams and walls of armor.

The Mexican army has taken many of these makeshift tanks off the road, holding more than 40 of them in its base in Reynosa. But some are still at large and causing havoc. Last year, a Zeta monster attacked a hotel in the border town of Ciudad Mier, where executives from the oil services multinational Weatherford were staying. (The executives were shaken but unscathed).

Furthermore, vigilante groups that formed to fight cartels also built their own armored vehicles. “We were going into heavy gunfire and we needed protection. So we made these monsters of our own, based on the vehicles that the Zetas had built,” said Francisco Espinosa, a cattle rancher turned vigilante. With the help of local metal workers, they also used thick layers of armor, and added some of their own features such as mobile sand trenches.

The gun factory busted in October belonged to rising gang called the Jalisco New Generation Cartel. The cartel has gained infamy for a series of attacks on Mexican officials, including an ambush on April 7 that killed 15 policemen. Hidden in two farm houses in the tequila-producing region, the factory used industrial metal cutters and blow torches to assemble AR15 rifles from components. “It’s highly sophisticated machinery with very precise software that allows them to make the cuts to finish the guns, which work perfectly,” Jalisco Attorney General Luis Carlos Najera said.

The factory likely uses gun parts that are sold on line, producing untraceable AR15’s, says Bunker, the security scholar. “I consider it conceptually sophisticated but not technologically sophisticated. The next step in this process will be the addition of a 3D metal printer. I’m sure this will come in time as more of these improvised arms factories spring up, metal printer technology matures, and prices for them drop.”

The cartels’ ability to make their own guns, customized vehicles and spike ejectors make them difficult for Mexico’s government to wipe out. Under President Enrique Pena Nieto, troops have arrested a string of cartel leaders, including the head of the Zetas and Sinaloan chief Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman. This has helped reduce the total number of homicides, which went down from a peak of more than 22,000 in 2011 to 15,649 last year, according to a police count. But incidents such as the chaos in Reynosa and ambushes in Jalisco continue to shake the nation.

Bunker warns that cartels may keep on developing their battle tech. They could use drones for surveillance in the near future, giving them a fighting edge. Mexican gangsters have also used small car bombs, and could potentially harness bigger improvised explosive devices like those in the Middle East. “One area that we should keep an eye on is car bomb and IED use potentials,” Bunker says. “I could envision IEDs being placed in a city or town under certain circumstances.”

TIME politics

Why Ted Cruz’s Campaign Will Break Barriers

GOP Presidential Hopeful Ted Cruz Campaigns In South Carolina
Richard Ellis—Getty Images Senator and GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz answers questions from local media following a town hall meeting on April 3, 2015 in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

Cruz was born in Canada

Go, Ted Cruz!

I am very excited that the senator from Texas is running for president, so that we can rid this country of one of its most pervasive myths: that you need to be born on U.S. soil to be a real American.

Admittedly, that is not why most of Cruz’s fervent backers are excited he’s in the race. Or why donors have already sent his campaign tens of millions. The reasons most of them are excited about Cruz’s candidacy — his aversion to compromise in politics, the centrality of God in his political platform, and his disdain for any sensible immigration reform — are precisely the reasons why I would be horrified to see him actually win the race I am so glad he is running. If Ted Cruz ever became president, I’d be tempted to flee to Canada.

Which brings me back to the one thing I love about Ted Cruz: The man was born in Canada!

If his candidacy is taken seriously, and his qualifications aren’t challenged in any of the primary states he contests, Cruz will be joining Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in the list of presidential candidates whose campaigns broke barriers for minorities in the political process — in Cruz’s case, for Americans born outside the country.

I am one such “natural-born” American born elsewhere—in Mexico—and it’s been one of my lifelong frustrations to have people question my Americanness, and be utterly ignorant about the fact that you can indeed be born a U.S. citizen outside the country, if born to an American parent. I have nothing but the utmost respect for naturalized Americans who opt to become citizens later in life, but I am not one of them – I was born clenching my blue passport.

Who cares, you might ask, is the only difference between “natural-born” and naturalized Americans — in terms of their rights — is the right to be president? That awkward phrase “natural born” is in the Constitution, listed among the other qualifications for the highest office. Listed, but not defined, which is one of the reasons for all the confusion.

The qualification made its way into the Constitution because the Founding Fathers wanted to prevent their young republic from ever being hijacked by scheming European monarchs. It’s clear from both the prevailing English common law and from the first major law passed by Congress on matters of citizenship in 1790 that “natural-born” citizens included Americans born to an American father in another country. (American mothers, thankfully for me and Sen. Cruz, gained the equal right to transmit U.S. citizenship to their kids by a law passed in 1934.) Federal statutes over time have further defined what it means to be a natural-born American, often requiring a certain period of residency within the United States before an American parent could be entitled to pass on US citizenship to a child born outside the country.

So go on, Senator Cruz (but not too far!), and make everyone understand that you are as American as anyone, qualified (at least on this count) to be our leader. And don’t feel ashamed of your background — tell folks who come to your website where you were born, as opposed to just telling them, as your site currently does, where your mom was born.

Now that I have made clear that I belong in the “natural-born” club, I should add that it is an absurd club. All American citizens should share the same privileges, including the right to lead the nation. It’s shameful that countries like Germany and France are more open to the possibility of a naturalized immigrant becoming their head of state than we are. Can’t we just trust the voters to determine whether presidential candidates are sufficiently American for them?

Andrés Martinez is the editorial director of Zócalo Public Square and a professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Mexico

U.S. Legalization of Marijuana Has Hit Mexican Cartels’ Cross-Border Trade

The cartels are still smuggling harder drugs but advocates point out the success of legalization in cutting illegal trade

In the midst of this seething mountain capital, Mexico’s security ministry houses a bizarre museum — a collection of what the army seizes from drug traffickers. The Museo de Enervantes, often referred to as the Narco Museum, has drug samples themselves (including the rare black cocaine), diamond-studded guns, gold-coated cell phones, rocket-propelled grenades and medals that cartels award their most productive smugglers. It also shows off the narcos’ ingenuity for getting their drugs into the United States, including “trap cars” with secret compartments, catapults to hurl packages over the border fence and even false buttocks, to hide drugs in.

Agents on the 2,000 mile-U.S. border have wrestled with these smuggling techniques for decades, seemingly unable to stop the northward flow of drugs and southward flow of dollars and guns. But the amount of one drug — marijuana — seems to have finally fallen. U.S. Border Patrol has been seizing steadily smaller quantities of the drug, from 2.5 million pounds in 2011 to 1.9 million pounds in 2014. Mexico’s army has noted an even steeper decline, confiscating 664 tons of cannabis in 2014, a drop of 32% compared to year before.

This fall appears to have little to do with law enforcement, however, and all to do with the wave of U.S. marijuana legalization. The votes by Colorado and Washington State to legalize marijuana in 2012, followed by Alaska, Oregon and D.C. last year have created a budding industry. U.S. growers produce gourmet products with exotic names such as White Widow, Golden Goat and Oaktown Crippler as opposed to the bog-standard Mexican “mota.” American dispensaries even label their drugs, showing how strong they are, measured in THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive ingredient), and grade their mix of sativa, which gets people stoned in a psychedelic way and indica, which has a more knock-out effect.

Drug policy reformists tout this market shift from Mexican gangsters to American licensed growers as a reason to spread legalization. “It is no surprise to me that marijuana consumers choose to buy their product from a legal tax-paying business as opposed to a black market product that is not tested or regulated,” says Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority. “When you go to a legal store, you know what you are getting, and that is not going to be contaminated.” A group called Marijuana Doctors elaborate the point in this comical online ad.

Analysts are still trying to work out the long-term effect this shift will have on Mexican cartel finances and violence. The legal marijuana industry could be the fastest growing sector of the U.S. economy. It grew 74% in 2014 to $2.7 billion, according to the ArcView group, a cannabis investment and research firm. This includes revenue from both recreational drug stores and from medical marijuana, which has been legalized in 23 states. The group predicts the industry will top $4 billion by 2016.

This means less cash for Mexican cartels to buy guns, bribe police and pay assassins. Coinciding with legalization, violence has decreased in Mexico. Homicides hit a high in 2011, with Mexican police departments reporting almost 23,000 murders. Last year, they reported 15,649.

Other factors may have caused this fall in killings, says Alejandro Hope, a security analyst and former officer of Mexico’s federal intelligence agency. “Finances from marijuana could be having an impact on violence but you also have to look at other causes. Many of the most violent cartel commanders have been killed or arrested,” Hope says. These downed warlords include the head of the Zetas cartel Heriberto Lazcano, a former soldier who was known as the Executioner for the mass graves he dug. Mexican marines say they shot Lazcano dead in 2012, although his cohorts bust into the funeral home and stole his corpse.

Despite the drop in homicides, Mexico’s violence is still at painful levels. In September, cartel thugs working with corrupt police attacked a group of students, killing three and abducting 43. The atrocity caused hundreds of thousands to take to the streets to protest corruption and bloodshed. On Monday, cartel gunmen ambushed police in Jalisco state, killing 15 in one of the worst attacks on security forces in recent years.

A key problem is that cartels have diversified to a portfolio of other crimes, from sex trafficking to stealing crude oil from Mexican pipelines. They also make billions smuggling hard drugs. Seizures of both heroin and crystal meth on the U.S.-Mexico border have gone up as those of marijuana have sunk, according to U.S. Homeland Security, with agents nabbing a record 34,840 pounds of meth in 2014.

In total, Americans spend about $100 billion on illegal drugs every year, according to a White House report. The estimate puts marijuana at about 40% of this, so the legal industry still only accounts for a fraction of the total. One restriction to growth is that U.S. federal law still prohibits cannabis, making banking difficult and scaring investors.

In the long term, drug policy reformers hope for a legal marijuana market in the entire region. This would throw up the possibility of Mexicans legally producing and exporting their drugs to the U.S., taking advantage of cheaper labor. “Cannabis is not unlike wine,” says Sanho Tree, director of the Drug Policy Project at Washington’s Institute of Policy Studies. “I can buy a $200 bottle of wine, if that is what I am after. But many people will prefer the cheaper mass market product.” One advocate is former Mexican President Vicente Fox, who has voiced support for an American entrepreneur who wants to import marijuana to the United States.

Any such cross-border market would require a change of U.N. treaties, which outlaw marijuana. These come up for discussion in a General Assembly Special Session on Drugs in April 2016. “I feel optimistic there will be change. This movement has momentum,” Angell of Marijuana Majority says. “It is interesting that the United States was historically a driver of drug prohibition. Now parts of the U.S. are leading the change.”

Read next: The Business of Pot

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Fine Art

New Google Doodle Honors Surrealist Painter Leonora Carrington

Leonora Carrington Google Doodle
Google

She was a contemporary of artists like Max Ernst, André Breton and Pablo Picasso

In case you’re wondering why today’s Google Doodle depicts a crocodile-shaped boat bearing five small crocodiles and being rowed by a larger sixth, look no further than the work of surrealist painter Leonora Carrington, who would have been 98 on Monday.

The painting, titled How Doth the Little Crocodile and based on a similarly titled poem by Lewis Carroll, is emblematic of the iconic artist’s strange and wonderful style. Born in Lancashire in 1917, Carrington was attracted to art despite considerable opposition from her wealthy textile manufacturer father. She eloped with renowned German surrealist painter Max Ernst in 1937, and the couple moved to Paris together.

When Ernst was arrested at the outbreak of World War II (before moving to America and marrying art patron Peggy Guggenheim), a devastated Carrington fled to Spain and subsequently made her way to Lisbon, New York City and finally Mexico City, where she lived until her death in 2011.

“The walls of one Manhattan gallery last week were hopping with demons,” wrote TIME magazine in 1948, reviewing one of her exhibitions. “Feathery, hairy, horny, half-luminous creatures merged imperceptibly into birds, animals and plants. Painted with cobweb delicacy, they conspired and paraded before misty landscapes and night skies thick with floating islands.

“All the pictures had two things in common: an overall melancholy and the signature, Leonora Carrington, in one corner.”

Read next: Google Doodle Celebrates the Top Searches of 2014

TIME Photojournalism Links

The 10 Best Photo Essays of the Month

A compilation of the 10 most interesting photo essays published online in March, as curated by Mikko Takkunen

This month’s Photojournalism Links collection highlights 10 excellent photo essays from across the world, including Matt Black‘s work from Guerrero state in Mexico. Black has documented impoverished indigenous communities in southern Mexico for years. This latest work captures communities affected by rampant crime and poverty, including the disappearance of the 43 students from a school in Iguala. The black-and-white photographs are extraordinary and the accompanying short-film, which includes a moving letter from a mother to his lost son, is definitely worth watching. The reporting was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center.

Matt Black: Guerrero and the Disappeared (The New Yorker Photo Booth) Watch “The Monster in the Mountains,” a short film based on Black’s work in Guerrero.

Adam Ferguson: The Deadly Global War for Sand (Wired) These stunning photographs document sand mining in India.

Lynsey Addario: India’s Insurgency (National Geographic) Addario’s pictures capture mineral-rich eastern Indian states, plagued by poverty and a continuing Maoist insurgency.

Josh Haner: The Ride of Their Lives (The New York Times) A fantastic year-long project that follows three generations of one rodeo-mad family | More on the Lens blog

Yuri Kozyrev: Cuba (TIME LightBox) TIME contract photographer’s beautiful work from the Cuban capital.

Mathias Depardon: Gold Rivers (TIME LightBox) Construction of the hydroelectric Ilisu Dam in Turkey threatens a cultural treasure.

Lynsey Addario: Afghan Policewomen Struggle Against Culture (The New York Times) A compelling series on Afghani women determined to make a difference.

Newsha Tavakolian: Stress and Hope in Tehran (The New York Times) These excellent portraits paired with insightful quotes give us a peek inside the minds of Iranians.

Eugene Richards: Lincoln (National Geographic) Richards’ photographs trail the assassinated president’s last journey home in 1865 and raise questions about his life and legacy.

Matteo Bastianelli: Young Syrian Refugee’s Journey Through Europe (MSNBC) The Italian photographer has documented a Syrian refugee’s life in Bulgaria and journey to Germany. | More on his agency’s website

TIME Immigration

How Mexican Immigration to the U.S. Has Evolved

Mexican Workers
Chicago History Museum / Getty Images Image of Mexican immigrants working with sickles to cut weeds along the side of a road outside of Chicago in 1917

Today's immigrants differ from those of the past in several key ways

This post is in collaboration with The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, which brings together scholars and researchers from around the world to use the Library’s rich collections. The article below was originally published on the Kluge Center blog with the title The History of Mexican Immigration to the U.S. in the Early 20th Century.

As a Kluge Fellow at the Library of Congress, historian Julia Young is currently researching a new book on Mexican immigration to the U.S. during the 1920s. She sat down with Jason Steinhauer to discuss the history of this migration and the similarities and differences to immigration today.

Hi, Julia. By way of background, could you provide an overview of the flow of immigrants from Mexico into the United States during the 19th and early 20th centuries?

For almost a half-century after the annexation of Texas in 1845, the flow was barely a trickle. In fact, there was a significant migration in the other direction: Mexican citizens who left the newly annexed U.S. territories and resettled in Mexican territory.

Beginning around the 1890s, new industries in the U.S. Southwest—especially mining and agriculture—attracted Mexican migrant laborers. The Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) then increased the flow: war refugees and political exiles fled to the United States to escape the violence. Mexicans also left rural areas in search of stability and employment. As a result, Mexican migration to the United States rose sharply. The number of legal migrants grew from around 20,000 migrants per year during the 1910s to about 50,000–100,000 migrants per year during the 1920s.

This same period saw massive numbers of immigrants arrive in the U.S. from Asia and Eastern and Southern Europe. Were Mexican immigrants viewed similarly or differently?

There was concern among the U.S. public, as well as policymakers and the press, that “new” immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe as well as Asia were somehow different from previous generations of Western European immigrants to the United States—and whether their supposed differences posed a threat to U.S. society and culture. The so-called science of eugenics helped drive this concern—the notion that ethnic groups had inherent qualities (of intelligence, physical fitness, or a propensity towards criminality) and that some ethnic groups had better qualities than others. These beliefs tied in directly to concerns about immigration and immigration policy.

However, Mexicans were sometimes said to have certain positive qualities that made them “better” labor immigrants than the other groups. They were thought to be docile, taciturn, physically strong, and able to put up with unhealthy and demanding working conditions. Perhaps more importantly, they were perceived as temporary migrants, who were far more likely to return to Mexico than to settle permanently in the United States.

Does this explain why Mexico was exempted from the quotas in the Immigration Act of 1924?

Mexico (and in fact, the entire Western hemisphere) was exempt from the quotas in part because of the agricultural lobby: farmers in the U.S. Southwest argued that without Mexican migrants, they would be unable to find the laborers needed to sow and harvest their crops. In addition, migration from the Western Hemisphere made up less than one-third of the overall flow of migrants to the United States at the time. Finally, the perceptions of Mexicans as temporary migrants and docile laborers contributed to the fact that they were never included in the quotas.

Soon after the quotas, the Cristero War erupted in Mexico. What impact did this have on immigration?

Between 1926 and 1929, Catholic partisans took up arms against the Mexican federal government in protest against a series of laws that placed strong restrictions on the public role of the Catholic Church. In a country that was 98 percent Catholic, this provoked a furious response. Many Mexican Catholics were determined to go to war against their government until the laws were overturned.

The Cristero War had a twofold effect: first, it led to new waves of emigrants, exiles and refugees who fled the violence and economic disruption. Second, it politicized Mexican migrants in the United States around the Cristero cause. While not all Mexican migrants supported the Catholic side of the conflict, thousands did. They organized mass protests of the Mexican government from within their communities in the United States.

You’ve found evidence of a court case in Arizona that sheds light on this period. Could you tell us about it and why it’s significant to your research?

While researching my book I kept coming across mentions of a man named José Gándara, a Mexican immigrant who tried to start a Catholic revolt from the U.S.-side of the U.S.-Mexico border in 1927. He was eventually caught in Tucson, where he was subsequently put on trial. In the Library of Congress Newspaper and Periodical collections, I found two Arizona newspapers that documented the case: the Tucson Citizen and the Arizona Daily Star. Both had extensive coverage of the Gándara trial, which was quite dramatic — Gándara had plotted with an exiled Catholic bishop from Mexico, along with numerous other Mexican migrants, and he had enlisted the support of members of the local indigenous Yaqui community. The plot was uncovered by agents working for the U.S. Department of Justice.

During the trial, Gándara’s lawyers — who were prominent Catholics from El Paso — mocked the Mexican government and made eloquent arguments in his defense. In the end, though, Gándara was convicted of arms smuggling and fomenting revolution. He served some time in jail, although he was eventually able to get his sentence commuted, thanks to some powerful supporters within the U.S. Catholic hierarchy. His story was important because it demonstrated how far some Mexican immigrants were willing to go in order to fight the Mexican government during the Cristero War years.

Fascinating. And shortly after that, the Stock Market crashed and altered Mexican immigration once again.

Yes. At the onset of the Depression in 1929, entire industries dried up, and the need for immigrant labor decreased. Many Mexican migrants found themselves suddenly impoverished and tens of thousands of rural workers went back to Mexico. Hundreds of thousands of Mexicans were also deported under unofficial “repatriation” policies led by federal, municipal or city authorities.

As you listen to immigration debates in the 21st century, what strikes you as being similar and what strikes you as being different from debates in the early 20th century?

I’m often struck by the similarities. Some of the rhetoric and debate about immigration, particularly immigration from Mexico and Latin America, echoes that of the 1920s. It’s not uncommon to hear people describe current migrants as “too different” from the majority culture, as being unable to assimilate or acculturate.

At the same time, immigration today has features that are historically unprecedented, and we shouldn’t make too many direct analogies. For example, immigration is much more diverse today. Migrants from Latin America during the early twentieth century came almost exclusively from Mexico, Puerto Rico, and (to a lesser extent) Cuba. Today, immigrants come from every country in Latin America, and even migration from Mexico has diversified: people come not only from the historical sending states in the Mexican heartland, but also from Mexico’s gulf coast, from the southern states, and from other areas that sent few migrants before the 1980s and 1990s. That means that Mexicans, and Latin Americans more broadly, are creating truly new communities in the United States – communities based around a pan-Latin American identity, as opposed to a regional homeland identity. I think that will be one of the most fascinating areas of research for future historians.

Julia Young is an Assistant Professor of History at The Catholic University of America. Her book “Mexican Exodus: Emigrants, Exiles, and Refugees of the Cristero War” will be published this fall.

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