La frontera, Tijuana, México

Object Details


La frontera, Tijuana, México


Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, born 1942)




Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico (Place created)




Gelatin silver print

Object Number:



31.8 × 22.5 cm (12 1/2 × 8 7/8 in.)


© Graciela Iturbide

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I think all photographers make documentary photography, but, afterwards, it all comes down to how each person interprets what they see, whether it has more or less poetry or imagination.
--Graciela Iturbide

A faceless man exposes a massive tattoo of the Virgin Mary on his back. The dusty landscape seems devoid of any activity or importance, but in fact is the politically fraught Mexican-US border.

Graciela Iturbide's photographs capture nuances of cultural identity. Even the tattoo is a highly coded element; it depicts Mexico's patron saint, the Virgin of Guadalupe--also called La Virgen Morena, or the brown-skinned Virgin. Some speculate that Mexico's indigenous Virgin of Guadalupe has roots in the Aztec mother goddess Tonantzin. The characteristic wavy, pointed tendrils that surround her evoke rays of holy light. However, these are also thought to refer to something organic, namely the spiked agave plant, which Mexicans ferment into pulque, mezcal, and tequila--alcoholic beverages enjoyed on the Virgin of Guadalupe's feast day.

Like her mentor, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Iturbide is known for photographs that explore the diversity of her native Mexico, especially its indigenous peoples. In this particular image, Virgin of Guadalupe's likeness might function as a symbol of pride, identity, or even as a protective talisman in a difficult world.

1990 - 2007

Created by the artist, Graciela Iturbide, Mexican, born 1942 (Mexico City, Mexico), sold through ROSEGALLERY (Santa Monica, California) to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 2007.

The Goat's Dance: Photographs by Graciela Iturbide (December 18, 2007 to April 13, 2008)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), December 18, 2007 to April 13, 2008

Iturbide, Graciela. Images of the Spirit (New York: Aperture Foundation, 1996), p. 88, ill.