Manuel Alvarez Bravo made this startling photograph of a murdered union leader after following the sound of what he thought were fireworks. Instead, he arrived upon the scene of a sugar-mill labor strike, where shots were being fired. With two frames left in his camera, Alvarez Bravo moved in close and framed his subject so that the the top border of the photograph would press against the victim's body, as if it were the lid of a coffin. A trail of blood spills into the image's lower right corner.
Without denying his handsome features or dignity, Alvarez Bravo portrayed the felled worker neither as a hero nor as a martyr, but simply as a sacrifice. As one historian has observed: "The offering of human lives in ancient Mexico was natural; [the worker's] death is no more than a ritual sacrifice to the gods of society, a mere necessity for the well-being of the Mexican people