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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
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Fairchild Jade, 2005

A scene from the Carnival festival of the Huastecan Nahuas. February 1993. Huautla, Hidalgo, Mexico.

The Photographer

Jackson Image
George O. Jackson de Llano

George O. Jackson de Llano was born in 1941 in Houston, Texas, to an Anglo-American father, George O. Jackson, Sr., and a Mexican-American mother, Dolores María de Llano Villarreal. He spent most of his youth in Laredo, on the Texas-Mexican border.

For 20 years he pursued a career in business, nurturing a casual interest in photography into a profession. In 1990, he launched the Essence of Mexico Project to create a photographic record of the Indigenous festivals of Mexico. By 2001, he had compiled an unprecedented 75,000 images of more than 300 festivals celebrated by Indigenous communities across Mexico.

Jackson de Llano donated his work to the the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection of the University of Texas and the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Latin American Art of the San Antonio Museum of Art. A complete set of his images is now available to the public for research at the University of Texas.

Photographer's Statement

My fascination with Mexico began in early childhood while growing up in Laredo, Texas. Although I was born and raised in Texas, my mother's family came from the State of Nuevo León, in northern Mexico. Her maternal grandfather, Rubén Villareal, moved his family from Lampazos de Naranjo to Laredo around 1910, at the beginning of the Mexican Revolution. Her father was a descendant of Manuel María de Llano, who served as mayor of Monterrey and governor of Nuevo León during the 19th century.

My childhood on the Mexican border was defined by Mexican culture, and my family frequently traveled throughout Mexico. In the late 1970s, I joined a botanical expedition to southern Mexico, where I began to appreciate the diversity of Mexico's Indigenous peoples and the complexity of their festivals.

This experience was an epiphany that inspired me to explore Mexico's cultures richness by photographing the festivals of its Indigenous communities. My goal has been to document the variety and beauty of this enchanting but ephemeral art form that will serve as a permanent testimony to the creativity of the members of these communities.

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