Common Ground

Fun In The River

As a teenager, I began taking trips to Mexico to help build houses and was immediately drawn in by how happy, resourceful and loving the local people were, despite living in severe poverty. The children had more fun playing fútbol barefoot in the dirt, then I ever did playing with my 6 foot long GI Joe aircraft carrier. It was an epiphany that would forever influence my outlook on life.

As an adult, I have traveled back many times with my wife, Celia. With every return, we make it a point to explore regions of the country we haven’t yet seen, as well as revisit the places we’ve come to know already. And with every trip, we dive a bit deeper into a foreign culture of which we have limited knowledge but much love for. Some of the most fulfilling days of my life have been spent walking the streets with my camera, talking to strangers and gathering stories from everyday Mexicans. Rarely would I encounter a sour soul. An invitation into their home for a drink and conversation was more often the rule than the exception.

I’ve just completed post production on a series of photographs that chronicle these experiences. I hope to reveal to you the love of this place as it floods the streets everyday, and the common bonds we share as humans, regardless of class or culture.

Selected photographs are regularly posted on Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, and VSCO. Limited edition prints are currently for sale, I’ll be looking to exhibit and publish a book later this year.

Caesar Quintero and Enrigue Muñoz

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On my last day of shooting in PV I found this great little coconut stand. The vendor, Caesar Quintero (on the left) allowed me to take some pictures. As I approached closer, a couple of patrons took interest in my endeavor and we started to chat as I snapped some welcomed portraits of them. The gentleman was Enrique Muñoz (on the right); A Mexican Actor on holiday after starring in a series for HBO called Capadocia. I told him I was a filmmaker and we spent about 15 minutes or so encouraging eachother on our careers. Thankfully for me, he spoke good English. I think the women sitting next to him was his wife, but I’m not sure.

On The Road To San Sebastián

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It became a favorite day in Puerto Vallarta. Hungry, we were driving down from the hills on our way back from San Sebastián, disappointed with the meals we’d had so far that day. We couldn’t wait to stop at the first place we saw that might offer some good food. We stopped at a place at the bottom of the hill, a small ranch offering home cooked meals. Shrimp tacos were on the menu and that was good for me. The joint was an authentic family operated Rancho and Restaurant called El Coco in the small rural town of La Estancia.

We were one of two parties seated, it was a very peaceful and refreshing atmosphere. The other patrons was a family with kids and we enjoyed observing them, especially the little boy as he rolled up a corn tortilla on his dirty jeans and stuffed it in his mouth.

Before our meal they served a cheese plate with two different Mexican cheeses that they make themselves. Both cheeses were very good. Celia is not a big cheese fan but she enjoyed these very much. They also gave us a plate of sliced avocado and a package of some Norteñas Tostadas. I prefer tostadas over chips in Mexico, so this was perfect! They also served us some salsa that didn’t look that great but tasted really good. I ordered the shrimp tacos and they were ok, different from your taco stand variety and more like a gordita or quesadilla.

The countryside ambiance and friendly service more than made up for the ok tacos. The views from the place were wonderful.

We go to talking with our server, Alejandro (pictured above) and he offered to show us around the ranch. It was great to see what a real countryside rancho was all about. They had sheep, roosters, chickens, a small papaya grove and more. Alejandro climbed one of the Papaya trees and picked one for us to take back to PV.

I definitely recommend this restaurant over anyplace in San Sebastián because the restaurants there are all over priced and the one we ate at was horrible. Our meal here was only 60 pesos (US $4.52) and I gave a 20 pesos tip (US $1.50). Our day had been rough and this stop had turned it into the best day of our trip.

Taco Stands

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We love taco stands and in PV its good cheap eating. If you are eating late it might be your only budget option. For Christmas eve we where going to eat at our favorite spot; El Colera, but they where closed. We ended up eating at a taco stand and enjoyed a Christmas dinner for about $4.00 (US).

They don’t cater at all to vegetarians but I discovered a solution; bring your own avocado. The stands don’t normally carry fresh avocado, It’s usually in the form of a salsa or runny guacamole but if you bring your own avocado they will cut it up for you and add it to a quesadilla. YUM!  We where always looking for stands that had beans and good pico de gallo. You can pick up an avocado at any corner OXXO or small local grocer for about 10 cents (US). OXXO’s are open late. The perfect veggie quesadilla was wrapped in a freshly made tortilla, stuffed with cheese, beans, cilantro, onions, avocado, pico de gallo, and your choice of hot salsa. If you are a vegetarian like me and feeling more adventurous, ask for a slice of pineapple on the quesadilla. The pineapple is cooked on top of the rotating column of Al Pastor (roasted, seasoned pork) so if you don’t mind potential contamination I suggest you go for it! And on that note, its advisable to be flexible and open with your vegetarian ideology while eating at a taco stand or eating in Mexico in general. Locals don’t really understand the concept of being a vegetarian, so you need to accept the fact that your food may have been contaminated by meat juices or remnants, as it will have been prepared on the same grill as meat and assembled near other meat dishes. On one occasion, after I handed my avocado to a cook at a small taco stand, she cut it in half and then placed it on a pile of carne asada to await my quesadilla. I looked at Celia, we were both watching diligently and just smiled.