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What if… we remember

By Suzanne Ludekens

Multi-media artist Carolina de la Cajiga asks the poignant question: What if the Soldaderas, heroine warriors from the Mexican Revolution era, were alive today? Her answer is in the compelling photographs that form her exhibit ‘¿Qué pasaría si?’ (What if…)

Through digital manipulation, de la Cajiga inserts the image of the iconic soldadera (the one standing between two train cars) into key historical moments that have changed the world over the past 100 years. ‘La Rielera,’ as de la Cajiga calls her, has peering, haunting eyes that witness the good and the bad, becoming ‘a witness… a perennial seer, no judgment comes from her lips. She simply makes us think, remember.’ And that she does.

This exhibit is de la Cajiga’s homage to Mexican women as witness to great world events–created especially for Mexican Independence Day celebrations at the Mexican Consulate in Vancouver. “La Rielera is a perfect representative of millions of people with no apparent relevance or status who, out of their own will, are able to stand up, to make changes, to create new ways,” explained de la Cajiga.

Although ‘La Rielera’ appears a natural participant in key historical moments, her own history is less transparent. The original image forms part of the Casasola archives in the Fototeca Nacional, yet there is actually no information of who actually took the photograph. Acclaimed author Elena Poniatowska believes the woman was a cook.

As a friend and I looked over the series of photographs we immediately plunged into discussion about those political events and our own memories or knowledge of those moments. As others joined us in front of the photos our conversation expanded and contracted, moving from the Mexican revolution to the Cuban Missile crisis to Gandhi to the most recent Mexican political protests. Naturally we sought out the artist to tell us more about how she chose the images and which are her favorites.

“The looking for relevant events was exciting. The more I searched, the more ideas came to me. I think that so far I have just scratched the surface of significant events where the Rielera could be inserted,” explained De la Cajiga. “I felt that the one I was creating was the most provocative or intriguing at the moment. There is no favorite but I think the Yo Soy #132 and the one of Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian young man who burned himself to death in protest, are specially significant as in many ways and, sadly, they show not much has changed for millions of people throughout the world but, at the same time, people are willing to stand up to protect their rights and those of others.”

For Flor Acosta, curator/owner of Atelier-Galería Acosta, de la Cajiga makes a disconcerting commentary that entraps the observer. The work uses modern technology however, the reflections on 100 years of history sadly shows that humanity does not learn from its mistakes.

Contact Flor Acosta to make an appointment to see this powerful exhibit, 154-5953 or


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