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The Snapshots I Did Not Take

Puerto Vallarta is full of breath-taking scenery from the lush mountain views, the cobblestone streets, and the long stretches of beach.  It is a place I will never regret visiting because of its gracious charm and beauty. A place you could wander with ease,  rest your weary head at night, and ready to awaken early for the perfect morning sun rise.

 On this trip we were more cautious – we did not rent our own car or travel on the off beaten track.  We were tourists who enjoyed the views and the refreshing feeling of  salt water cooling you off after a hot day in the sun. I look at the snapshots of my children laughing, the beauty of the sunset over the bay, and the lush greenery of the tropics. It is these pictures which bring a smile to my face and sum up the perfect family vacation.

However,  there are many photos that I did not take and  these images stick in my mind.

The older man walking slowly across the dusty road with the weight of the world on his shoulders. 

The snapshot of  another man readjusting the gun in his pocket ever so quietly…

 A Humvee military vehicle driving out into the countryside with fifteen soldiers  in the back and an ak-47 tied to the front…

The navy battle ship zooming across the bay as the morning sun rises.

The front page of a newspaper covered with bloody images of dead bodies.

It is these snapshots which tell a very sad tale of the violence in Mexico.

A day does not go by in the news where you do not hear about the countless murders and the  occasional stories of unsuspecting tourist caught in the crossfire. It is at those brief moments I wondered if the violence is escalating in Mexico? And what is in store for its future?

Only time will tell of its future and I suspect the man  walking slowly with the weight on the world on his shoulders is waiting for the answers. If only he had the answers…

Is there a picture that you would not take? How does it replay in your mind?

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Darcie Cameron is a RYT 200 who believes Yoga is a gift that is accessible to everyone with proper modifications, a patient smile and just taking the time to breathe. One of the greatest presents you will ever unwrap is when you connect your mind, body and spirit in perfect sync with your own breath. Connect with Darcie on Facebook

56 replies

  1. I had a similar experience in India. It was so sad to see all the poverty and the horrible conditions people have to live in. Hopefully we can make a small difference by raising awareness of these problems.

    1. I lived in Delhi for almost a year an the extreme poverty is so heart-breaking. We had a group of street kids that were always in our office area – we would always feed them instead of give them money because it went straight to organized crime. It was a place which makes you resilient and makes you appreciate all of the small things you do have in life.

  2. Great post! I remember the first time I visited Puerta Villarta and the armed guards at the airport (of which we didn’t take a picture.) Can definitely relate to this. Found you site via Pakastani Boy’s recommendation.

    1. Thank you! This was our third trip to Mexico we thought we would explore Puerto Vallarta for a change and we found it very quiet. It was more startling to see such a military presence in such a little resort city.

  3. The first time I crossed the border into Mexico, all of the military with automatic weapons alarmed me. Mexico has many issues related to violence, but I remember how many Americans are killed by handguns; how many guns our (US) government sent across the border; how much violence is done against women & children here. We Americans have no moral superiority. It makes me weep for all humanity.

  4. Nice way of capturing the image 🙂
    the elusive image as well as the image that one would rather not snap.

    I recall my stop-over in Thrivananthapuram (Trivandrum), India
    14 long years ago. Was a novice traveler back then.
    I gave some coins to a desolate child begging for something.
    no sooner I did that, there came a swarm of children
    each looking more bedraggled than the other.

    that image, with me in the middle feeling helpless – wanting to help.
    that image, so many children – uncombed hair, unwashed clothes
    that image, the hollowness in their eyes,
    the smile on their face that did not reach their eyes …

    1. I have seen many of those children – my first day I had a bag of candy in my purse I gave a couple to some kids and then I had a swarm all looking for that special treat. It really is heart-breaking the poverty that experience at such an early age. It’s amazing the amount of money we spend on military defense but we fail to provide the most common necessities to give to the ones who are stricken to a life of poverty.

      1. I really do wonder what would happen if we spent even *half* of the money that our nation spends on military supplies and training and “advisers” to foreign nations instead on feeding their hungry, housing their homeless, building village hospitals, even (where allowed) providing educational resources. Something tells me that if we could and would accomplish such a thing we would “need” only a tiny proportion of what we do now spend on the war-related tools and toys. Yes, I’m an idealist, but what was ever accomplished by being a pessimist on such a grand scale?
        My two cents . . .

  5. I used to walk to my high school (around 40 minutes walking). Not that I didn’t have money to take the bus, but I just loved to walk. Good for me, walking made me see. I see every morning people waking up–or still sleeping–by the street or in front of not yet opened stores. I remember every morning walking by praying that someday I will be given a chance to help some way.
    Even until now I’ve been given different opportunities of helping out different projects, especially in education (cuz I believe this is where it starts–after family, of course).
    Yup, never turn your cheek away from seeing your surroundings :).

    1. Very true! You should never turn your cheek from everything that surrounds you! Education is key to opening windows of opportunity for everyone. It is one of the most important gift you can give to another fellow human being.

  6. So many lives… yet America refuses to accept its complicity in the deterioration of Mexico. We build this grand wall, but walls can’t stop people who live behind it from demanding what those on the other side can provide. Our guilty pleasure is over there, raising havoc, and we sit back, judging Mexico for falling apart.

    Mirrors can reveal some surprising things. Welcome back!

  7. Most of the pictures I would not take are ones of my mom in her last days. My sisters and I reached a point where we agreed it would be a disservice to capture her in her increasingly diminished form, although I was grateful for the tiny video clips they sent me in those final days I could not be there.

    I don’t regret not taking those pictures. I do regret not having been there straight through till the end. :/

    1. I think when someone is in the final days of there life it is a disservice to their memory. I think the best thing you can do is have the memories of your mother when she was alive, well, and healthy. It’s those pictures we hold close to our hearts.

  8. I have traveled to Mexico and the Caribbean and have been very cautious about just snapping random photos of the people there, especially the ones that do not have much. I have seen homes made out of scraps of wood, tarps, whatever – sad to see when it is plain to see the haves and haves not. Thanks for the sharing and the reminder.

  9. Glad you had a safe place! My brother and his friend have been to Puerta Vallarta as well. I think the highlight of their trip was getting to play with some baby tigers at some sort of zoo. I don’t think that’s a normal thing though and might have been a behind the scenes kind of deal, lol!

  10. Hi Belle, So glad you are home safely. It breaks my heart to see what is happening in Mexico and along the U.S. border towns. It’s a complicated situation and it’s a helpless feeling wanting to help but not knowing how.
    I admire you for writing so honestly about what you saw. Even though you were there for a vacation, you didn’t leave your humanity and values at home.
    For now I will pray that leaders in Mexico, the U.S. and wherever can find solutions to stop the killing, working towards providing better opportunities for Mexican citizens.

    1. It’s funny Melanie! I was just thinking of you and was on my way to visit your spot!

      Thank you Mel! I think it is a very complicated issue with no remedy in immediate sight and I do hope they find away to create better opportunities for Mexican citizens. It’s just a question of when? and how? It is such a complicated issue that you wonder how it will resolve and will the resolutions be for the better.

  11. No, there is not a picture I would not take. A few years back the answer would have been yes. But now, if travelling I try not to forget the people and the reality in which they live. I now remind myself that just because people live in conditions or with standards or with politics not shared where I am from, does not necessarily reflect the humanity of the people. I do try not to be one sided. Show the good along with bad.

    1. I think from my point of a view when I see those images they happen so fast that there is no time to click the camera. I think they are the images that stick with you and sometimes when someone is in their own private moment is it really far to click on that moment?

  12. In a small town in Guatemala, beggar children would peer into a Chinese restaurant to wait for any leftover food. The owner told my dad that he would let the children come inside to eat whatever leftovers the patrons would leave. After that, my dad would tell us not to eat all the food and he would buy some extra dishes for the children to eat. I will always remember the children and my dad’s kind gesture.
    Great story….thanks!

  13. A couple of years ago we had unexpectedly heavy snow. I took the dogs out about eight a.m. onto the field at the back of the house. No one had walked on it yet. There was a pinkness and purity to the usually scruffy field, thick snow like I’ve never seen weighing down the bushes. It was the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen.

  14. They older, over weight man who is in a tiny speedo walking on the side of the road heading to the beach…. Didn’t take that picture, but it is burned in my mind…

    But, on a serious note, I remember being in Mexico several years ago and seeing all the military with their guns posed was so disturbing, really made it clear how dangerous it is. I feel the same way when I walk through Penn Station, post 9/11 and see the military there. I don’t think I will ever get used to it… and I long for the days we didn’t have to worry about terrorist attacks.

    1. Hahaha! Why is there always that one man? Don’t they know any better! The only man that should ever wear a speedo is Daniel Craig 😉

      It is offsetting to see those images and perhaps there will be one day when the threat of terrorist attacks will be less imminent. I think world peace is a Christmas wish we all have on our list.

    1. It is a very beautiful spot! It was wonderful just to soak in all of the lush views. At the same time, the military presence seemed much more active then usual. I was surprised – I’m use to seeing them but never so active…

  15. Jamaica was heartbreaking for me. To take the tour of some famous singers’ huge mansion on a hill — that she probably only visits twice a year….and the shacks lined up along the ditch of the poor people who work in that mansion (if they are lucky)…..I couldn’t take a picture of that beautiful house. I paid the poor people to take pictures of them instead. And I never bought another of her albums. It was deplorable to think someone could lounge in luxury, while nearby, people – families, suffered horribly.
    Cuba was a very interesting trip. I love the country, the people, the culture…… I didn’t see poverty per say: that is the weird thing about communism: no one was starvin or living in shacks (from what I saw), but they are not “well off” either. But they were a wonderful people – I loved them in an instant. But the armed military guards on the beach? Yeah – no shots of that.

    1. I would find that devastating as well I wonder if she did anything to contribute to the island? I couldn’t imagine living next to that kind of poverty and not wanting to help in some capacity.

      I visited Cuba several years ago – the things that striked me is people still have a fear of talking or opening up about politics. I don’t think it is a place where they have the free will to expression. We visited Havana and spent a night dancing on the streets and never feared any form of danger. However, we did rent scooters and took them outside of Varadero (which we were not suppose to do). We ended up in a small village and I took a snapshot of this government building – it looked very interesting. An armed guard came over and started to yell at us and would not let us leave. So I just looked at my husband and exclaimed “Just give him some money.” It was then he let us drive off…

  16. It is the same in Jamaica – when we went OMG, 12 years ago now! We were in touristy areas, where there was no obvious violence, but wow – the poverty! And we wanted to visit inland more, but our driver would not take us for fear of the very bad violence that was happening.
    I’m glad you enjoyed your time, though!

  17. I read recently about the push to increase Tourism in Mexico and how they are trying to draw people in, but at the same time the show of military force and weaponry isn’t helping. Such a shame since there is so much wonderful history and beauty to see there.

    There are several photo ops that I’ve passed up, but one sticks in my head of landscape scene with an orchard of purple flowery trees and a sunlit span of field where the backdrop was a dark shadowy mountain range where a huge storm was raging – we were on our way to Yosemite. It was incredible to see, but I didn’t stop the car and I’ve always regretted it (especially since it was right after I got my fancy camera). Phooey.

    1. It is very quiet compared to our list visit – it was startling to see the beaches so barren of people and even the boardwalk was extremely quiet. It is a beautiful place and it is shame that it is losing so much in tourist dollars. I was very leery of the trip to Puerto Vallarta because of the grenade attack last year at a popular bar…I really think it is those stories that make people shy away from visiting.

      It sound beautiful! I would have loved to have seen that…I wish I had a fancy camera! I have broken three in the past three years and finally have one which is indestructible.

  18. I’ve never been to Mexico, but we were in Jamaica just after violence broke out in Kingston. We were careful to avoid the south Island and the government of Jamaica was very careful to protect the tourist areas. It’s their life source, really. But the tour buses still have to cross the island. They can’t hide from us the shacks on the hillside, the 1/4 finished homes built three or four bricks per year over the course of several generations, the drifts of garbage in the ditches, or the unofficial job-sharing arrangements where four of five women work the same part-time job and how that’s more work than most can find.
    I couldn’t photograph that. Not yet. Maybe when my children are older and it gets easier to look from their joy to the pain around them and remember how to breathe.

  19. I’m convinced the images in your mind’s eye are always more powerful than the ones you capture with lens.

    And I hate to say it, but Mexico gets such a bad rap these days it’s definitely one of the places I’d least care to visit. Sunny, touristy resorts like Cancun being a definite exception.

  20. Another totally amazing question, Belle. With a background in news journalism I am drawn to the newsworthy pictures. Sometimes I am aware of a moral tussle going on inside as I do so. I think privacy comes at the top of my list of don’t takes: I would hate to push into someone’s life with clumsy intrusion. Sensitivity is underrated in the world of news.

    1. Thank you, Kate! Sometimes I feel like certain shots are not meant to be taken because people deserve their privacy and are not animals at the zoo. However, when you look at journalism it is another spectrum sometimes the story has to be told with a picture because without photo-journalists and the journalists in the field need to raise awareness with such issues in the Sudan, Mexico, or even on our backdoor step. I don’t think there is a black and white answer. I’m not journalist just a blogger and I have no right to invade on another individuals space. It`s just how I feel…

  21. I have never been to Mexico. I don’t know if I could enjoy myself that close to poverty. Tough times for the Mexican people.

  22. Welcome back!

    The first time I went out of the U.S. was over twenty years ago. It was to Venezuela. A beautiful place. But landing in Caracas I was shocked to see military personnel at the airport standing guard in full battle gear. They also had soldiers at gas stations.
    I also saw the same old man you did, but he was walking up what the locals call a hill, I call it a mountain, to Colonia Tovar, with a big sack of stuff on his shoulder. It looked like he had been doing that all his life. There was a big difference between living at the bottom and top of the “hill”. We also drove through some places that I did not take pics of. I couldn’t. There was also a feel of uneasiness, and restlessness. Those images and feelings have stuck with me all these years. I still feel for their situation. After that trip, I learned to appreciate what I have here.

  23. I would like spend some time at Puerto Vallarta. Your description is itself breath-taking.

    As for your question: While browsing my Tumblr dashboard some time in May, I saw a photo that has never left my mind since. A picture of a dog with a barb in the tip of its nose and another in its mouth. Dogs and cats, living or dead, are being used as shark bait by amateur fishermen from the island of Reunion, which is under French administration. Animal protection organizations and local authorities revealed the information. The small volcanic island off the east coast of Africa is full of stray dogs. To get an idea of the size of the problem, more than 150,000 animals. I’m like holy fucking shit. Seriously, people??? WHAT is wrong with this world. Seriously.

    That photo made me cry. That is like sticking a hook through a best friend’s face.

    Sorry for the foul words. 😦

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