Photography: Jamie Forde / Words: Hugo Chavez
Amber is one of the main sources of income in the small city of San Cristobal de las Casas in the southern state of Chiapas in Mexico. It is also one of the lesser known precious stones. Through this photo documentary, I aim to highlight that no matter what type of precious stone, exploitation and injustice always follow. Just by walking through the city, it is clear how many people rely on amber to make a living.
I made several trips to the mines of Simojovel, in the mountains, where the indigenous Tzotzil community live. They claimed they were being mistreated by the Ladinos (the Latino community) and being paid unfairly. We also discovered that in recent years, there had been a great influx of Chinese businesses coming to the town to buy amber.
More than fifty percent of the land in Mexico, including these mines, is communally owned. This ownership structure, initiated after the Mexican revolution and completed around 1920, is highly positive, especially when compared to the situation in countries such as Guatemala. As I have depicted below, it is becoming increasingly difficult to make a sustainable living from the amber trade, a fossilized resin which takes millions of years to develop.
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