Manuel Rivera-Ortiz’s photographs of people living in poor villages in Turkey and Thailand, Bolivia and India don’t falsely romanticize their subjects’ poverty nor do they explicitly critique the political or economic systems that create such conditions. By focusing purely on the people who populate the poor global villages he visits, he captures the entire range of human emotion: mistrust, fear, curiosity, friendliness, happiness. Social critique may simmer below the surface of his work, but the primary message of Rivera-Ortíz’s images seems to be that hope and creativity are not mutually exclusive to poverty.
I'm on the border of Bolivia, working for pennies Treated like a slave, the coca fields have to be ready The spirit of my people is starving, broken, and sweaty Dreaming about revolution looking at my machete But the workload is too heavy to rise up in arms And if I ran away, I know they'd probably murder my moms So I pray to Jesu Cristo when I go to the mission Process the cocaine paste, and play my positionImmortal Technique, "Peruvian Cocaine", Revolutionary Vol. 2 (2003).
Bolivia does not exist.On discovering that Bolivia is landlocked and its capital lay high in the mountains, having ordered the Royal Navy to bombard it. This anecdote is recounted in a few published sources such as The Rough Guide to Bolivia by James Read (2002), but no scholarly historical sources have been located.