In the memory of Maximiliano Agustín Vallejo Flores
Fewer cities have as many open spaces for the gathering of families and friends as Querétaro. The first time I travelled to this magical city was a cold October night in 2010. I got into a cab and told the driver to take me to the city center. Most cities in Latin America have a main plaza where the cathedral or church stands, surrounded by municipal buildings, restaurants, and shops. That is not the case in Querétaro. The city has numerous plazas and parks in its historic center none of which appears to be regarded as the “main” plaza. Understandably, the driver was puzzled and asked me to clarify my exact destination. This was the very beginning of a profound bond that persists today.
In any time of day and night, weekday or weekend, one can find people in Querétaro’s plazas. Families spend quality time with each other. Couples enjoy their company and show no restraint in being affectionate. There is often music and dancing. Kids play in a corner supervised by their parents. Grandparents read their newspaper or play chess. These plazas are always filled with soulful energy. Having lived in southern California for six years, I experienced Querétaro against the backdrop of scattered cities such as San Diego or urban laboratories like Irvine whose “downtown” is a shopping mall. Sadly, urban planning, even in Latin America, no longer takes into consideration the importance of the public space. It goes without saying that eliminating public spaces from urban centers is a political question beyond the scope of this post.
I returned to Querétaro in January 2015 to capture the city’s enchanting and mesmerizing plazas. I took most of these photographs early in the morning where most are at work. All the same, they show the full spectrum of the city’s rich urban landscape. Every plaza is filled with personal stories of love and loss, and I am grateful to have been able to return to Querétaro to renew friendships and relive enriching experiences. Hope you enjoy these photographs.