This image makes up part of Iturbide’s series capturing the indigenous Juchitán community of Mexico, a major focus of her work from 1979-1988. Iturbide was drawn to the Juchitán due to the social prominence afforded to women, particularly within the Zapotec society. In these matriarchal societies, women are dominant in all aspects of life, including commerce and religious ceremonies.
Cementerio [Cemetery], Juchitán, Oaxaca (1988) depicts a woman carrying branches of firewood through a cemetery. To her left, sits a large pile of bricks and shrubs, and the architecture that surrounds her comprises towering slabs of pale rock that house each grave with a modest roof. The composition is swarmed by a multitude of tiny black smudges, which slowly reveal themselves to be swallows. Halved neatly down the middle, the photograph employs illusionistic devices. At the top of the composition, the brilliant white sky blends almost entirely into the white mausoleum structures, made even hazier by the flock of birds moving between the two. This half of the photograph is flat and two dimensional, appearing to lead nowhere. The picture plane then opens up onto a set of overlapping graves, forming little rectangular windows which lead further into the depths of the cemetery. Here, the photograph suggests that we are only privy to a small corner of the labyrinthine cemetery, which seemingly extends indefinitely. Clutching the jagged branches of firewood, the figure contains an unstifled energy within the photograph, drawing the central attention of the composition. Around her, the swallows stream in a surrealist display