by Claudia Madrazo
A monument is an important place for me. A place that once I’m there becomes mine.Casilda, 16 years old
If you were to leave home for 10 or 15 years… where would you go if you were to return? What would you be disappointed to no longer find there?
Throughout our life, buildings, sculptures, inscriptions or archaeological sites are a testament to important events, to the lives of outstanding people, or to a great moment in the history of a country or humankind. But, if we think for a moment... What is our relationship with monuments all about?
Some monuments pay tribute to or commemorate an event; others are objects valued for their artistic worth, have endured the test of time and are still vibrant and alive. Even simple, everyday objects, places and people can be considered monuments as they play an important role in our lives.
When considered in this way, we see how monuments shape our memories and form our personal and cultural heritage. Each one expresses a part of our identity. Nevertheless, we see how wonderful buildings, splendid works of art and entire archives are left neglected and forgotten. This is perhaps due to the fact that we cannot care for what we do not value, for something that does not mean something special to us. The value of a monument has nothing to do with its cost; it is its sentimentality that makes us feel attached to it.
Remembering who we are
Remembering all kinds of smells, colors and sounds helps us to relive memorable experiences. The emotional tone of the moment, whether it be happy, sad, melancholic or magical, isn’t important. What matters is that this memory occupies a privileged place in our personal history. When we think of it, our most important monument is the house in which we grew up. Each one of its corners hides a piece of our childhood. And the school that we went to, the park where we played, the façade of the buildings we saw in the distance from the window. We also have to remember the importance of the influence that events or people have had on our lives: the teachings of our grandparents, the tales we dreamt about, our pets, our friends, our first teacher. In short, all the details and experiences that little by little have shaped us and contributed to make us into what we are today.
In the hopes of inspiring in today’s youth the love for conservation and caring for our personal “monuments,” the Vaca Independiente and the Getty Foundation decided to give cameras to Mexico City youth and to invite them to photograph the important places, spaces and objects in their lives. The result was extraordinary! The children learned to see and value their city through new eyes.
It is truly important that each one of us learn to recognize and discover what personal elements have woven our own history. By doing so, we truly will be able to feel like we are part of an even larger history, that of our community.
Take a few seconds and think about the world that surrounds you. Then ask yourself, “What does “a monument” mean to you?”
• Imagine that your job is to conserve objects and places from all over the world that deserve to be remembered for their value by future generations. What would you choose?
• Test your mental agility and compete with your friends. Take a few seconds to name five of the monuments in your city with which you most identify yourself. This exercise can be done as many times as you like and the winner will be the one who succeeds in naming the most places without repeating any.
• On a piece of paper, jot down the memories of your life that you’d like to preserve as monuments. When you’re done, you’ll have a quick summary of the human being known as you.
The children’s opinions, the Camera in Mexico City program
When they said “monument,” I thought of the Diana. Now I understand that monuments don’t have to do with material greatness but rather with sentiments, with the value they have for each person.
Natassja, age 13
I would like to preserve my friends, my little theater, my brother, my mother, my father, my grandfather, my school, my childhood…
Rodrigo, age 9
I used to think that a monument was something dead, like the remains of a war or an old civilization. For me, it was a place I didn’t understand, that didn’t speak my language. Now I think of a monument as a place or event in my past that affects my way of life. It makes me the person I am now.
Renée, age 13
The forest is like my home in Jalisco, and for that reason, I like it because the trees are alive like we are. The forest, the land, the house, the sky…they too are monuments.
Apolonio, age 15