Melba Arellano

born 1977 Mexico
Lives and works in Mexico

The main scene of the Palacio Municipal series is the city of Petatlán, a small coastal town in the state of Guerrero in Southern Mexico. This city is part of a region afflicted by conflicts, inequality and backwardness, in which power and corruption have become natural elements of governmental rule. The town has a long history of assassinations, of both social activists and former mayors, linked with drug trafficking. Since the mid twentieth century, the municipality has been governed by the system’s political machinery from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional), except for two successive periods in the early 2000s. The party is part of a governmental system that emerged in Mexico in the 1930s which developed over the following decades and still prevails to this day. This system is characterized by exaggerated presidential rule, a culture of cronyism that lends itself to inefficiency, and social control that is not without demagogic concessions to the working class. The system has man- aged to keep itself going on the basis of these three factors and on government corruption. With this project, Melba Arellano seeks to record the ethnographic traces that mark the front line used by political parties to project its version of power: the Palacio Municipal or City Hall. This building is a replica on a small scale of the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City, the seat of presidential power. Through her pictures of this small, average state office, Arellano explores the inadequate systems of power in Mexico, and the polluting effect on those with little to cling to. 

Melba Arellano