Jorge Santiago is a photographer who divides his time between the U.S. and Mexico. In his project Identity at Play: Basketball in Mexico, he explores the ways in which basketball reinforces indigenous identity, and is shaped by the unique geography, history, culture, and sense of community in the Sierra Norte. Santiago has been nice enough to share some of this project with Deadspin.
Basketball tournaments are the central fixture of the annual village fiesta, the single most important event in a Serrano village. During the fiesta, the basketball court is the fulcrum of activity: bulls are slaughtered there, bands give massive group concerts, dances are held, the names of the people sponsoring the fiesta – mainly Mexican immigrants living in the United States – are read aloud, and of course, tournaments are played out.
Santiago grew up in Guelatao de Juárez, a village of approximately 500 people in Oaxaca's Sierra Norte. Guelatao is famous not only as the birthplace of Mexican president Benito Juárez, but also as the site of the annual Copa Benito Juárez, a basketball tournament in which more than 2000 indigenous Zapotec, Mixe, and Chinantec players compete over a period of three weekends.
Santiago's work has been featured or is forthcoming in Harper's, The New York Times Lens Blog, PDN's Photo of the Day, L'Équipe, and the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. You can check out more of his work on his site.