Lost Rivers

Earlier this year Places published a selection of images from photographer Alejandro Cartegena’s series Fragmented Cities, which looks at new suburban development in and around Monterrey, Mexico, where he now lives. In the course of that work, Cartegena also began to explore the region’s natural environs, especially its many rivers.

What he found were landscapes in varying states of degradation. Two decades of rapid urbanization has caused extensive damage already: many rivers are drying out and filling up with trash and contaminants. Some have been dammed and rerouted, their dry beds used for everything from soccer fields to flea markets to parking lots. Ever since Hurricane Alex passed through in the summer of 2010 (after these photographs were taken) and washed out the riverbeds, such uses have been prohibited. But so far there has been little real focus on restoration of the rivers; as Cartagena puts it, most regulation to date aims largely “to limit the rivers’ power to destroy the urban structures around them.” Lost Rivers depicts places poised between loss and beauty, acknowledging the price of urbanization while seeking to reclaim a sense of connection with these natural spaces.

Editors' Note

Suburbia Mexicana, a volume of Alejandro Cartagena’s photographs, has just been published by Daylight Books with Photolucida.

Cite
Alejandro Cartagena and Aaron Rothman, “Lost Rivers,” Places Journal, March 2011. Accessed 26 Apr 2015. <>

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Past Discussions View
  • Rolling Stone

    03.28.2011 at 09:21

    Old school methods saw diversion and enclosure a common treatment for flood control. In many areas this has gone the way of the dinosaur however. Protected multi purpose natural corridors defined by the greatest environmental or technical constraint line, and use of integrated stormwater management quantity and quality controls that protect the flow regime are a given now. Restoration is always possible but left alone naturalization will simply take over many of the pictured sites and photos in a few/several years will probably be much different. Some of the pictures seem to actually show a large degree of natural healing.