By Fabian Rubio
For this visual assignment which questions how consumerism affects the holidays, I immediately knew that I wanted to complicate this lens by drawing inspiration from my own experiences with consumerism and transnational economies growing up in a border town, Calexico. First, through black and white film photographs of still-life arrangements, I wanted to acknowledge the genuine pleasure and joy that we get from the acquisition and ownership of nice things. By stripping the compositions of color, I was curious about an aesthetic that spoke to timeless opulence as bright glass decanters or toiletries are neatly arranged and composed to indicate a holiday feel. Then, I took advantage of the Thanksgiving break and my trip to Calexico to take images of the consumerist scene there, specifically focusing on the Gran Plaza Outlets situated right along the border between Calexico, CA, and Mexicali, Mexico. Having grown up in this hybrid city, I have seen the ways in which our economies are linked, as citizens from Mexicali will travel across the border for holiday shopping. Here, I wanted to move beyond the simple notion that consumerism takes over the holidays, and instead wanted to focus on the way in which this consumerism is actually essential for border economies. Thus, the images I made within this environment were meant to explicitly address border culture, and how even with increased militarization at the border in recent years, the two cities are still very much economically connected. Overall, my intent was to provide nuance to the idea of consumerism beyond our surface understanding of it by mixing a range of seemingly unrelated images.