Heart of Mexico

Flooding the Past, Finding the Future

In 1947 the Mexican government dammed rivers to form Lake Miguel Aleman in the small village of Valle de Bravo in Mexico state. As the water spread and swelled through the fertile valley, it submerged settlements, farmland and a way of life that local families had cultivated through generations. These stories trace the legacy of that transformation.

The lake brought new wealth from tourism and new leisure and business opportunities emerged. The Martinez family pulled themselves from poverty by catering to windsurfers who come from Mexico City and other wealth centers on the weekends.


The Pineda family rides a surge in popularity for bicycle racing to define their own dreams. And a pied-piper band director has the back alleys vibrating with practice scales each evening.  The lake also engendered a new fishing industry which enabled a path to the middle class for those lucky enough to get a license, many of them women. 

In 2005, Valle de Bravo was officially designated a “Magic Town,” though not everyone feels the magic. The Ponce family, including four elderly unmarried siblings who all live together, was among those who lost their farming way of life when the waters rose. Displaced from the valley for most of their lives, they never fully recovered.


This is not a project about a lake. Herein are the tales of ordinary people who live on the shores of a persistent reminder that nothing stays the same forever and we must forever be open to change. An aging midwife anxiously tends to her patients. She knows no one trained in her traditional practice is coming to take her place. A fortuneteller helps her clients navigate their futures through tarot readings. And a widower heals his wounded heart on the wind.

These are stories from the Heart of Mexico.