The past several days have been nothing short of complete chaos. After all of my story ideas fell through, I woke up at 6 a.m. on Tuesday and headed downtown to the Zocalo [central plaza] in search of a story. After two hours of wandering around and finding nothing, I headed toward the Metro feeling a bit defeated. As I was walking, I came across this vision and knew that I had stumbled upon something great.
He introduced himself as Juan Luiz, a homeless street vendor and began to tell me the stories of his life.
Juan Luiz is 29 years old and has been living on the streets for 14 years. He is an aries and enjoys reading his daily horoscope outside the Juarez Metro stop. “My hobby is to read. I like to take the things I have read and practice them in my life.”
Juan makes flowers out of cloth, tape and straws and sells them in certain parts of the street. He used to sell them in one of the main plazas but the police thought it made a bad impression for tourists, so they have been kicking the vendors out.
On the third day, I hopped on the Metro to meet him at a video arcade and he was nowhere to be found. I searched all of his local haunts: the mall where he sleeps, the shops where he buys cloth for the flowers he makes, the stand where he gets his daily newspaper to read his horoscope and see what his lucky number is for the day. No one had seen him. I cannot tell you how many scenarios of what happened to him have run through my head. Every time I see a glimpse of red, I pause, in hopes of finding Juan Luiz and knowing whether or not he is alright. I can’t help but wonder if he made it to the library to read Carlos Castaneda’s Teachings of Don Juan or the beauty school where he gets free hair cuts. If he is laughing like he was when the evangelical, crazed street woman yelled, “Do you have Jesus Christ in your heart?!” or if he is listening to one of his favorite musicians, Rod Stewart, in a music shop.
At two of the panel discussions, many of the photographers discussed the toll this life takes on your emotions. Flashes of all that you have seen through your lens. I just keep imagining the image of him sitting on the street corner when he read me a father’s day passage with tears in his eyes. All I can hope is that my time spent with Juan Luiz made some positive impact on his life.