The Double Life of Martin Ramirez

By Stephanie Friede

Though I have been shadowing Martín Ramirez for the past three months at Lakewood Middle School, this project is not just about him. As anyone who knows Martín well could tell you, it is difficult to find Martín alone. He is always with others – friends at school, his two sisters and parents at home, and of course, his band, Corcel Musikal. If photography is a medium capable of capturing, freezing in time, fleeting moments of change, then what better a period of life to explore through the cameras lens than the last year of middle school, a period marked by in-between-ness and transformation?

Martín’s life has been marked by change. His full name is Juan Martín Angel Ramirez and he was born in the state of Guanajato, Mexico. At the age of two, Martín, along with his younger sister Maricarmen and mother Alma, travelled across the border from Mexico to the United States. But Martín has by no means left Mexico behind him. His father Hipolíto García, started the band Corcel Musikal, with its thumping beats and nostalgic Mexican rhythms. Martín, who showed musical talent from an early age, was brought into the band at the age of ten. The rich history of this type of music grounds Corcel Musikal in two places at once, as they play for crowded audience in North Carolina, singing of the Mexican countryside. This music serves as a compelling soundtrack to Martin’s experience as a Mexican American.

In documenting Martín over the past three months, I observed him in a multiplicity of environments. Despite the various settings, Martín maintains a cool and collected air about him, even when he is lugging a massive accordion.  I hope these photographs reflect Martín’s own sense of himself, as he navigates across different cultures, environments, and languages. I hope they provide a sense both of who Martín is, the rhythms of his life, and the effects he has on his different worlds.