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Beauty Among the Ruins
Jo Anderson Brenzo

opening - Sat. May 25, 12-6pm
Photographic Gallery
through June 16

May 26, 2024

by Jo Brenzo, photos and text

I discovered Jaral de Berrio while on a tour of haciendas in 2013. The first time that I was in the hacienda I felt a presence and knew that ours would be a long, involved relationship. The opulence of the past, the ambience and decay, collapsing walls, ceilings, and floor would draw me back to Jaral at least once a month over the next seven years.

The hacienda was only open to the public during those first two years, but, because the owner appreciated my work there, I was able to explore the hacienda for the following five years, until 2020 with Covid. It helped that I soon developed a real relationship with the people who cared for the hacienda, sharing my images with them.

Jaral de Berrio was once the largest hacienda in Mexico, the most important hacienda of colonial times. It is said that its owner could drive his cattle the best part of the way to Mexico City without crossing anyone else's land.

Its splendor included baroque, classical and Moorish styles. Today, that splendor is largely faded, its greatness now shrouded in faint traces of once vibrant color. Immediately in had it decorated by N. Gonzales in 1890 it was last inherited by Juan Isidro Moncada y Berrio. Unfortunately, it was damaged during the political turmoil of the 1930s. Later, it was sold. It has been uninhabited for about the past thirty years, but as you can see in these images a hint of its former grandeur still remains.

When I started exploring, experiencing and photographing Jaral's many, many rooms, they were, as they are now, inhabited only by birds and bats. This habitation has much to do with their decay. Water has also been a big factor in the dissolution of this wonderful edifice.

I had planned on photographing using only a white transparent fabric and having it flow through the many rooms, but soon realized that it needed to be a human form. Eventually, after many visits, I began photographing my friends and myself there. I used slow shutter speeds to create ghostly imagery to capture the shattered, ghostly past that confronts me there.

I felt the ambiance of this amazing place the minute I walked through its large wooden door, "Beauty Among the Ruins," its faded glory. At times it was sad to experience the decay. Always one could feel a presence from the past. It was a great privilege to experience and document this very special place. Putting together this exhibition has taken me back to a very special time; come join me there. Photographing Jaral de Berrio has been the most significant artistic adventure in my 46 years as a photographer.

Photographic Gallery



Beauty Among the Ruins
Jo Brenzo, photographic opening
Photographic Gallery, Mesones 57
Saturday, May 25, 12-6pm


Jo Brenzo first visited San Miguel in 1976. At the time there were few people, very few telephones and no TV at all. Living in the United States and Europe, she knew that one day she would live in San Miguel and returned here yearly.

During one summer in the mid 80s she taught a photography course at Bellas Artes, whose director made her a standing offer for her to return and take up a permanent position teaching photography. In 1992 Jo moved to San Miguel and took up the offer, beginning a career of almost 20 years teaching photography at Bellas Artes. She also established the Academia de Fotografía in 1995 and the Galería de Arte Fotográfico (now the Photographic Gallery) in 1997.

In the gallery Jo specializes in Fine-Art Photography, which includes many alternative techniques. "The gallery is educational in that I am exposing the general public to the many different processes used in photography. I spend a lot of time explaining the different techniques represented in the gallery, plus some that are not. Many people never see anything but how pictures come off the processors in one-hour labs. I especially like working with the young people who come into the gallery and show an interest in photography. They will be the future of photography." Jo has taught photography and had her work exhibited throughout the United States, Europe, Latin America and Mexico.


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