Ximena (1985-2020) was my prima hermana or sister cousin, she was born only a few days after my sister Estefania died (in utero) the day before her due date. I saw Ximena grew from far away; she was a complex soul, a free spirit, dark and complicated. When she was seven, my uncle brought her to my home for some portraits; he knew I was taking photo classes at the university. I took three pictures of her; in one of them I wrapped her hair with a red veil, perhaps unconsciously trying to protect her from evil. In her short life, she lived in four countries and several cities and we lost trace of her. In 2019, we were reunited in one of the most bizarre ways in Barcelona; we committed to stay in touch and made plans for the future to be reunited in Lima. For months we communicated by way of text messages, voice messages, emojis, and photos. Ximena was being treated for cancer but she was young, we knew she was going to be well again. In 2020 she started to become weak, lost her beautiful hair, her golden glow and she finally left us.
This altar was created one year after she died, in it, I symbolically return her to Lima, the place of her birth, the city that we both loved more than any other in the world. In this photographic altar I hold that special photo I took of her. The images of the ocean and the sky were taken in Lima in 2020. The altar contains the four elements; agua, aire, tierra y fuego. Fire is represented by the red veil, the circle of fire.
© 2021 Claudia Ruiz Gustafson. All rights reserved.