The Journey

My paternal great-grandparents, who were legal U.S. residents, emigrated back to their native México during the Great Depression. Their son, my Abuelo (grandfather) who was born in San Antonio, became a U.S. immigrant to México at seventeen. Time passed and fate would again intervene when my father, a chronic asthmatic learned of a place where he could live a healthier and perhaps happier life. Not able to secure papers quick enough, he made the journey north to Phoenix, undocumented. Two years later he sent for my mother and eight children.

I was eleven years old when I became an illegal immigrant.

The train ride from Mexico City to Nogales, was filled with both excitement and fear. The car ride to Phoenix was a surreal dream as a mirage of water appeared on the sun-drenched road. Phoenix was nothing like the city I grew up in. The two room trailer was a far cry from the home we left behind. My father was no longer an engineer, but now a laborer while my mother handcrafted many things to help bring in some extra income.

I remember my mother’s tears and the years it took for them to finally dry up.

My personal story is the starting point behind this body of work. The images are of the place and immediate area where I first called home in Phoenix. However, these photographs are taken nearly forty-two years later. As I go back and walk down the same streets, I look at the homes, the signage, the ground; as if looking for clues of things I might recognize. I search for the tree my little brother remembers to this day. And I am surprised at how foreign it all seems to me. It is as though I am here for the very first time. It feels just like it felt so many years ago. I am standing in a strange place I do not know…And, I ask myself why I insist on going back, time and time again.

It is as if I am searching for something that I lost.

I return and meet some of the people that live in the area. They share bits and pieces of their stories, where they are from, why they are here. In these shared moments I learn things about myself and the part of me that is very much like the people I meet. In this realization I begin to understand the person I became, who I now am. Through image making I seek to tell a story, not my own, but one of the many others just like me. The story of someone without a voice.

Each at their own intersection of time.


Downtown Phoenix in the Distance

Carl Hayden High School

Neighborhood Junk Yard

Our First Home

Vacant Lot

Mural on 35th Avenue


Mended Fence

Homeless Camp


La Virgen

Gilbert First Sequence

Gilbert Second Sequence

Clothes Line


Ancient Mounds

Next Door

Fifty Cents

Llanteria on Buckeye Road

Local Market


Pointing the Way

Pura Tierra

This I See

Elizabeth Pineda

About Elizabeth Pineda

Originally from Mexico City, Elizabeth Z. Pineda is a photographer and an emerging artist. Using traditional photographic processes her work further resides at the intersection of time and memory. Branching off from her own story, she speaks visually of community and touches on barriers of language, culture, and society. Elizabeth is an MFA candidate in Photography at Arizona State University. She received her BFA in Photography from ASU, graduating Summa Cum Laude, May 2019.