The time I found death, innocence and a sense of fierceness in Mexico City

Editor’s Note: In this week’s edition of Parallax, Mexico City-based photographer Adriana Zehbaruskas, one of three photographers who just received Getty Images’ inaugural Instagram Grant, describes how she met the boy pictured here.

I spent two years photographing a Mexico City neighborhood called Tepito, also know as El Barrio Bravo, or “The Fierce Neighborhood.” Tepito sits in the heart of Mexico City, and besides being known for its violence and for the commerce of all kinds of counterfeit objects and illegal substances, it is also known as the cradle of Mexican boxing and the primary worship place for la Santa Muerte, or the folk saint of death.

On the first of each month, people come from all over town to pay homage to her and ask for protection. “You go to her when you can’t go to anyone else,” they say. They all bring offerings — tequila, cigarettes, marijuana, candles — and attend an open-air mass.

One day, I felt confident enough to venture to one of these masses on my own. There, I encountered the boy in the picture. He struck me because of his air of defiance mixed with a certain innocence that betrayed his young age. Innocent and fierce — exactly like what I thought Tepito was, and was trying hard to translate into images.

The word “parallax” describes the camera error that occurs when an image looks different through a viewfinder than how it is recorded by a sensor; when one camera gives two perspectives. Parallax is a blog where photographers offer the unexpected sides and stories of their work. Tell us yours or share on Instagram at #PBSParallax.