Though it took him 21 days and five-thousand-plus miles of driving, Van Ditthavong was deeply motivated to photograph the subjects of “In Our Backyard” because of his own experience with immigration. A native of Laos, the 35-year-old arrived in the United States at age 4 as a refugee of the Vietnam War, becoming a citizen when he was 8. “I loved hearing each person’s story and point of view,” says Ditthavong, who now lives in Dallas. “This issue is like an onion, so many layers.”
David Dorado Romo
“The more I look into history,” says David Dorado Romo, “the more ignorant I feel.” Having written about his hometown of El Paso and his great-aunt in the June issue, this month Romo turned his attention to his father’s second cousin, a canonized saint named Toribio Romo (“My Tío, the Saint”). In both cases, the family’s history unfolded slowly over the years. “I didn’t realize what ian incredible treasure I’ve been sitting on,” he says.
John Phillip Santos
John Phillip Santos’s work has always delved into the mysteries of the past: unwritten histories, tangled bloodlines, disputed origin stories. Those themes inform his “dream project,” which he began working on this fall when he joined the University of Texas at San Antonio as a distinguished scholar in mestizo cultural studies. Santos explores similar terrain in “Back to the Future,” when he travels from Sarita to San Isidro to Laredo, trying to reconcile the past to the present. “Migration through the borderlands is an old story,” he says. “South Texas has always been a crossroads.”