top of page

One of the great joys of my position is that I have the great opportunity to see so much art and to meet so many artists. A special joy is discovering the artistic beauty of an artist that I’m not familiar with their work.  Such is the case with Jorge Silva.

Trying to find adjectives to adequately describe his work was super difficult.  I truly love the majesty of his art.

The one word that kept coming to my mind to describe Silva’s work is awesome.  Interestingly enough, awesome is a word that is very, very overused. Young people sometimes say awesome for anything that is a tiny bit good to them.  But, the word awesome should only be reserved for things that at times leave you speechless with wonder.  Writing this presentation is very difficult.  I feel I should just be quiet and tell the viewer, I can’t do justice to these images, please calmly go through the entire work and slowly let these images overtake you with their beauty.

I’ve had the great fortune to visit Chiapas on numerous occasions and to say that it is an amazing place is a major understatement.  It is the most surrealistic place that I have visited.  Silva’s photos capture the wonder that is the Lacandón jungle.

His photos feel so super intimate; so special.  These photos make you feel like you are a part of the Lacandón  jungle. I kept thinking this is how a jaguar probably observes the jungle as they make their way through the jungle.

At a time when climate warming and the stupidity of our species has us mistreating Mother Earth, it should remind all of us how precious the Lacandón jungle is and that we should all rejoice that we have such a magical place on our planet.

Jorge, thank you very much for taking all of us on this mystical journey through the Lacandón jungle.


Carlos Tortolero

President & Founder

National Museum of Mexican Art

The urban jungle of the mayas

Life was full, complex, changing and perennial in the vast territory of the Lacandon Jungle, much larger than we know today. Natural chaos prevailed. Animals and plants were unaware of borders and only respected those imposed by their capacity for survival. Everything was in balance.

The green immensity was populated by the Mayas. Many settlements were born, grew and decayed, whose traces we know through archaeological sites such as Bonampak, Palenque, Toniná or Yaxchilán. The visitor can imagine the ancient cities surrounded by the environment that can be appreciated today, but it was not always like that. In the beginning of their time, nature connected them with the universe. They learned to read the stars and understand the cycles to achieve better harvests. History reveals that the urban landscape of these populations became very extensive, so they developed successful methods of food production to sustain their people and their social structures.

The Maya achieved great advances in agriculture, mathematics, architecture, writing, astronomy, medicine and the arts, becoming a cultural, economic, political and military power. Today only vestiges remain with temples and palaces, murals and tombs of rulers and warriors.

The questions are inevitable: What happened, why did a civilization collapse that in many disciplines of science and art surpassed the knowledge of the Spanish conquistadors? Recent research has shown that the growing populations and the expansion of urban construction wasted resources and deteriorated the environment. The Desierto de La Soledad lost its natural balance due to the intense agricultural and civilizing practices of its peoples, but the Maya did not notice this.

According to specialists, from the middle of the eighth century there were prolonged droughts due to deforestation and in the following span wars intensified. There was death and abandonment. The Maya cities were left in silence. Today, trees and roots hide the vestiges of other settlements that, like the known archaeological sites, are evidence of the civilizing paradigm that left a deep mark. What seduces of the territory recovered by the ecosystem next to stone walls, empty structures and streets of a distant past hides a warning: human life depends on the preservation of natural resources, that is why the rescue of the jungle is also ours.

The Desert of Solitude

After the collapse of the Maya culture there was silence, a human silence of a thousand years. A slow recovery of the jungle began, plants and trees that hid man's footprint were reborn. Water returned, rivers and lakes reappeared. Flocks of macaws populated the territory again; fish, turtles and lizards returned while tapirs, monkeys and peccaries wandered to hide from the jaguar. When the predatory presence of humans disappeared, the Desierto de La Soledad had another dawn. An extensive tropical paradise of more than twenty-five thousand square kilometers was formed with natural barriers that protected it for centuries.

At the end of 1800, Juan Ballinas and Manuel Martínez, Chiapas explorers, ventured on expeditions that left from Ocosingo following the course of the Jataté River. They named rivers and places they encountered along the way, many of which still retain their names: Las Tazas, La Soledad, Perlas, El Azul, Colorado and others.

They crossed extensive mountain ranges without human presence covered with mahogany trees. After many attempts, a shipwreck and various hardships, they arrived at a plain crossed by the mighty Jataté. Amazed, they baptized the place with the poetic name of El Desierto de La Soledad (The Desert of Solitude).

Today there are natural protected areas in what is left of the tropical rainforest: Montes Azules, Lacantún, Nahá, Metzabok, Chankín, Bonampak and Yaxchilán. Each one hides some pristine place that evokes its ancient name. They are some of Mexico's last redoubts in one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth.

Walking along its paths we realize that in this ancient land life expresses itself in multiple ways; nothing is accidental: forest and water are connected with the rest of the living beings in an orderly chaos which has been auto-regulated over time, like a single enormous root that feeds and regulates the vast territory.

Nothing here is static or passive. Here everything is recycled. The death of one organism is life for others. Empty spaces are immediately filled and the struggle to occupy the gaps can be fierce. Thin and thick stems compete with each other as they spiral up and overlap to form complex webs. In the apparent calm, life explodes from every corner. In the shadows, some animals remain motionless so as not to be detected; others, alert to any strange action, sound or smell, move stealthily in search of food so as not to be discovered by their predators. An infinity of springs weave their way forming streams and rivers that converge in the upper and middle basins of the Usumacinta River in Mexico, the largest in the country, which represents one of its strategic water reserves.


Conserving this vital wealth is everyone's task.

A Timeless Jungle

In the mid-nineteenth century, the Lacandon Jungle began to show itself as an area that, in addition to archaeological treasures, held incalculable wealth of precious woods that then became the object of exploitation.

With the information of the archaeological traces that the jungle kept, scholars of the pre-Hispanic cultures arrived. As archaeological explorations increased, new settlers arrived. In the 1930s, the first families of Tseltal and Chol peasants arrived to open a habitable space in the inhospitable jungle. From 1950 until the early 1980s, groups from all regions of Mexico appeared in search of "a land to sow dreams", as Frans Blom called it.

With the growing population and uncontrolled logging, another stage in the conquest of El Desierto de La Soledad began, but this time with excessive depredation. Current data indicate that more than 70 percent of the immense territory that made up the jungle at the beginning of the 20th century has been destroyed up to the second decade of the 21st. Extensive swaths once populated by ancient trees and animal life have been transformed into pastures for extensive cattle ranching and oil palm plantations. On the other hand, the growth of the not-so-new populations demands more land for corn and other crops using the old slash-and-burn system.

These situations have turned much of El Desierto de La Soledad into a land of desolation, with high levels of poverty and social conflicts over control and exploitation of the forest. It is also threatened by drug trafficking, deforestation, poaching, overfishing, looting of ruins and illegal extraction of flora and fauna.

In this bleak panorama, local groups, non-governmental organizations and some official institutions are working in hope. All are making efforts to recover the devastated territory. Although their efforts express the will of a part of society to preserve nature, it is urgent to recognize that the responsibility to achieve this is global. No matter where we live, humanity is at risk due to the loss of forests and jungles. The Earth is ours and so is the task of conserving it, even if we deny it from the comfort of consumerist life.

For centuries the Maya built cities in the jungle and then abandoned them. Humans of our time, by populating the jungle, are reaching that destination in only 70 years. We repeat history and leap into the void. The Desierto de La Soledad has survived despite the destruction. If it disappears, it will re-emerge, but perhaps without us.

bottom of page