It took two helicopter trips to do it, but the results were unmistakable. Photographer Oscar Ruiz’s aerial images revealed two Mexico Cities: One a bright postcard full of satellite dishes and manicured lawns, and the other a set of slums, littered with plastic and covered by corrugated scrap. Sometimes, only a high, thin wall separated the two.
Nearly 46% of Mexico’s population lives in poverty, and the country has one of the highest income inequality rates in the world. In Mexico City, the poorest of the megacity’s 20 million people don’t have plumbing, and their homes are subject to flooding with raw sewage. But you might not be able to tell, judging by the luxury condos just next door. Both conditions were unavoidable when Ruiz shot them from above in Mexico City’s Santa Fé district for ad agency Publicis.
The campaign, now plastered across billboards and in print, was launched by Mexican bank Banamex (now owned by Citigroup), in an attempt to draw attention to its community development program in low-income areas. But instead of better branding for Banamex, the ads serve more as a public service announcement. Aside from the stark, disturbing views, the “Erase the Difference” billboards only feature a link at the bottom, the homepage for former Banamex CEO Roberto Hernández Ramirez’s charitable projects.
“The real drama is that that’s the actual image,” says Héctor Fernández, head creative and co-director at Publicis. “That’s the truth. When you see that, that’s when you realize people would think we stuck two photos together to create the drama.”
Mexico City has made some strides in transportation and green building as its population continues to explode, but it also features some serious sprawl. Alongside, income inequality persists. We should know by now that it doesn’t tend to go away on its own.