Echando Ganas

An activist ethnography with photographer Laurence Salzmann and families in Philadelphia from the Mexican state of Puebla


Fields of Knowledge
  • Comm. Development
  • Public culture
  • Social Justice

Organizing Institutions



The Sachs Program for Arts Innovation, University of Pennsylvania

Opens to public



4017 Walnut St Philadelphia, PA 19104

Slought is pleased to announce the Echando Ganas project, an activist ethnography with Laurence Salzmann and families in Philadelphia from the Mexican state of Puebla, on display from February 26, 2021 through July 2, 2021. The project consists of an installation by Salzmann that reconnects Mexicans from specific villages of Sierra Norte de Puebla with Mexicans from the same villages, now settled in Philadelphia. The project also includes a mentorship program for young Philadelphians with roots in these villages. A closing reception, free and open to the public, will take place on Sunday, July 4, 2021 from 3:30-7:00pm.

An accomplished photographer and filmmaker, Salzmann completed a long term project in these villages more than a decade ago, titled Échele Ganas ("Do Your Best"), which explored the lifeworlds that Mexican immigrants leave in making their way to the U.S. Over the years, Salzmann remained in contact with members of these communities, some of whom have immigrated to Philadelphia. Many of the individuals and families featured in this project planned to stay in Philadelphia for only a short period of time—long enough to send back remittances to Mexico and save money for a better life, at which point they would return home. Over time, many married and started families and their plans to return changed. Against a backdrop of rising xenophobia, anti-immigrant policy, and frequent ICE raids, travel itself has also become increasingly difficult for those who are undocumented.

Echando Ganas translates as "Doing Your Best", and as a title is intended to convey how those who now reside in Philadelphia have found a way to create a new life in the United States. Salzmann's project seeks to highlight their resilience as a transnational community, and the ways in which they have sought to maintain their various cultural and religious practices in their adopted city.

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Laurence Salzmann is a Philadelphia-based photographer committed to bringing about socially beneficial change through photography. Educated in Philadelphia schools, he acquired photographic skills along the way, often from older photographers. Much of his career has involved using photography to preserve the history of groups of people in danger of being ignored and forgotten and encouraging his subjects to retrieve memories and tell their stories.

Most recently, Salzmann has worked in Cuba, Mexico, and Peru. In Cuba, his work has documented the lives and work of artists and athletes, while in Mexico, he has foregrounded the way of life left behind by Mexican migrants to Philadelphia. In Peru, a Fulbright Grant has enabled Salzmann to document the ways in which pre-Hispanic culture continues in the lives and culture of the Quechua speaking communities of Cusco's Sacred Valley.

Mentorship Program

In addition to the installation, the Echando Ganas project also takes the form of an intensive mentorship program for 6-8 youth from the families and communities engaged by the project. Mindful of the challenges facing the immigrant experience at this time, the program will be developed in dialogue with these families.

The program seeks to provide an opportunity for the youth to engage with cultural, educational and civic landscape of Philadelphia, and for participating mentors and partnering institutions to learn from the challenges they face while at the same time supporting them.

"Ahora seremos gente tanto de aquí como de allá, las dos cosas al mismo tiempo [Now we will be people from here and there, both at the same time]."

— Mexican migrant and immigration activist Guadalupe Gómez, quoted by Alicia Schmidt Camacho, in Migrant Imaginaries: Latino Cultural Politics in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands (2008)