National Geographic : 2009 Apr
• PHOTO JOURNAL | DANA ROMANOFF Only Women The annual rodeo at San Pablo Huixtepec used to be a big event. Now organizers have to invite cowboys from other Mexican villages to get enough competitors---there aren't enough local men left. "When the boys turn 15, they go," says Juana Emilia Perez, whom I photographed watching the rodeo from a truck bed with other female family members (above). Her 22-year-old son will soon be gone too. He plans to leave to work in the United States, as his five siblings did before him. Due to riskier and more costly border crossings, Perez's sons, like many Mexicans living in the U.S. without papers, rarely chance coming home. I visited the small towns of Mexico's Oaxaca state photographing people and places left behind. Emigration is changing the societal structure here. Without men around, machismo is giving way to a more matriarchal arrangement known as pura mujer---only women. Families do try to keep in touch at call centers like this one (left) in San Pablo Huixtepec. Vicente Benjamin Adenas Rodriguez (foreground) opened the business after working in the U.S. for 15 years. "Women come here to speak with loved ones in the U.S.," he says. "The recently married ones cry a lot." Freelance journalist Dana Romanoff began this project during her internship with National Geographic. She lives in Boulder, Colorado. Juana Emilia Perez (at far left) and family watch a rodeo. Few men are left in their Oaxaca, Mexico, town.