Cinthya Santos Briones is a visual artist, educator, and cultural organizer with indigenous Nahua roots based in New York.  She studied Ethnohistory and Anthropology and for ten years Cinthya worked as a researcher at the National Institute of Anthropology and History in México focused on issues on indigenous migration, codex, textiles and traditional medicine.

As an artist, her work focuses on a multidisciplinary social practice that combines participatory art and the construction of collective narratives. Through a variety of non-linear storytelling mediums she juxtaposed photography, historical archives, writing, ethnography, drawings, collage, embroidery, and popular education. Cinthya holds an MFA in creative writing and photography from Ithaca-Cornell. And a certificate in Documentary Practice and Visual Journalism from the International Center of Photography (ICP). Currently she is an Adjunct Faculty at the Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. Since 2022 she is part of Columbia University Visiting Critic artist.

She is the recipient of fellowships and grants from the Magnum Foundation (2016/2018/2020), En Foco (2017/2022), National Geographic Research and Exploration (2018), We Woman (2019), City Artist Corps (2020), National Fund for Culture and the Arts of México (2009/2011), Wave Hill House Winter Residency (2023), Mellon Artist Fellow at Hemispheric Institute in NYU University (2023-24), BricLab Contemporary Art (2023), etc.

Her work has been published in The New York Times, Pdn, California Sunday Magazine, Vogue, Open Society Foundations, Buzzfeed, The Intercept, New Yorker,  The Nation Magazine, among others.  As a writer, her texts have been published in academic and journalistic magazines such as NACLA and The Nation and newspapers such as La Jornada.

Cinthya has exhibited her work individually and collectively in galleries and museums such as Sky Blue Gallery in Portland Oregon, Latinx Project, NYU, International Center Of Photography, Museo del Barrio, Museum of the City of New York, Trout Museum in Wisconsin, Paul W. Zuccaire gallery, Stony Brook, among others. She has given Artists Lectures at universities like Boston College, CUNY, Stony Brook, NYU, SUNY New Paltz,  Dutchess Community College, to name a few.

She is co-author of the book “The Indigenous Worldview and its Representations in Textiles of the Nahua community of Santa Ana Tzacuala, Hidalgo”. And the documentary, The Huichapan Codex.Cinthya has worked at pro-immigrant organizations in New York as a community organizer on issues such as detection, education, and sanctuary.
She has volunteered in programs accompanying migrants to the courts and asylum applications. And she is a guardian of unaccompanied migrant children.

Cinthya is part of “Colectiva infancia” (childhood collective) made up of a group of anthropologists who works through ethnographic and visual research on studies around childhood in relation to migration, violence, urban studies and epistemologies of the Global South (

Artist Statement

I grew up in a town between mountains and valleys inhabited by the indigenous Nahua, Otomi and Tepehua communities in central Mexico. From an early age I was embedded in the influences of pulque, charrería, traditional huapango music, and indigenous Nahuatl cuisine, textiles, and mythology. This inspired me to study Ethnohistory and Anthropology which became the foundation of my multidisciplinary creative and social practices. As a migrant artist of color, I explore identity, language and culture in transnational space through writing, photography, embroidery, ethnography, collage, herbalism, activism, and popular education. I interrogate the ways forced migration traverses and transgresses the body, consider how plants, rituals, and cultural objects intersect as they migrate alongside us, and collect and transmit restorative messages.My grandparents were teachers in rural indigenous communities, and their work as popular educators and political activists inspired my own pedagogical practice. I am drawn to popular education’s methodologies that work toward a symbiosis between teachers and students—we learn from each other, and both learning and teaching are made more accessible.Anchored by a deep commitment to my community and the methodology of participatory art, I work with my migrant communities to construct collaborative narratives as an embodied motion towards collective healing. I often work in partnership with other activists, social movements, community organizations and alternative cultural spaces to raise awareness about issues that disproportionately affect my migrant community, like access to healthcare, incarceration, and deportation. Forty years ago, some of my family emigrated to the United States in search of the ‘American dream’. The ongoing trauma of family separation and experience of being undocumented highlights the urgency of recording and sharing our migration stories and increasing intergenerational awareness of ancestral healing knowledge found in plants, rituals, altars and embedded memories. I am currently experimenting with alternative historical cameraless photography techniques such as cyanotype, lumen, prints and antitypes. And expanding my practice to other disciplines such as textiles and sculpture.

Clients: New York Times, The Intercept, The Nation Magazine, Pdn Online, Buzzfeed, Open Society Foundations,  Vogue, Open Society Foundations, Haaretz, La Jornada, NACLA, PROOF: Media For Social Justice, Vision Project, Delayed Gratification Magazine, Democracy Now, etc.

Cinthya is available for assignments worldwide.
Languages: Spanish and English

Cinthya Santos-Briones Photography

Cinthya Santos Briones, is a Documentary Photographer based between New York and Mexico.
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