14 Mexican Women Share How They Really Feel About Their Bodies

While photographing women at a local water park in Temixco, Morelos, Mexico, photographer Alicia Vera was struck by the honesty with which they discussed their bodies — although, she tells Refinery29, this doesn't mean they all spoke lovingly.

"Most of the women I spoke to were critical when talking about their own bodies," Vera says. "A lot of them felt self-conscious and said they should eat better or go to the gym." However, she adds, there were a few outliers who, when asked what others have said about their bodies, insisted that the only opinion that matters is their own. Vera says she found that refreshing — and an important reminder that ending a culture of judgment and criticism starts within.

The women Vera spoke with also showed that the body talk we hear from others can still affect our body image. Many described their bodies as others, particularly men, saw them — and a great many of them still hear "fat" as a damning word. "Being critical of another person is human," she admits, but it's time for us to change how we talk about each other's bodies and appearances. "It's a self-perpetuating cycle that we need to break."

Ahead, meet the women that Vera spoke with and read more about the body talk in Mexico.

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

It's your body. It's your summer. Enjoy them both. Check out more #TakeBackTheBeach here.

Photographed by Alicia Vera.
Litzy, 18
"The worst thing that someone has told me [about my body] is that I’m a bit chubby, and the best thing [I've been told] is that looks do not matter all the time.

"At first, I used to get really sad about what people said, but after a while, I was like, 'Whatever, I love myself the way I am.'

"I do not care a lot about looks, but when I see someone that I like, I always comment on how nice their body is."
Photographed by Alicia Vera.
Carla, 30
"The worst thing [I've been told] is that I'm fat, and the most positive thing I heard when I was single was that I had nice breasts. Now, all that is over.

"As far as thinking about others' bodies, goes, I think you see in others what you think you are lacking."
Photographed by Alicia Vera.
Ana Lilia, 39
"The best thing I've been told is that I have a nice butt. And the worst thing is about my varicose veins. But those things are inevitable.

"The good comments cheer me up, but the ones about my varicose veins make me feel bad. I've really tried to take care of them and I've bought a lot of things for them, but haven't found the solution.

"The truth is that, to have a nice body, one has to exercise a lot, and no one has a perfect body. And overall, here in Mexico, everyone criticizes."
Photographed by Alicia Vera.
Keren, 24
"The first negative comment that all women come across is being called 'fat.' The nicest thing I've ben told is that I have nice legs. On a personal note, I'm one of those people who think that as long as you love your body, and yourself, the rest does not matter.

"I'm usually one to not criticize at all, because I do not have the perfect body. I avoid making any comments because I do not have a body to brag about."
Brenda, 18 & Monica, 30

Brenda: "The best thing [I've been told] is that I have a nice body and that it looks good. The worst is that I'm a bit chubby or that I'm gaining weight. Hearing negative things has made me stop eating certain foods so that I can maintain my body. But hearing good things makes me feel great and cheers me up."

Monica: "The worst thing I’ve been told is that I’m fat. And I've been catcalled by young boys. Being called 'fat' makes me feel like I have to start taking care of myself, so that I can get skinny. Like, I have to go to the gym and all that. Being catcalled makes me feel uncomfortable, like I should be covering up. I criticize men a lot because they always want a beautiful face and a nice body. They always ask for a lot, when they aren’t even all that. Some of them are older, and could even be my father, but want a young woman like an 18-year-old or a 20-year-old."
Photographed by Alicia Vera.
Mariana, 42
"The worst [thing I've heard] is that I have a big belly. It brings me down, because I am really sick and there is nothing I can do about it.

"But I also criticize. I'm very judgmental. I like to look at pretty women, but, the ones that do not look so good, I criticize."
Photographed by Alicia Vera.
Lina, 24
"The best thing [I've been told] is that I have nice legs, but the worst thing is that I now have muffin tops in my belly. But those comments do not affect me at all."
Photographed by Alicia Vera.
Maria Elena
"The nicest thing [I've been told] is that I look pretty and the worst thing is that I am too skinny.

"I don't allow the negative comments to affect me because I feel great about the way I look. And the good things make me feel beautiful. I feel great."
Photographed by Alicia Vera.
Karla, 26
"Like you see, I'm tattooed and a lot of people have judgements about women with tattoos. They ask a lot of questions like, 'Why so many? Why so big?' They do say nice things about my abs, even though I'm a bit out of shape at the moment. I always try to take care of myself even though I'm a mom.

"I do not discard the bad comments 100%, because one can use them to learn. And the good comments motivate me even more."
Photographed by Alicia Vera.
Juana, 53, and Esmerelda, 23

Juana: "The worst thing that I've been told is that I'm fat. And the best is that I look good. The negative comments make me feel depressed, but the positive one makes me feel great and they boost my self-esteem."

Esmerelda: "My husband always compliments me a lot. He says I always look beautiful and that makes me feel good. I do not care about what other people have to say, because I feel great about the way I look. I always see people more chubby than I am, but I like to see how high their self-esteem is. Sometimes those people have a better self-esteem than the skinny ones that have a nice body. I really like their level of self-esteem and I aspire to have one that high."
Vera's work is featured in Body Talk, a photo exhibit presented by Refinery29 on display at this year's Photoville, which runs September 13 to 24. Body Talk explores the cultural variations of body positivity and the act of claiming space both across the gender spectrum and the globe, captured through the lens of female photographers.

Photoville is the largest annual photo event in New York City built from repurposed shipping containers, combining over 75 exhibitions, nighttime events, workshops and panels in Brooklyn Bridge Park. It is free and open to the public.