Hey there visitor!!
First and disregarding that the grand Cheikh Lô is from totally different continent/context, it’s a possible live soundtrack. Thanks to Radio3, incredible dedication as always.
start at 15’ mark
It has taken me 7 years to finally develop these photos, at first it was aesthetic and technical reasoning behind the delay as I couldn’t find a way, a platform which output “made justice” to an experience lived in quite extreme circumstances. Then… well, then time went by in its red convertible… business as usual.
From 200 stills (aprox) I’ve chosen 32 to tell a little story, one that 7 years ago I lived and shared with the people of San Juan Chamula in Chiapas, Mejico.
By the end of 2008 Pachus (my father) had died after more than a year and a half of fighting and finally being devoured by cancer, my long time girlfriend ditched our relation wrapped in lies’ gift paper and I was exhausted, broken-hearted and jobless; this was my “situation”. Against all odds what followed was an incredible year full of travelling, adventures, working challenges and meeting with incredible incredible people.
My priority when travelling to Mejico was to meet and greet, to expend some quality time with my just borned nephew, Leo. And so it happened and despite the burden I carried, it felt honestly joyful to make part of the baby’s life, to be a witness in my little brother Ami and Vero’s wedding, to participate in crazy buddhist parties, to eat, smoke and drink like there was no tomorrow, to travel around discovering the heritage and natural wonders of the Yucatan’s peninsula with the mex family – and just ’cause you like stats, I put 1 kilo per day in the first week. It was really really nice… but after some time… it was piercingly clear that I needed to go by my own. Mejico is very big and rich in all truly important matters, it would take anyone quite a long time to tour the whole country… so I decided to go about 1 state only: Chiapas. From different sources I gathered an extended to-do list – here picture me talking to different traveled and good willing folks, trying to set down on my notebook all instructions, must-see places, urban or wild, must-meet people, food to taste, passages to go through, etc., etc. – a sort of chaotic yet personalised lonely planet guide =)
So with a camera, a hammock and few clothes in the backpack I started my journey. Boy oh boy I was glad I had my to-do list, huge volcano-like mountains pouring water non-stop, breathtakingly deep gorges, enormous and complex ancient mayan cities being slowly engulfed by the jungle, bugs the size of a fist, plants with leaves as umbrellas, loudest howler monkeys, raving hummingbirds, huge-ass spiders and butterflies and helicopter-mosquitoes, chiapa’s coffee, spicest food with flowers, all possible variety of the freshest fruits, true breakfast for gods, windsurf ants, trees with no end, soil so rich it’ll make lakes within lakes from a tear, cataracts coming down from the heavens, rain evaporating before touching the ground, shamans in their mountains, markets overflowing colours and odours, busy characters and most welcoming people, mayans, mayans with their beautiful shiny dark pupils pinned at the beginning of life… each place was a senses’ exploding universe of ever expanding awesomeness; it would take a book for me just to do them justice… and time’s a democratic pimp, same for everybody. As if all of this fremisment wasn’t enough, while we ( chilanga Ingrid, lapricon Trevor and me-self) were lodged on the humblest wooden cabins at the incredible Lacandonian jungle the H1N1 epidemic broke out.
That same night I got to meet Alejandro, Alejandra, Alejandro junior (then everybody started laughing) and Carla. Later on my journey will again cross paths with this funny, discombobulated, excessive but happy family, who would end up “adopting” me as one of their own… snif…and they were as kind, heart-warming yet free as it is possible for a human being to be.
Anyway, jumping forward I’m in San Cristobal de las Casas, aka San Crisis, with my base at the Alexes’ on the mountain’s slope and coming down to town everyday to discover the mayan museum of medicine, the market (probably my favourite place), Daniel el huesero (mix of osteopat and wizard), to meet my contacts, to be bewitched by beautiful researching ladies, to share a beer and some stories with a couple of surreal (they looked like out of a film) mechanics, to flaneur around as much as possible, to enjoy being alive despite my family insistence on leaving the country ’cause of the bird’s flu… couldn’t have cared less about that.
Then I decided to visit San Juan Chamula, a little village up in the mountains specially known for its syncretic church. Mayans in general are not kind of their portrait “being taken”, I already knew that but different people repeatedly advised me about taking pictures in SJCH; specially forbidden at the church; I also heard a myriad stories about this village and the region being a control free zone, with their inhabitants regarded as a tight, fearless and confrontational group. For what I experienced, that had some true to it, even the EZLN didn’t mess around with these guys… but there is much more in the mix, some very nice things, some quite dark like drug smuggling. Anyway, on the last day of April I took a colectivo heahded to SJCH.
After buying an entrance (??) at the local authorities, went into the church, which was amazing indeed, an incredible fusion of indigenous traditions together with the classic colonial style… colourful, alive, good for the senses, … there was a cloud of copal, romero and incense being burned, the lateral walls were covered with a myriad saints, each one with a mirror hung on them, mobile phones someone told me, the “priest” was cleansing a congregant with feathers and an egg, people stood or sat on the floor which was partially covered with straw, the chants were also very curious, a agglomerate of shamanic songs and religious prayers mix of spanish, txochil and who knows what else. People came inside the house of god carrying goats, chickens, even dogs, children played and ran freely around. – – – Someone just knocked on my door and was entering the house before realising it was the wrong number, it was funny, I didn’t stop the guy – – –
So I hang around for some hours, recording everything on the microfilm of my soul. When I went outside I tried to take some pictures but I really couldn’t, I was already overflown with the visual and sonic landscape and didn’t enjoy feeling like a tourist. So bought some stuff from the nagging, ever curious and friendly children in the square and went on wondering around. At certain point I saw an old man with an strange instrument… something like an arp. I approached him, sat a few meters away, lighted a cigarette and listened the unusual melodies for a long time. More men came, more instruments, all of the while I just sat there, watching them. At certain point it was clear they were talking about me… a bit later, what I understood to be the leader, approached and asked me if I wanted to participate in Las Cruces de Mayo, I didn’t really know what I was getting into, but who needs safety net right?, right!!!
From that moment on I followed the group of men, first inside of the church, where we drank Coca-Cola (“it is sacred, ’cause expels the demons” I was told), 7-up and some very very strong home-made spirit; where we smoke, yes inside of the fucking church!!! We were chanting, profering espiritual insults and joy liberation salves for a bit… everything anew but making sense if you feel me. As more men, teenagers and children gathered outside the church, some organising was done, then we started walking till some cars, vans and a huge truck came to take us up into the mountains in this amazing ritual called Las Cruces Mayo
// Click any image to enter gallery
and read the rest of the story =) \\
We shall finish with silly video of the 2nd pass’ editing