March 16, 2017 – Semana Santa

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Holy Week is an experience in the small towns dotted throughout the state of Chihuahua. A curious blend of native traditions and codified Catholicism are at play. Surrounding the chapel at Guadalupe Coronado, a procession of worshipers carry candles and walk in an organized line through the church, out the back, and around to the front again.

They do this for a complete twenty-four-hour cycle, without sleep, or food, or water.

This photograph was taken around two o’clock in the morning.

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March 15, 2017 – Iglesia Catolica de Creel

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The Iglesia Catolica Nuestra Señora de Lourdes (the catholic church of Our Lady of Lourdes) sits on the north side of Creel’s central plaza. Tarahumara women weave baskets and sew while children run around playing or begging for pesos to buy candy with. Stray dogs circle around waiting for people to drop food.

This is the hub of the town, fifty yards from the train and bus stations, the gateway to the main road and its restaurants and hotels. Ice cream carts, kids kicking soccer balls, and street vendors practically live here. What I always appreciated about this town square, though, is that the sellers aren’t aggressive. It isn’t like a border town, or a European train station, where desperate hucksters are waiting to coax money out of your pocket. The street sellers here sit on benches, or on the ground, and mind their business, hoping you will approach them. You never feel like people are out to get you in this place. It’s just a polite open-air market.

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March 14, 2017 – Semana Santa

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In the Copper Canyon region, there’s a blend of old-world tradition and new-world tradition. Native rites and contemporary Catholicism blend together. During Holy Week (semana santa), there are a number of distinct rituals that play out.

Outside of Urique, in a small village called Coronado, the surrounding communities come together for an event surrounded by demons, angels, corn beer, and theatrics.

Several players paint themselves in black and white paint and arm themselves with swords, halloween masks, toy guns, and run around the chapel as symbolic demons attempting to penetrate and destroy the holiest site in the community. Other players, mostly young boys arms with spears, burst from the chapel doors and chase the demons away.

This goes on for a full twenty-four hours.

A procession, all of the other citizens who aren’t play-acting, light candles and walk both around and through the chapel, all throughout the night. Wreathes of smoke and fire-lit faces dot the black night. Folks on the side, attending to watch and cheer the defenders – like spectators at a sporting event – drink corn-beer and talk amongst themselves.

This is both spectacle and ritual, secular and religious, communal and personal.

It is one of the most unique expressions of faith and community I have ever seen in my entire life.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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I don’t have any Irish blood – at least not to my knowledge. Nevertheless, it’s challenging not to celebrate a holiday that – in this sick, sad modern world – is predicated on beer drinking and revelry. Every year, my own personal tradition is to watch “The Boondock Saints.” The sequel may be a train-wreck, and director Troy Duffy may not have any more to give us, but I never tire of this delightful little film.

For you, I raise my glass and present you with an illustration inspired by the film.
Cheers!

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February 26 – Hilltop

02-26 Xavier Hilltop post“The only wealth which you will keep forever is the wealth you have given away.”

~Marcus Aurelius

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This is my meditation spot, and this is certainly not the only photograph I’ve made of it. Up on the hill overlooking the San Xavier Mission outside of Tucson is a shrine to the Guadalupe Virgin and a large white cross. You can hear the faint whisper of the highway off in the distance, and you can see a cluster of Downtown Tucson buildings on the horizon.

This is the place to watch the sunset. This is the place to find one’s center. Just thinking about it, looking on the pictures I’ve made there with my Yashica TLR camera, I feel a calm washing over me. I look forward to going out there again. Soon.

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February 25 – San Xavier

02-25 San Xavier post“Apply yourself both now and in the next life. Without effort, you cannot be prosperous. Though the land be good, You cannot have an abundant crop without cultivation.”

~Plato

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February 06 – Mission San Xavier del Bac

02-06 San Xavier postOn the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation, about ten miles south of downtown Tucson, rests “the pearl of the Sonoran desert.” San Xavier del Bac is a Spanish Catholic mission, erected between 1783-1797 near a natural water spring fed by the Santa Cruz River. It’s the oldest European structure in Arizona, considered by many to be one of the greatest specimens of Spanish Colonial architecture. The natural spring no longer exists, and this stretch of the Santa Cruz only runs for part of the year.

This is one of my favorite places in the world. There’s no way I could every take an original photograph of it – it has been photographed countless times by tourists, photo enthusiasts, and professionals. Most famously, Ansel Adams turned his lens to the beautiful structure; the images reside at The Center for Creative photography on the University of Arizona campus.

This particular image was made in the Spring of 2001. This is one of the earliest visit I’d made to San Xavier, although I would make the drive out on a regular basis during my tenure at the University of Arziona. Up on the hilltop, in the background, is where I would often sit and listen to the wind. It’s the most peaceful, magical place. A wonderful site to clear one’s head.

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