March 29, 2017 – Tribe

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A bumpy truck ride, hitchhiking through the hills outside of Urique, I made my way out to a location called Guadalupe Coronado. Along gravel roads and through some terrifying curves rests a small Mission-style Church and a cluster of makeshift houses. One could scarcely believe anybody would live in this remote location, and it’s hard to image how a church of this size was built here.

Sipping a thick, creamy-looking sludge from plastic one-gallon milk jugs, another hitchhiker in the bed of the pickup handed me his beverage and insisted I take a sip. It smelled like a freshly-opened can of corn, and I was told that this is a special drink made for Semana Santa (holy week) in the Copper Canyon Region. Called Tesgüino, this is a fermented corn beer made by the Tarahumara Indians of Sierra Madre. The Tarahumara people regard the beer as sacred, forming a significant part of their society. It’s estimated that the average family spends at least 100 days per year directly concerned with the growing and manufacture of tesgüino, and Semana Santa is an event where a majority of their stock is consumed.

It didn’t taste very good, but I was honored that I was invited to imbibe with a group of strangers.

Outside the church, a group of men and boys are painted in black and white to serve as symbolic demons who want to attack the church. They whoop and holler and dance around, and rush into the church. Another group of young men, holding spears, then chase the demons out of the church. This is the beginning of holy week, and the tableaux goes on for several hours, until nightfall, when a candle-lit procession begins, and the whole community walks a specific route in and around the church until sunrise.

I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.

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March 24, 2017 – Rarámuri Runner

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This is one of the only traditional Rarámuri men I saw during this entire trip. Not wearing modern clothing, he instead wears hand-made clothing that designates him as a traditional Tarahumara runner. If you look closely, you’ll see his hand-made sandals, constructed out of used truck tire rubber.

Originally inhabitants of much of the state of Chihuahua, the Rarámuri fled into the high sierras and canyons of the Copper Canyon region upon the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th Century. As a result, the Rarámuri were never conquered, converted, or forcefully integrated; they maintain their own spiritual beliefs, lifestyle, and language (belonging to the Uto-Aztecan family). The area of the Sierra Madre Occidental which they now inhabit is often called the Sierra Tarahumara because of their presence.

It’s estimated that there are between 50,000 and 70,000 Rarámuri (Tarahumara) in existence. Most still practice a traditional lifestyle, inhabiting natural shelters such as caves or cliff overhangs, as well as small cabins of wood or stone. Staple crops are corn and beans, although many of the Rarámuri still practice transhumance, raising cattle, sheep, and goats.

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March 13, 2017 – Tarahumara Woman

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The black and white “street portrait” is a staple in photographic expression. Many young photographers insist on moving to big cities so that they can wander the streets and try to capture poignant moments, unique portraits, weathered faces. Just like many of the textures I photograph, the object is to take the ‘everyday’ or ‘banal’ and figure out a way to transform it, through the camera lens, into something meaningful. With street portraiture, unlike photographing inanimate abstract details, the object is to try and tell a story, to find something emotional and authentic.

It’s not always easy. Life moves faster than one might initially think; put a camera to your face at the farmer’s market and try to make a good, candid photograph of even just one person. You’ll notice that everything around you is a whirlwind. Children run around, people walk into your frame, or people notice you and begin to behave differently (it doesn’t matter if they’re attracted to being photographed or repulsed).

This is probably my favorite portrait taken during this particular trip to Mexico.

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March 09, 2017 – Rarámuri Boy at Lake Arareko

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Hiking out to the banks of the lake of Arareko, we met with a group of Rarámuri people. The women were huddled beneath the pine trees, weaving baskets while their little children played in the dirt. The young boys occupy their time climbing on the rocks and swimming in the water. This young lad took an interest in me, but we were only able to communicate in gestures and pantomime. He was excited to wander around with me and understood that we didn’t speak the same language, so our hiking experience was pretty silent.

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