Wednesday, October 14, 2009

When the Santos come marching in, Yucatan Day 4

Although I was raised in a pretty observant Mexican Catholic family, it has been a couple of decades since I last sat through mass. Today, however, we waited on two masses and one rosary to get our shooting done; more than my fair share for at least another 20 years.
First mass was in the small Yucatecan town of Dzilam Gonzales, where we woke up to find the whole town groggy after a night of rodeo, dancing, and drinking on the eve of the celebration of the Day of Saint Francis of Assis; patron saint of animals, and apparently also patron of every small town in Yucatan. We found a colorful wall near the church to photograph people as they walked by. The rising sun coupled with the bright wall made for some really interesting studies in shadow and color.
About an hour later we moved on to the town of Telchac, some 20 kilometers away to continue photographing the religious festivities. We arrived as Saint Buena Ventura, the patron saint of the neighboring town of Sinanche was being carried into the town church. Apparently, saints make regular visits into each others' churches, where they get to listen to the mass before they are carried back into their own church.
The mass at Telchac, attended by some 1000 faithful, culminated in a huge procession unto the streets, with the statues of the virgin Mary, the visiting saint, and Saint Francis himself being carried on the shoulders of the devout around town. It was at least 100 degrees by the time we finally found shelter in the air conditioning of our rental car.
En route to the town of Izincab, where we planned to spend the night, we ran into a group of beautifully dressed women. We stopped to ask about their dresses and we ended up getting invited, or might I say, we ended up crashing a private party at the Rancho San Francisco, where they were performing traditional Yucatecan dances, again in honor of Saint Francis. We ended up photographing the festivities AND sitting through a full rosary.
As it turns out, Saint Francis is a pretty popular saint here and the festivities will go on for a few more days. What we will remember the most is not just the amazing marriage of Christian and Mayan traditions for religious observance but the fact that that Saint Francis and the people of the Yucatan can throw a mean party.

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Images from the Yucatan RAVE will be highlighted at WILD9 November 6-13, 2009

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