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Sacred/Sagrado: Festivals of Mexico

Jenna Mulhall-Brereton | Mexico

Bride and wolf, San Martín Tilcajete, 2015

Traditionally, Catholic weddings don’t occur during the forty days of Lent. The town ofSan Martín Tilcajete gives a nod to this tradition by having one final wedding celebration for Carnival, the day before Ash Wednesday. There is a raucous mock ceremony in the town square with two local teenaged volunteers, with a young man serving as the bride. The community comes out to celebrate in an array of costumes, and the day is capped with a feast at the mayor’s home.

The photographs in Sacred/Sagrado: Festivals of Mexico document traditions that are part of the fabric of Mexican culture.

The term “sacred” invokes two distinct definitions of the word: that which is holy, and that which is a cherished part of the life of a community. Though all the festivals I have photographed tie back in some way to the religious calendar (Mardi Gras, after all, is the day before Lent), only about half of them celebrate the deeply held beliefs of the Catholic faith. Other images portray a profound sense of tradition, identity, and community that is every bit as intensely felt.

I began this project on festivals in Mexico in 2011. In keeping with the stong sense of tradition and continuity that I was witnessing, I shot the project on film and made gelatin silver prints by hand in my analog darkroom.

I have a strong interest in what is meaningful to communities and cultures and how those values are expressed. I am intrigued equally by that which is universal—the powerful beauty of everyday moments of human connection—and by the unique expressions of a particular culture. In that sense, I hope that viewers will encounter—and bring curiosity to—both the familiar and the unfamiliar in this exhibit.

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