New Year’s in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, is an extraordinary, momentous and reflective time when families gather to make wishes for the coming year. The celebration is on January 2 when the entire village makes a pilgrimage to the caves (las cuevitas) or grottoes in the hills outside the town. There, they make an offering to the Virgin of Guadalupe for the hopes, dreams and possibilities of the year to come. From the twigs, rocks and grasses, families will construct a symbolic house, adding a roof or a garden or barnyard or a new addition or a second floor. Everyone wants to create a home that holds children, grandchildren, grandparents, aunts and uncles. This is a sign of both satisfaction and wealth.
This photo captures the mystery of the Las Cuevitas annual ritual. As the sun sets and the people gather, the possibilities for the future are luminous.
The boy sits by the “house” made of rocks contemplating his future. A sparkler lights the space. Are the possibilities limitless for him? Oaxaca is the second poorest state in Mexico and many young people migrate to the cities or El Norte looking for work. Perhaps he will stay in the village and work construction or weave like his father or grandfather before him or plow his father’s fields and plant them with organic indigenous maize. Will he dream of going on to high school? Perhaps. And, then, what possibilities will open to him?
Circle of Women, a not-for-profit advocacy organization, says, “Oaxaca, being a mainly indigenous state, has one of the lowest literacy rates in Mexico, and literacy among indigenous adult women is even lower. Historically there has been a major bias towards Spanish literacy in education, leaving indigenous languages marginalized. Migration to the US for jobs has also left women as heads of households. Illiteracy and discrimination has been a major barrier for women in trying to market their weaving products and create sustainable micro-businesses.”
See our Oaxaca arts workshops: Christmas and New Year’s photojournalism workshop, Day of the Dead documentary photography, creative writing, and more.