It was late afternoon on July 6, 2011 when the dancers assembled in the church courtyard to begin. They would dance into the night until almost 10 p.m. The day was balmy with a light breeze. Perfect weather.
I arrived just as they were getting started, after I had hiked out into the countryside, wandering the outskirts of the village along dirt paths rutted by summer rains, smelling the dark loamy soil recently plowed and planted — the milpas — with beans, corn and squash.
Of course, taking pictures along the way of a cactus flower just ready to bloom, a hummingbird suckling at a Bougainvillea flower, a lazy dog sleeping under the rear axle of a rusting truck.
Even though there were many more people this afternoon, it seemed that I was closer to the dancers than the day before.
I could capture the detail of their intricate hand-woven tapestries that adorned their backs — each a work of art, each an emblem to identify each dancer, perhaps even woven by his own hand or that of a close family member.
My camera could capture the intensity of the physical exertion and the moment of rest when the “clown” pours a cup of water to quench thirst.
The dancers and the soldiers were milling about, then. At the microphone the master of ceremonies introduced the village president and leaders. Pyramids of beer reminded me of Aztec temples. People facing the sun on the east side of the courtyard held fragrant leafy bouquets in front of their faces to shield the sun.
There was applause for the dancers and their maestro. The boy soldiers got up and formed a military line. An emissary carried a message to Moctezuma. Dancers and soldiers began circling each other clockwise and counterclockwise, around and around the Moctezuma, Malinche and Dona Marina seated on a throne at the center of the circle.
Energy was building and beginning to erupt, as if in preparation for a major battle.
The Spanish captain was conferring with his troops about what action to take next.
And, then DRATZ my camera battery went out and I had left my spare back home.