Portrait Photography Workshop in Oaxaca: Good Friday–Day Five

Today, we are immersed in the reverence and solemnity of Good Friday, moving along with the crowds to photograph the religious and social rituals that are part of this important day. Here in Oaxaca, Mexico it’s called Viernes Santo and celebrated with traditional European-style that very different from the United States.

We are based in Teotitlan del Valle for the second part of our portrait photography workshop. The giant matraca (wood clackers), positioned on top of the church between the two steeples, started yesterday evening on Maundy Thursday and went on all night.  It can be heard throughout the village. To signify the Last Supper, our host Josefina served us succulent fish stuffed chiles rellenos and a potato turnover with salsa, accompanied by white beans to signify the season.

This day, Good Friday, began with not one but two processions, one led by half the townspeople following the figure of Jesus held high on a litter, and the other led by the Virgin of Soledad (solitude) who represents Mary.


Each procession was led by a brass band, singers, noisemakers and drummers through different parts of the village.  They converged at the exact same moment in the Zocalo in front of the village governing center called the Municipio or Palace.

There must have been 600 people sitting under the shade of the rug market, on the steps of the Palace and protected by umbrellas from the fierce sun that was strong even at ten o’clock in the morning.  The priestly benediction included adhering to the ways of Jesus to refrain from violence, alcoholism, and to maintain strong community and family connections.  A good universal message, I thought.


This is a reverent and solemn occasion for the people of Teotitlan del Valle. Most here take their religious life seriously and are observant.  I was impressed by the mix of husbands and wives and children, young men and women, as well as the traditional abuelas and abuelos (grandmothers and grandfathers) who participated today.


It was not unusual to see entire families sitting together or standing for the hour-long priestly blessing.  There is no mass on Good Friday as is the custom.  In the magic light of late in the afternoon, the people processed from the church to the cemetery and then back again.  This will complete the spiritual connection with dead loved ones, as well.


Our next photography workshop is this summer 2012:  Oaxaca Photography Expedition: Market Towns and Artisan Villages.  Two spaces left.  Don’t miss it!



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