What a day. Gustavo and I got up before dawn to drive into the mountains to the town of Todos Santos Cuchamatan. Every year on November 1, the town celebrates the Day of the Dead with a day long horse race. I guess you would call it a horse race. Basically the the entire town gathers on a semi-straight dirt road on the edge of the town. The road is blocked, and village men, dressed in brightly colored clothes, ribboned hats, and flowing scarves gather at one end of the road on horseback. By well coordinated whistles, the horses and riders race from one end of the course to the other, probably 100 meters or so. Then the horses and riders gather at the other end, turn around, and wait for the whistle. Then they take off again, riding like madmen for the other end of the course. They basically repeat this back and forth “race” for the entire day, with a break for lunch.
It is not so much a race, I learn, as it is a ritual of endurance. Villagers tell me that there is no winner, per se, and that the goal is just to finish the grueling day. Or, if you fall from your horse and die, you have died with honor, in front of generations of the dead from the village, who have returned. At least that is what I have gathered.
Oh, did I mention that all of the riders appear to be severely drunk? And that the dirt road is hard as concrete? And, as gringo who was documenting the event for a european tv show told me, the riders don’t even really know how to ride – they rent the horses from a neighboring village. So, take a big dose of bright colors, a huge amount of motion, lots of testosterone and alcohol, a really big crowd (living and dead) and you have a good feel for this event. I didn’t see anyone die, but I saw a few exhausted riders thrown from their horses. They managed to walk away, but they will be in serious pain when they sober up.
I photographed the entire day, shooting over 10 gigabytes of images. It is great fun, but extremely exhausting. I shot both conventional images along with flowing abstracts. The abstracts I like the best. Here are a few.
Tomorrow, I will spend the morning shooting in the cemetary here.