Snow on peaks

Snow on peaks

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Easter: The Time of the Drum


The bus from Chihuahua City to Creel was packed with people standing like sardines the whole time. It was the “local” run with starting and stopping for people on their way back home for Semana Santa. The mestizos were taking supplies home; the Tarahumara were taking wares to sell to tourists. The trip took closer to six hours and I was exhausted by the crowds—that was Tuesday.

Wednesday: The bus from Chihuahua City was due to leave Creel for Guachoche at noon but it arrived late, overcrowded, and over-heated in fact broken down and did not leave at all.

The young woman (girl) at the ticket counter had been brusque and downright rude to me when I tried to purchase a ticket. The bus driver and baggage handler both assured me that Estrella Blanca would send another bus.
As it turned out a slightly more demure ticket attendant refunded my money and drew me a map to the Red School Bus line. The family of “La Reina del los Buses” has enlarged their services to include a Guachoche run. Some 42 of us waited in a sandlot by the tracks for an hour and a half to crowd onto the little red bus. I tried to call Marta’s to tell Gabriel that I would arrive late in Rochiarchi but the phone (Marta’s) was out of service.
I sat beside a Tarahumara man on his way to Norogachi. We conversed sporadically along the way. I offered him a ride in Gabriel’s truck (which later would prove difficult with the taxi driver). When I arrived in Rochiarchi some two hours late Gabriel was there in his truck accompanied by his visiting son in law. The truck wouldn’t start of course until they added gasoline and came to an abrupt halt when it popped out of gear, but Gabriel used a wrench in lieu of a gear stick to get it running again. We drove to a small store in Rochiarchi where I bought cookies having not eaten since breakfast. Then we drove into the evening to Norogachi as the sun set in the sierras. The bon fires appeared on the mesas to mark the start of Semana Santa. It was good to see fires. At last the lights of Norogachi appeared.
We drove across the river and up the road to Marta’s. I was warmly greeted and ushered to my log cabin. Richard Speedy took the “hog,” my gear, around for me. The visiting ladies group from California hailed me as though I were a famous photographer and visiting dignitary. Just what the doctor ordered for a tired, emotional heap of me.
Santiago was glad to see me too and half way hoped I would have a “Beto” in my pocket with me — I did not. That was Wednesday.
Thursday I went to the plaza and Santiago took me to the place where the pasoleros would be painted. We met Antonio who is now THE TRUE BELIEVER. I had sold a portrait of Jesusita to Beto for $400 (the friendship discount) and so I brought Antonio $40 as the family’s share. Antonio was dressed in his Mate chine headdress and mask. I told him that I would like a portrait of him later. He agreed.

The wind was way up, blowing sand and it was slightly chilly. That night was a  full moon, still, and cold.

Thursday Semana started building with a group of Pintos, the women, the Capitanes, and the statues of Jesus and Mary being carried back up into the pueblo along the 12 Stations of the Cross route. I did not follow but instead went into the Mission to wait for their entrance. My cameras were put up and out of view. My intention was to observe.

The sight of the procession entering was quite moving. The elders were surprised to see me there. I heard “who is that?” and a reply—“one of Santiago’s group”.

I left quietly when the opening mass was over.

The Drum marks the Beginning of the Mass
I returned later at dusk. More Tarahumara had gathered and I practiced low-light, campfire photography on the group of Pintos before returning to Marta’s for the night. There have been times like this one when the Raramuri drumming has so energized me that I am compelled to get out of my bed and go stand alone out-of-doors in the crisp night air and gaze up at the brilliant, star filled heavens. These are my most “alive” times. At these times all thoughts of sleep and fatigue disappear. I am lost in time carried away on the sounds of rapid drumming echoing off mesa walls. When I do finally return to my bed to warm myself under heaps of blankets, I sleep fitfully while drumming washes over my dreams like ocean waves. I awaken often in the night to listen and feel the energies of the earth rising as they are called forth by the drums. Energy courses through me and static electricity snaps and pops lighting the cabin as I stir beneath the covers. That is the only electricity in the house.  I have stepped back in time and I am home.
(To hear and see the night drumming, click this link)   Easter in Chihuahua


About 3:30 in the afternoon Santiago spied a group of men and boys by the bridge painting themselves and asked if I might photograph the painting for my documentation. I photographed freely and then took Polaroids "instantanias" and gave them to the Pintos.

Later in the afternoon Santiago takes me to the cemetery and shows me Jesusita’s grave site. We stand silently for a time remembering our friend. It is March 2005.

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