Explorations of culture can move beyond the textbook or classroom discussion, sometimes it takes a total cultural immersion.
A member of the Chicimecans tribe lowers his head in honor of his fallen leader as he passes through the gates of a cemetary in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Photo/Carlo Nasisse.
The rhythmic beating of drums stationed on the back of a moving pick up truck bounce off the corroded cobblestone streets and pastel colored walls of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Over fifty Chicimecan natives follow on foot, adorned in feathers and traditional garb. They chant, and strum small guitars in honor of a fallen leader. Most of them pass by me, ignoring my clicking camera, until a man I later learned to call Luis takes me by the hand and leads me into the three-mile procession towards the cemetery.
On this day, I shared an experience with a group of people of a different language and culture that still resonates with me. That tribe allowed me to stay with them throughout the entire funeral, during which they celebrated the life of their former leader. The women had tears in their eyes and the men’s lips were drawn and solemn. Their pain and fears were palpable and infectious.
This particular day did not change my life or how I look at the world. It was one of many experiences that have allowed me to deepen my appreciation of the lives of others.
I saw in the natives’ expression the same fear of loss, and the sorrow it brings, that all humans and I have felt.
Louis and I developed a close friendship during the next three months I spent in San Miguel. With his companionship, I continued to take photos of the Chicimecans and other Mexican celebrations and I developed my Spanish to the point at which I could hold a conversation and laugh at a joke.
This experience led me to question how I was interacting with all social and cultural aspects of humanity. The Chicimecans inspired me but I did not know how to channel that inspiration. I realized that the only reason I was allowed to participate in the funeral was because I was documenting a part of the Chicimecans’ life. Unconsciously I had become a storyteller.
Since this revelation I have developed my position as a documenter in my community and in all of my travels. I see now that it is intrinsic in all humans to capture and share moments.
For me it supports my fascination with human beings of different cultures. It allows me to interact with people on an intimate level and to gain insight into their lives that I can then communicate to others.
This lifestyle is enabling and gratifying. Through it I am able to explore my own beliefs in conjunction with those of others.
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