The Metamorfosis Documentation Project
Hispanic culture and rituals are very rich. One of the most enticing and amazing portions of these traditions are the dances and ceremonies amongst the indigenous people.
In 1998 Armando Espinosa Prieto and Craig Johnson started to document these fantastic rituals and dances in Basíhuare, in Chihuahua, Mexico.
They were not strangers to documenting Hispanic culture because in previous trips they had documented Virgin of Guadalupe dances in Juarez, and other in other villages during Christmas and Holy Week.
When I heard of this project I was very curious and asked Armando Prieto, the Project Director, to please let me know more about the work they were doing. Gladly he responded and here is what he shared with Hispanic Culture Online.
The Metamorfosis Documentation Project What Armando Shared…
I started documenting by chance and opportunity. In 1998, we were the only visitors during a Holy Week dance in Basíhuare, a small village in the Sierra Tarahumara in Chihuahua, Mexico.
After arriving at the village we were approached by the “dirigentes” and asked for a donation; in return they would allow us to film.
It was easy enough that first time. We continued to practice this easy method of passive participation. However, we became uneasy once we began to notice how the social pressures of the contemporary world are eroding the traditions and rituals at the core of indigenous communal life in these remote communities.
At that moment, we asked ourselves, “what do we do?” Do we act as passive participants watching the extinction of unique and relevant traditions and ways of life, or do something else?
Craig and I came to the conclusion that the only possible and honest solution to continue documenting was to return the documentation materials to the communities for their use.
The process of documenting is a difficult one, and we are still learning. In spite of the difficulties and by approaching each project as a collaboration, we are able to actively engage the community in producing the documentary and then participate with them in returning the documentary to them.
In these communities, rich in Hispanic culture and rituals, it is this practice of reciprocity at the core of indigenous life, what is recognized and appreciated.
Just as while working with a community we develop a sense of obligation toward that community and its traditions, we feel the same sense of responsibility toward our own community and traditions.
By sharing these experiences and materials with our own communities, we can fulfill those obligations. We hope to encourage the interest and understanding that can help all of us appreciate and honor these diverse Hispanic culture and rituals as well as the traditions.
Our most recently completed project involved documenting a traditional conquest dance, La Danza de la Pluma, in collaboration with the Zapotec community of Teotitlán del Valle in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Todos los Santos Documentary
We produced a documentary of Todos los Santos called “Todos Santos. Fe, Sacrificio y Tradición” and then created a permanent exhibit dedicated to the Dance in their Community Museum.
We were also able to bring the ceremonial Dance Group from Mexico to present the dance in four venues in New Mexico. The documentary was also screened at the Cine Las Americas International Film Festival in Austin, Texas and the Kent Film Festival in Kent, Connecticut.
Recently we launched a Kickstarter project to support our final efforts in our current project. We are documenting the traditional celebration of Todos Santos or Day of the Dead in Candelaria, a small Quechua village in the southern Andes of Bolivia.
We are in the latter stages of the Project, editing our documentary, Todos los Santos/Feast of the Souls, and preparing to return to Candelaria to collaborate in installing a permanent exhibit in their Community Museum.
The documentary will reflect on how this ceremony brings family and community together, helping to renew their ties and bring about well-being.
If you want to see more of what Armando Prieto and Craig Johnson do please visit Metamorfosis Documentation Project or check their Kickstarter project page at Todos los Santos Feast of the Souls.