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Luján Agusti: Documenting Mexico's Holy Dances
December Stories, Profiles

Luján Agusti: Documenting Mexico's Holy Dances

The December Stories are a series of first-hand accounts of the ONA community’s work on important causes and issues around the world. In 2017, we partnered with Women Photograph to launch the inaugural Women Photograph + ONA Grants to support emerging female documentary photographers.  Today, one of our three grantees, Luján Agusti, shares an update on her work.

One of the things that impressed me the most when moving to Mexico in 2014 was the great importance that they give to religion, their faith and their beliefs. As a storyteller, I decided to start exploring this topic. I explored several issues that caught my attention to finally focus specifically on syncretism, that is, the fusion of Catholicism with pre-Hispanic culture, and how this process that began in times of colonization has given rise to multiple traditions all over the country.

I was specifically interested in traditions that arise from syncretism and that are linked to masked dances. The mask is a very important element in Mexican history, and has many meanings but one of the most important is to transcend. When a person puts on a mask, he/she becomes something more, a higher and freer being.

I made the first part of my project in 2016 with a group of clowns that go out to dance in religious festivities, usually for promises to the Virgin of Guadalupe, in a town called Coatepec, in the State of Veracruz, on the East Coast of Mexico. I decided to use the same fabrics that they use to make their costumes as a background, with the intention of de-contextualizing them and adding a new layer to my story. In my documentary work I always incorporate elements linked to the story that enrich it. Below: an example of Luján's previous work from Coatepec.

Thanks to the Women Photograph + ONA Grant, I can complete my project in three other communities in North, South and West of Mexico. It is the first time that I receive a work grant and that has motivated me a lot to continue working and telling stories in a region that still has a lot to say as it is Latin America. During this year I worked with the "Diablos de Cuajinicuilipa" in the State of Guerrero, East, and the "Tiliches de Putla", in Oaxaca, South. The photographs that I show here were taken by me with my phone while working. They somehow show the traditions and people I am working with, in their context. The final photos are also done with backgrounds that are related to the costumes an elements they use for their dances.  Working with these people has made me learn so much about this country and its history and made me closer to their beliefs.

Follow Luján and learn more about her work on Instagram and her website. Learn more about Women Photograph's mission and our other two grantees.

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