In 2017 I took a week-long photography workshop in Oaxaca, Mexico with Maggie Steber. The workshop arranged for anyone who wanted to attend local cultural events in the surrounding towns. We were a group of 10 photographers, but for some reason I was the only person interested in and able to attend this celebration in Zaachila. I went with a local guide in taxi to the nearby town. Neither one of us knew what to expect.
Though soon after arriving, we were immersed into a brightly colored and jovial celebration, which was the calenda of the San Pablo neighborhood. I later learned that calendas are uniquely Oaxacan, and are ancient celebrations that Octavio Paz called a time to celebrate the good in life and forget all of the bad.
The evening was a long parade with music, dancing, boys walking on stilts, and (wo)men like those pictured above dressed beautifully and carrying baskets on their heads. I use parentheses to make the reader pause. Please, pause and think about this - several years ago a local leader wanted to make homosexuality more accepted in his town, so he staged a highly anticipated drag show. The town got behind him, and supported the effort. The (wo)men pictured above are actually beautiful men - all of them are.
I love this aspect, because as goes with any photograph, even when you think you know what you are looking at, you never really know.
This story is also a micro-lesson in travel - sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t. I apparently was the only photographer in my group to attend this calenda, because many of my colleagues had gone to Zaachila the evening before, and nothing was happening. This evening, I couldn’t think of anything better to do, and had an unforgettable experience.