Metamorfosis Documentation Project

Project Director:

Armando Espinosa Prieto

Artist, videographer, editor. Lead person in all previous documentations in this ongoing project, including community relations. Cuban American, bilingual (Spanish / English), has resided for extensive periods of time in Latin America.

Associate Director:

Craig Johnson

Sound, photographer, assistant community liaison. Has been involved in all previous documentations in this ongoing project. Bilingual (English / Spanish), has resided for extensive periods of time in Latin America.


We began documentation of cross-cultural rituals in 1998 in Basíhuare, a small Tarahumara village in Copper Canyon in Chihuahua, Mexico. During other visits to Chihuahua we have documented Virgin of Guadalupe dances in Cd. Juarez, and various dances in other Tarahumara villages during Christmas and Holy Week. Following the editing and post-production process we returned to these Tarahumara villages with film documentation and still photographs and presented them to the communities involved. For example, our return to Norogachi, a commercial and ritual center for several smaller surrounding villages, brought greater rewards and further collaboration. We were invited to revisit a few months later in order to participate in the inauguration of their new Ceremonial Dance Hall, and were asked to participate in the ritual ceremonies to bless the Dance Hall. Again we documented the ritual and inaugural events.

Another example of this process was our experience in 2004 in a smaller Tarahumara village of about 100 people in a remote area of Copper Canyon. Arriving several days before the scheduled Holy Week dances, we visited with and assisted the elders and organizers as they prepared the church and its statues for the dances and processions. We also photographed individual villagers at their requests, and each evening printed out their photos to present to them the next day.
During this same visit to this village, we were invited to film and photograph a private ceremony in which the devil band of dancers ritualistically cover each other with full-body black and white paints, symbolically “erasing” their individual identities to become devils, sons of Judas. The next day, in response to multiple requests, we were happy to shoot family photo portraits for each of the villagers.

One month later, after finishing the editing process and printing copies of the photos, we returned to the village with electric generator in hand (there is no electricity in the village), and hosted a community reception with fruits and beverages, an exhibit of the photos (with copies of each person's photos for him or her to take home) and a screening of the video documentary of the Holy Week dances (see the videos of “Tarahumara Village” in the “Video Archives” section and the photos in the “Village Portrait” section).

Other Projects of Metamorfosis Documentation Project

In New Mexico, we documented Matachin dances at Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan Pueblo), Comanche and Matachín dances in Alcalde, and Matachín dances at San Antonio's feast day in Antonito, Cedar Crest.

In northern Ecuador, we documented El Tumarina, a cross-cultural ritual spring dance, in the village of Peguche.

In the Andes of Bolivia, we documented the three-day celebration and dances for San Miguel Archangel's feast day in the small mining town of Uncía. In May (2007) we returned to Uncía, and brought them the edited video documentary and photographs (see the videos of “Macha” in the “Video Archives” section, and the “Tinkus” article in the “Projects” section).
 
In a subsequent trip to the high Andes of Bolivia, in the remote village of Macha, we documented El Tinkus, a ritual battle and related ceremonies celebrated on the Day of the Cross with roots dating directly back to pre-colonial times.

In the Zapotec community of Teotitlán del Valle in Oaxaca, Mexico we documented La Danza de la Pluma, a ritual conquest dance relating the struggles between Moctezuma and Cortés. We produced a documentary film of the Dance and, in a collaborative project with the community, established a permanent Dance Exhibit in the Community Museum. We also donated the rights to the reproduction of the documentary to the Community Museum for their sole benefit. In 2008 we participated in the Santa Fe Art Institute’s annual lecture series, presenting the results of this documentation and community interaction. In 2009, our documentary, “La Danza de la Pluma. Fe, Sacrificio y Tradición”, was screened at the Cine Las Americas International Film Festival in Austin Texas and at the Kent Film Festival in Kent, Connecticut. Also in 2009, we brought the Dance Group to New Mexico for a series of four presentations of the Danza de la Pluma in Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Socorro. In preparation for these presentations, we recorded their local band, Los Reformistas, that customarily performs for the presentations of the Dance. In exchange for using these recordings for the presentations in New Mexico, we produced a double CD album, and donated the master CD's and authorship rights of the album to Los Reformistas (see “Danza de la Pluma” in the “Projects” section).

Related Projects by Metamorfosis Documentation Project

July, 2004: Ochosi Matachín, a multi-media installation and associated lecture included in the exhibition, Cruzando Fronteras, at El Museo Cultural in Santa Fe, NM. Video documentations of Matachín and Holy Week Dances of the Tarahumaras were included and compared with rituals of the Afro-Caribbean Yoruba religion. Photos of the installation and a transcript of the lecture can be found at Ochosi Matachin.

July, 2005:El Tumarina, a documentary, screened in Santa Fe for a local, limited audience of professional curators, journalists and artists.

2006:Trancebarroco, a four and a half minute art video about indigenous women wrestlers in La Paz, Bolivia. Trancebarroco explores the interaction of urban indigenous modern culture with global pop-culture, a new Latin American baroque if you will. This video was included in the fourth annual installment of DRIFT at the Bronx River Arts Center that included 28 artists working in sculpture, installation, video and live performance. DRIFT is a group exhibit that moves to a new location each year.

March, 2008: Photograph from Holy Week dances in a small Tarahumara village was featured on the front cover of the book "God's Middle Finger" by British author Richard Grant about the Tarahumara region. While documenting in this remote village we met Grant doing field research.

June, 2009: We produced a 20 minute video documentary, “Velas De Concha”, featuring Sofía Ruiz of Teotitlán del Valle demonstrating her art of creating traditional handmade decorated devotional bees wax candles. We gifted Sofía with the documentary.

Metamorfosis Documentation Project is a 501 ( c ) ( 3 ) institution.

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