florence leyret jeune

La Muerte. «Para el habitante de Nueva York, París o Londres, la muerte es palabra que jamás se pronuncia porque quema los labios. El mexicano, en cambio, la frecuenta, la burla, la acaricia, duerme con ella, la festeja, es uno de sus juguetes favoritos y su amor más permanente. Cierto, en su actitud hay quizá tanto miedo como en la de los otros; más al menos no se esconde ni la esconde; la contempla cara a cara con paciencia, desdén o ironía.” Octavio Paz
“To the people of New York, Paris, or London, “death” is a word that is never pronounced because it burns the lips. The Mexican, however, frequents it, jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it; it is one of his favorite toys and most steadfast love. Of course, in his attitude perhaps there is as much fear as there is in one of the others; at least he does not hide it; he confronts it face to face with patience, disdain, or irony.” Octavio Paz.

Mascaras/ Masks de Felipe Horta, Tocuaro, Michoacan, Mexico.

Photography@ Florence leyret Jeune

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La Octava tradicional …Una semana después el Dia de los Muertos, en Ihuatzio (michoacan, Mexico),  es el tiempo de decir adiós a las animas de los antepasados antes de su despedida, que se hace mas dulce con las ofrendas de comida tradicional y agua. De nuevo, es un tiempo sagrado para cerrar el ciclo del encuentro anual con las ánimas, un tiempo donde las familias se reúnen, un tiempo por la comunidad por agregarse, tiempo por el reparto de las ofrendas entre familiares,amigos, y visitantes.
The traditional “OCTAVA” … A week after the Day of the Dead, in Ihuatzio (Michoacan, Mexico) is time to say goodbye to the souls of ancestors before their departure, travel which will be sweeter with offerings of traditional food and fresh water. Again, it is a sacred time to close the cycle of the annual meeting with the souls of the deceased, a time for families to gather, a time for the community to meet, a time to share the offerings among friends, family, and visitors.

Photography@ Florence Leyret Jeune

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Corpus Christi, a celebration of giving and receiving. Michoacan, Mexico

In the Meseta Purepecha (Michoacan), the  celebration of Corpus Christi rests on an older indigenous festival related to the agricultural cycles, giving thanks to the generous land for the good harvests of the year, and calling to the gods so that there should be rains in the coming season. 

At the end of the procession starts the CH’ANANTSKUA , the festive time when members of each profession throw the products of their labor to the air,  offering them symbolically to the Gods and, by extension, to the people (coming from the neighboring villages) who are gathering there, receiving the gifts falling from the sky (from the Gods…) with their open arms.

Photography © Florence Leyret Jeune

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Ano nuevo, Michoacan, Mexico.

Before the conquest, the color black was associated with deities and ceremonies. Among the Purepechas, the god Curicaueri was black; the nobles Tarascans blackened their body with soot for solemn ceremonies, and the warriors did the same before entering the battle.

The performance of the “Negros” in the  Purepecha plateau, in Michoacan, during the 25th of December and 1rst of January, is linked to the change of “cargueros” (ceremonial leaders).

“In pre-columbian times, black was associated with the extraordinary: with the divinity, with the power and the lavish display of riches.” (Janet Esser)

Here, a large group of  young “Negritos”, perform all day long in the village with great discipline, dancing in front of each household who makes donations (mainly corn) for the new cargueros.

Photography © Florence Leyret Jeune

 In many villages and towns across Mexico, the dance of the Moors (La danza de los Moros) officially celebrates the triumph of Spanish Catholicism over its enemies, the Moors, or, I imagine, over the pagans in general. The dance was introduced into Mexico by the Spanish friars in the sixteenth century for evangelization purposes.

The dance is a choregraphic religious act, a danced prayer. It is danced in all villages of the “Meseta Purepecha"during the celebration of the town’s patron saint’s day. The costumes used are a mix of oriental and indigenous cultures. 

  Photography © Florence Leyret Jeune

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Circo Kin, a small family circus living a nomadic life throughout Mexico, pitching their tent in dusty fields in small towns of rural areas. Small family circuses have been part of a long tradition in Mexico, but recently, with the ban of animals in circuses, their precarious existence has been jeopardized, animals being the main attraction for the public.

© Florence Leyret Jeune

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 Kurpites (or Curpites),(“Those who gather in”), Caltzontzin, Michoacan, Mexico.

The “Curpiteada” is a ceremonial dance competition between two groups of dancers, each representing one of the  neighborhoods of the town. Each group of Curpites, is led by a very elegantly dressed “T'arepiti” (also called “El Viejo/the old man”, (or San Jose), and  a cross-dressed young man as “Maringuia”(Virgen Mary). All Curpites (and the Maringuia as well) are young bachelor men. For 3 days, they parade in town, performing in the houses of their sweet-hearts and those of the “Cargueros” (persons in charge of the celebrations). During the event, performed each year as part of the celebration of the Epiphany, or Three Kings day, the atmosphere around the stage is joyful and tense at the same time, each subtle little step being acknowledged by the crowd with clapping, cheers or boos and whistles. The “ritual war” between the two neighborhoods will be solved at the end of the dances by the decision of the jury. 

La “Curpiteada” es una competencia de baile ceremonial entre dos grupos de bailarines, cada uno representando un barrio de la ciudad. Cada grupo de Curpites está dirigido por un joven muy elegantemente vestido (“T'arepiti” )(también llamado “El Viejo ”, o San José), y un joven  vestido como “Maringuia” (Virgen María) . Todos los Curpites (y la Maringuia también) son hombres solteros jóvenes. Durante 3 días, desfilan en la ciudad, actuando en las casas de sus novias y de los “Cargueros” (personas encargadas de las celebraciones). Durante el evento, realizado cada año como parte de la celebración de la Epifanía o día de los Reyes, la atmósfera alrededor del escenario es alegre y tensa a la vez, cada  sutil paso siendo reconocido por la multitud con aplausos, vítores o abucheos y silbidos. La “guerra ritual” entre los dos barrios se resolverá al final de los bailes con la decisión del jurado.

Photography © Florence Leyret Jeune

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Los Feos (tr. Ugly), (Michoacan, Mexico), sharply contrasting with the elegant, disciplined and courtly group of Kurpites (bachelor men), are part of a special group of young married men taking part in the yearly celebration of the change of “cargueros”(people in charge in the community).  Mi-serious, mi-jocking, wearing masks usually made of natural elements, they invert, for that special day, all the valors accepted by the Purepechas: they are naughty, noisy, and eventually behave in obscene or blasphemous way.  

Photography © Florence Leyret Jeune

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Pastorela, Michoacan, Mexico.

 Pastorelas are played throughout all villages of rural Michoacan during the whole month of December and “re-enact” the struggle of the shepherds’ journey against the Devils that are trying to hinder them from completing their mission, find the Christ child. The  Archangel Michael’s intervention will defend the shepherds on their journey, and at  the end will overcome the Devils.

 Pastorelas bring, through their playful language and funny situations, the most important message of the season: Good always overcomes Evil. 

photography © Florence Leyret Jeune