Every year from the 13th to the 21st of December, the town of Chichicastenango in the Mayan highlands of Guatemala celebrates its yearly festival. The name of the town is a mouthful, so it’s better known as simply Chichi. The town seems frozen in time honoring a fusion of traditions imposed by the Spanish conquistadors and their Maya K’iche heritage. There is a lot to see during this time but I was keen to see the flying pole dance and the processions in honor their patron saint, as I was only going on a day trip from Guatemala City.
I choose my Bronica ETRSi film with its sharp Zenzanon-PE 75mm f/2.8 lens and a Hoya 62mm Yellow K2, loaded a roll of Kodak Tri-X 400 and headed out to Chichi. The Bronica is not the most comfortable camera to walk around but I love the results I get from it, so it’s not that big of a deal.
The central square of Chichicastenango is downright magical with its two churches built on top of ancient K’iche Maya temples, it’s huge handicrafts market and 30m pole from which the dancers descend drawing spirals in the sky. The townsfolk gather on the steps of the church of Santo Tomás to see the feats of the brave monkey dancers. They keep going up the pole and flying down accompanied by traditional marimba music all day long.
At noon, the procession led by a chirimilla flute player passed in front of the church, so I followed it. The air filled with the smell of incense and smoke from fire crackers. The procession is adorned with elaborate embroidery, colorful flowers and feathers. A marimba band walks at the rear providing traditional music.
I was eager to see the results of the shoot, so I developed the roll with Kodak D-76 1:1 for 9 minutes and 45 seconds, agitated every 30 seconds. I really love the contrasty look, the deep blacks while also saving just enough details in the shadows and the highlights that the combination of Tri-X with the yellow filter and D-76 gives.
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