Catherine McLaren – Los Hombres de Tepetlaoxtoc

Image Credit: Catherine McLaren

These photographs are a collection of images that have been taken in Tepetlaoxtoc over the last three years by Catherine McLaren during the period when the artist’s relationship with the place and its people had matured. As the culmination of three years, these images provide an opportunity for the viewer to look into a rare world and consider what it means to be a man there. For individuals who are learning about masculinity academically, this body of work provides a chance to exercise the ideas and concepts they are learning and apply them directly to a model of masculinity that is very different from our own.

Tepetlaoztoc or Tepetlaoxtoc (Nahuatl for “tepetate” or “cave place”) is a small village located in the Valley of Mexico. The terrain is hilly and 90% of the municipality’s economy comes from agriculture and livestock. TheVaquero (cowboy) lifestyle predominates here and the people are highly religious, Catholic, very poor and extremely proud. It is like another world as it seems as if everyone is related to everyone else by blood or marriage; extended families are so complicated that in many cases they have given up on keeping track of such things and just call everyone cousin.

Fiestas (celebrations) are a serious undertaking and typically involve huge fireworks called castillos, loud music competing from every direction until the wee hours of the morning, dwarf ponies and mechanical bull rides, game arcades and a vast array of food and drink.  Many of the photographs were taken at a huge fiesta in January called La Mayordomia de los Arrieros, which is a celebration in honor of San Sebastián Mártir, the patron saint of the region and thus it is one of the largest local fiestas.  Far from prudish however, this religious celebration involves people dressing up and reenacting the struggle between the arrieros (who transported merchandise across dangerous land with the help of pack animals) and the bandits of the Rio Frio. Most of the male population are dressed up and on horseback in order to chase each other through the streets, shooting into the air and getting progressively drunker. There are very few women who participate — some men dress up as women and get chased around and molested by other men sometimes in the presence of their sons. This in no way challenges their view of themselves as being straight males.

To see more photos of this exhibition, please find here.

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