Photojournalist Torie Olson had long wished to witness the Mayan Carnival, but the most observant towns in Chiapas, Mexico enforced a strict ban on photography. Those who disregarded it faced jail time, destruction of equipment, and a steep fine. Finally, instrumental introductions and the gracious hospitality of the indigenous people of Tenejapa enabled her to record a day of these mysteries. In poetic language, Olson’s host provided commentary on the righteous rites and revelry, explaining that the festival takes place during “the lost days” between Mayan calendar years, that it is a time of chaos when the world is upside down, and that only through a series of correctly performed rituals will life continue as we know it. Toward this end, both indigenous and Christian Gods are called into play, guiding the dance along the serpentine path that leads from one year to the next.
In this book, Olson attempts to order her impressions of the red chaos of Carnival. In hopes of conveying the somber and joyful moments she beheld, she pieces together a succession of visual fragments with the poet’s words. While her intent was to illuminate these images with further research, she found almost nothing accessible to the outsider. For Olson, this lack of information is good news, as around the world, she has continually found that culture is best preserved through secrecy.