Wednesday, March 15, 2023

The Abduction of the Bride: El Rapto de la Novia

 I write this post with all due respect for the traditions and customs of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, and the wishes of the families of the future bride and groom for allowing me to photograph at this event. Estoy muy agradecido. (Novia: Bride to be & Novio: groom to be)

On my most recent visit to Juchitán, my friend, Eli, invited me to attend "el rapto de la novia", an ancient Zapotec tradition that is still practiced in some parts of the Isthmus. It is not near as common as it was in the past, but there are still a few places where it is practiced, and certain neighborhoods of Juchitán are amongst them. My understanding is very basic and I do not claim to have any expertise, I am only relating what I was told and errors in my understanding are certainly possible.

The novia's bedroom
There are two main ways to ask for a woman's hand in marriage. One is to go directly to the parents and ask for the novia's hand. The other is to abduct her and bring her to the home of the novio's parents. This is usually arranged beforehand as it requires preparations for a big party with lots of food and drink. The pachanga (party) is to celebrate the virginity of the novia, who is laying on a bed covered by a white sheet that is adorned with rose petals and red glitter. A group of women, family and close friends, accompany the novia in the room. In this group there are several muxes (third gender) friends who are keeping the novia company. There is no lack of beer and  botanas (traditional dishes of food) and most of the women have two, not one, bottles of corona in their hand. The general atmosphere is" "Let the good times roll"! Men are not allowed in this room, but for some reason (maybe my pink cap?) I was given permission to go in and photograph. The family did not allow me to photograph the novia's face. Other than that, they told me, "go ahead and shoot all you want"! And I did, although it is difficult to photograph with a beer in each hand! I did manage, but some shots might be blurry.

Outside the bedroom were many other invitees also having a good time. The men sat together and were well launched by the time we got there. I sat with them for a while until I got the ok to go into the bedroom. After that I stayed with the women. They hold their liquor much better!
At a given moment, it was time to proclaim the novia"s virginity. This was done by the distribution of garlands of roses to all the women present. And of course it meant many more Coronitas, plates of delicacies from the Istmo, and dancing to the live band that was present.The novia never came out, however. After the celebration at the novio's house we went to the novia's parents place. More food and drink and lots of dancing.
Los hombres, bien tomados!

It was a very unique experience and I thank the families for their openness in allowing me to participate.
I will let the remainder of this post be visual storytelling. It is hard to manage the photos here, so I will do my best to organize them. Click on them once to see them larger.

She is a virgin!
Secret to Longevity

Las amigas Muxes

Mis amigas De Juchitán

Muxe downing a Coronita

La Banda

La tia at 80