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Kaboom!

Citizens participating in the San Benito Festival, Merida (Mucuchies), Venezuela.
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Tradition tell us of a battle fought in the Venezuelan Independence when the patriots where loosing the fight and had to retreat because they had lost their flag-bearer. Demoralized and disheartened, they thought the battle was lost, until an image of the Black Saint, San Benito de Palermo appeared. The Patriots took the image and won the plaza; from then on, San Benito de Palermo became the Patron Saint of the village.

Every December, on the 29th, the townsmen dress up as their Patron Saint, paint their faces in black and form a colorful army of men women and children. They go from very early in the morning to late at night carrying an image of the Black Saint, marching and detonating black powder with their trabucos all over town. (The trabuco is like a small flintlock musket). At midday, the army gathers around at the plaza in front of the church to receive mass. The children, specially, love this festival, you can see many of them dressed up in costumes, dancing and celebrating all day long.

I knew about this festival but didn't have a chance to photograph it until last December, 2009. I also knew that it was going to be loud, what I wasn't expecting was how richly colorful the festival is. Every costume is extremely decorated and very detailed, the hats are varied and bright, and the whole place just explodes with color.

When we got there this past December, there was so much to photograph that I didn't know where to start, so I got in the middle of it, so to speak, and started taking pictures of the trabuqueros as they where entering the plaza firing their trabucos, (one of them blasted really close and left my ears ringing for a while). I ended up taking more than 300 pics, the best ones I posted here.

This festival it's a must for any photographer, so if you visit Venezuela in December, and you're in Mérida, I really recommend that you experience this, it will be unforgettable.

Mucuchies is a small town in the Venezuelan Andes, the Páramos de Mérid...
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