The Flower Girls: Mennonites in Mexico

Eunice Adorno
Eunice Adorno
Hair combing at sunset. Every Thursday afternoon, young people gather on the fields, around the crops and nearby the houses. Nuevo Ideal, Durango, Mexico, 2010

The first time Mexican photographer Eunice Adorno saw the flower girls, they were standing in the shadow of a tree, wearing shiny pantyhose, staring directly at her. “When I walked up to them, there was a mysterious silence,” Adorno said. “When I talked to them, their sole reply was an enigmatic glance. From that moment on, I felt an immense curiosity for them.”

This was the beginning of a project that spanned the course of several years, culminating in the book, Las Mujeres Flores, published this month by La Fabrica. The book is an intimate portrayal of women within the isolated Mennonite communities in Nuevo Ideal, in the state of Durango, and La Onda, in Zacatecas, Mexico.

“Gaining their trust was a slow process,” Adorno said. “Little by little, they started inviting me to their houses, to have tea with them, to go for a walk.” The community spoke German, which was a barrier for Adorno, who speaks English and Spanish, so she got to know them through the places where they spend their lives and through family photographs they showed her. “In my own pictures I try to highlight the importance of those details, their objects, the moments and places they cherish.”

That attention to detail is clear in many of Adorno’s photographs – the arrangement of bowls on a table; plaster moldings of teeth on a window sill; a lone magnet of a married couple on a refrigerator. Adorno also focused deeply on portraiture. The first was of a woman named Maria, after she unbraided her hair. “As she stood by the door and stared directly into the camera, I felt a sort of complicity, an acceptance of the camera. It was incredible.”

Adorno said she was heavily influenced not only by August Sander’s portraits and Magnum photographer Larry Towell’s work on the Mennoninte community, but also by the women themselves. “I was amazed by the feminine universe so full of color,” she said.

Eunice Adorno is a freelance photographer based in Mexico City, Mexico. She was part of the 2011 Joop Swart Masterclass. Las Mujeres Flores is available in the Moma and Dashhwood Books.

Patrick Witty is the International picture editor at TIME. Follow him on twitter @patrickwitty.

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