• Portrait and tiger masks. Intervened photography from the project The Blood and the Rain. Produced with support from the Magnum Foundation.

The Blood and the Rain

8 Aug 2017 2017 CONTAINER

“The Blood and the Rain” is a collaborative multimedia project that documents long-practiced Mesoamerican rain rites in indigenous Mexican communities. Combining photographs and drawings, the artists seek to represent both the physical and spiritual elements of these sacred rituals.

Featuring: Yael Martínez and Orlando Velázquez

Presented by

Magnum Foundation

Through narrow, winding, and treacherous mountain terrain, ancestral communities in Guerrero, Mexico travel on foot for 50 kilometers, or about 31 miles, to reach their sites of ritual. Once there, they perform rain rites, processions, dances, animal sacrifice, and other indigenous spiritual practices of gratitude to the earth to ensure good harvests and full rivers, and to protect against water scarcity and the ravages of heat.

More than performance, these rituals represent a philosophy of life that holds in balance the wind, the sun, and the rain. From the moment of creation, there has been a reciprocal relationship between the earth—generator of life—and the meteorological phenomena associated with the agricultural cycle. These phenomena are thought of not only in their natural forms as winds, clouds, rays, springs, and rivers, but also as forces inhabited by spiritual beings with whom it is possible to establish a ritual relationship. Believers receive life-sustaining material and spiritual goods from them through dreams, invocations, prayers, and offerings.

“The Blood and the Rain” is a multimedia collaboration by photographer Yael MartĂ­nez and graphic artist Orlando Velázquez, who have been welcomed by the Nahua communities to observe their practices. Because the rituals themselves are not allowed to be photographed, Yael and Orlando sought a way to document and honor the community’s cultural expressions without exposing or violating them. Combining photography with drawing, Yael and Orlando have generated a new visual form that portrays the physical and metaphysical layers of the rituals and the relationships that exists between the people, their gods, and nature.

This project is made possible by The Henry Luce Foundation and is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.


Yael MartĂ­nez explores the connections between poverty and organized crime in his community of Guerrero in southern Mexico. He often works symbolically to evoke a sense of emptiness, absence, and pain suffered by those affected by drug trafficking in the region. MartĂ­nez is a grantee of the Magnum Foundation, and was named one of PDN’s “30 New and Emerging Photographers to Watch” in 2017. In 2015 he was selected for the Joop Swart Master Class of Latin America; he was a finalist for the Eugene Smith memorial grant in 2015 and 2016; and he was nominated for the Paul Huf Award, the Prix Pictet, and the ICP Infinity Awards.

Orlando Velásquez is is an award-winning graphic artist and illustrator from Guerrero, Mexico whose work explores concepts of the sacred and the profane through the lens of Guerrero’s current state of violence and death. A graduate of the Visual Arts Center in Morelos, his work has been exhibited at Fonca, the National Fund for Culture and Arts, and the Institute of Graphic Arts of Oaxaca.


The Magnum Foundation expands creativity and diversity in documentary photography, activating new audiences and ideas through the innovative use of images. Through grant making, mentoring, and creative collaborations, we partner with socially engaged image-makers experimenting with new models for storytelling.