Born to Believe

Ritual Visions from Mexico

In “Born to Believe,” I reflect on the beliefs and rituals children inherit from previous generations as they attempt to express life’s importance as it occurs, and often when it is most out of control. At birth our religious choices are determined by our parents. For children in Mexico, where over 80% of the country is Catholic, this means that they will most likely become Catholics. In combining images from various social classes and settings, I aim to depict intimate worlds that viewers can traverse, drawing parallels to other social realities such as community life, commercial experience, and gender relationships. The images reveal the complexity of ritual practice as it shapes life experience within and well beyond religious contexts.

Cathedral Baptism —Baptism ceremony welcomes the child to Catholicism in St. James Cathedral.


Angels—Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe.


Holy Communion—Over 200 girls and boys filled the church during First Holy Communion ceremonies in Saltillo, Mexico.


Good Friday—Thousand gather in the small town of San Martin de las Flores to watch the reenactment of Jesus Christ’s march to Calvary and Crucifixion.


Pope John II—Parents prepare children for their role along the path of their neighborhood’s procession in honor of the Virgin Mary in Guadalajara. Mexico.


Devotion—In the company of his family and community, he pays penance to his patron saint by walking the gravel road leading to the church steps on his knees.

Market Jesus—Portraits of Jesus Christ sold in a Mexican market alongside nail polish, make up and toys.


Behind the Altar—Behind the altar, boys prepare for church ceremonies in The St. James Cathedral in Saltillo, Mexico.


Crucifix Sales—Religion in Mexico permeates daily life for a young crucifix salesman in Tonal, Mexico.


Cleansing—Believers submit to spiritual cleansing during Espinazo, Nuevo Leon’s feast days in honor of Niño Fidencio.


Catholic, Creative Insights, Emilio Bañuelos, Mexico, ritual

Emilio Bañuelos

Emilio Bañuelos is a photographer and Arts Educator in the San Francisco Bay Area, and has conducted classes and workshops for the Academy of Art University, San Jose Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Contemporary Jewish Museum, University of California Santa Cruz-Extension, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Santa Clara University, and through Rayko Photo Center. Learn more at

All photos © Emilio Bañuelos. Used by permission.