California: Ensenada Senior Center and Musical Nuns

The night before we left for Ensenada, photographer Michael Robinson Chavez told Tristan, Julia, Mark, and me to meet him in the front lobby of our hotel by 7:30 am. Originally we were going to drive down an old road and explore the quirky shops and villages along the way. Then, Michael spontaneously decided to contact his friend Tito, who manages a classical music institute in Ensenada. We piled into the small taxi and began our coastal journey down to the port city. Upon arrival I noticed Ensenada’s pristine condition and its repetitive tourist shops. I was concerned that I would not be able to find any good material to photograph that day because it was almost too perfect. After a heavy American pancake breakfast, we arrived at the institute to find that it was empty. When Tito arrived he informed us that the students would not appear until late in the afternoon, which would conflict with our schedule. Tito said he would take us to the only nursing home in Ensenada, and to a Catholic church where he taught nuns to play classical instruments. When we arrived at the nursing home, we were taken down a light-filled corridor lined with couches, blankets, and resting seniors. Many of them were unresponsive, while others struggled to understand me when I said “hola”. We were led into a small room where a group of seniors were painting flowerpots. Evelisa, a woman who works with Tito, quickly stationed herself at the piano and began playing Mexican classics. Immediately the grim atmosphere lifted in the room while many of the seniors clapped and danced. It was charming to see their faces brighten at the sound of the music.

After leaving the nursing home, Tito brought us to the Catholic church. A nun dressed in red and white greeted us. She brought our group to the music room where various nuns nervously filed in. They clutched different instruments including violins, a flute, and a mandolin. The remaining nun sat at the piano. They only played one song for us because they had to rush to their afternoon prayer. I have little experience working with nuns since I am not catholic, so it was slightly surreal witnessing them playing these instruments. As we were leaving they kindly gave us Mexican rice pudding. Unfortunately, we could not include any images of the nuns as they requested we not publish them. We finished our afternoon in Ensenada with the best fish tacos ever! We said our goodbyes to Tito and Evelisa, squeezed into our small taxi, and drove back to our hotel in Rosarito.

Brenna Leaver

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