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Inside the Secret Lives of Mexican Catholic Nuns

Marcela Taboada - National Geographic
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October 12, 2016

At a Catholic convent in Puebla, Mexico, 23-year-old Sister Reina Maria, a novice in the Order of the Discalced Carmelites, plays volleyball. Recreation gives the nuns a chance to recharge during a long day of work and devotion. (Marcela Taboada)

I always want to know what goes on backstage. Whether I’m photographing baseball or ballet, I like to peek behind the curtain and see what people’s lives are really like. So when I got a grant to spend three years documenting Roman Catholic nuns cloistered in Mexican monasteries, I jumped at the chance.

In Puebla, Mexico, where I grew up, some Catholic churches are more than 400 years old. The first sisters here helped the Spanish spread Catholicism in Mexico. But many of the nuns stay secluded in their convents, forbidden to engage with the world. When I was a kid they seemed like legends to me.

Gaining access to their world wasn’t easy. When I’d knock on a convent door, they’d tell me to go away - then slam the door in my face. But I was stubborn and persistent, and eventually they let me in.

When I asked the nuns why they’d taken their vows, some told me they’d received a calling. Others said they wanted to avoid marriage. And then there were two sisters who used to play in a rock band - they became nuns to find spiritual meaning.

Read the rest and see photos at National Geographic

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