Connecting People, Traditions & Generations

Marcela Toboada spent three years documenting the story of Roman Catholic cloistered nuns in Mexican monasteries. In the incredible National Geographic picture story “The Secret Lives of Mexican Nuns,” she captures the spirit of the nuns along with a glimpse of their daily lives.


Toboada woke up with the nuns at 4:30 am, and shadowed them during the day. Their duties include prayers, cleaning, and cooking. She talked to them about why they became nuns – some to avoid marriage, some when they felt a calling.


Her photos show what life is like for these nuns, some of which are secluded and forbidden to leave the convent. Cloistered nuns must have permission to go out, even to visit another monastery or go to a doctor’s appointment, and they must travel in pairs at all times.


Far from somber, Toboada found that the nuns had a fun spirit. They listen to rock and roll, watched soccer, played cards, and danced. Many like to exercise, like 23-year-old Sister Reina Maria who plays volleyball and 76-year-old Clara Eugenia Lavarte Cabrera, who works out on a stationary bike.

See the picture story.