Tuesday, June 7, 2011

México - Voladores de Papantla

There is a story told by the Totonacas, one of the many indigenous peoples originally from the area we know as Mexico. The story, which has been passed down from generation to generation, tells of a time when there was a great drought that took hold of the land. Because there was no rain there was no water, and because there was no water there was no food. To help bring the rain back and end the drought, five Totonaca young men were sent out to deliver a message to the gods. They left the village and walked through the forest for days looking for the tallest tree they could find. There at the foot of the tree they stayed overnight meditating and asking the tree's spirit to help them in their quest. 
The next morning they blessed the tree, cut it down and took it back to their village never allowing the trunk to touch the ground until they found the perfect location. When they did, they then set the tree down, stripped it of its leaves and branches, dug a hole to stand it up straight and blessed the site with ritual offerings. 

That same day, the five young men dressed themselves with feathers to resemble birds with the hope of attracting  Xipe Totec's, the rain god's, attention. They then secured themselves to the tall tree trunk with very long vines that tide around their waists and began to climb all the way up to the top of the pole. There they meditated and listened to the fifth young man play the flute and drum. Finally the other four young Totonacas spread out their arms like birds and made their way down slowly. Xipe Totec saw their beautiful dance and brought rain to the land.

Los Voladores de Papantla continue to perform the dance that has been passed on by their ancestors.

Click on the video above to see young voladores preparing and learning from their elders the ways of the Volador. Click on this link to read a story in Spanish called ¡A VOLAR! by Francisco Fernández Illustrated by Myriam Holgado

 Vocabulary / Vocabulario 
Papantla - is a city and municipality located in the northern part of the Mexican state of Veracruz. 
Totonac people - an indigenous, native group of people originally from the eastern coast and mountains of Mexico, residing mainly in the Mexican states of Veracruz, Puebla, and Hidalgo (click on the names of the states to see a map of where they are located). Totonacas speak a language called Totonac.
Volador - means flyer, he who flies. 

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